Women in Construction Week Spotlight: Madison Shodrock, PE

What advice would you give young kids who want to pursue a career in the construction industry when they grow up?

Parents and teachers should encourage kids to play in the dirt and build anything using any materials. Maybe slow down when passing roadway construction sites, point out different equipment, and discuss what the workers are doing. Cultivate curiosity. When you visit an interesting structure such as the Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, iconic World Fair feats, or even everyday tunnels or skyscrapers, ask your child how they think that entity was built. Promote questions of not only “what” something is but “how” it came to be. Teach your children that water doesn’t just come from the hose or faucet and your electricity doesn’t just flip on with the flick of a switch, but that networks of pipe and cable leading back to a complex utility plant create and transport our everyday necessities that we are accustomed to.

As a young girl, I would build cities out of Legos and Lincoln Logs, massive railroad track designs all throughout our home, and draw roads in my backyard sand pit. My parents knew pretty early on that my interests lay somewhere along those of engineering and construction, and they never deterred me from that spirit. What is difficult is removing the stigma that construction is a fallback and lesser option, the perception of an atmosphere of wolf-whistling workmen, or working against the harsh outdoor elements. Not all roles in construction are hard hats and muddy boots.

How do you think technology will further change construction management in the future?

For management specifically, game changers are tools that streamline processes like cloud-based platforms, enabling seamless communication, document sharing, and real-time updates. The latest updates to BIM, CAD, and PDF editors improve the accuracy of designs and as-builts.

What strategies do you use to foster effective communication and collaboration within a construction team?

As women in construction today, we are not the pioneers. The majority of men are familiar with seeing us in the field and have been for years, even as far and few in between. Every now and then, you’ll see some eyebrows raise. It’s natural to be subjected to stereotypes, and others may assume my construction knowledge and experience is lesser than that of a man. It’s important to leave a good first impression, but ultimately, time is our friend. It may feel as though we have to prove ourselves. Time allows others to gain trust in our engineering decisions and judgment and foster advantageous communication. We should use basic managerial strategies and social skills, no matter the gender. It may sound simple, but just letting my work speak for itself, focusing on the solution, being inclusive and kind, and listening before I speak has overcome that issue.

What is the most unique BGE project you have been a part of?

The most unique project I have been involved in has been N. St. Mary’s Street for the City of San Antonio. Our role as construction Project Manager was to ensure the project stayed on schedule, under budget, and met specifications; however, that was hard to maintain due to the number of difficulties the project endured. The list is long, but most of the struggles were major trench failures due to poor soil conditions, public outlook in a highly sensitive downtown bar district, and countless conflicts with unknown utilities.

If you could travel back in time to witness any historical construction project, which one would it be and why?

My immediate thought goes to any one of the seven wonders of the world, but I’d say the Great Pyramids of Giza dating back to the 26th century BC. These pyramids are the oldest of any prehistoric monuments built at that scale still standing today. The history and true purpose, still being debated, capture my and others’ attention. With the available material resources and technology at that time, building seems unimaginable. The construction techniques and methods are still not certain. Even just imagining the mass of slave laborers involved and the harsh conditions seems uncanny.