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Celebrating Women in Construction

Since its inception over fifty years ago, the mission of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is to enhance the success and celebrate the achievements of women in the construction industry. Each year the organization honors the dedicated teams of women working at all levels in the industry. RJM is proud to join in the celebration of women in the AEC industry.

Meet Cynthia Aguilera, RJM Carpenter

How long have you been in the construction industry and how did you get started?

I’ve been a carpenter, and in the construction field for 16 years. I joined the union when I was 26, and absolutely fell in love with what I do. Before working in construction I worked as a nursing assistant, in daycare, and most recently a receptionist for the state of Minnesota.

I needed a change, something much more active so I participated in a free, 3-month long introduction to the construction field program. The program introduced me to the world of carpentry, painting, and concrete. I knew I liked carpentry right away and pursued a job and an apprenticeship in the carpenters union.

What do you enjoy about construction?

One thing I enjoy most is the rewarding feeling and satisfaction of working very hard and producing the best product I can. I take a lot of pride in everything I do out here and love the feeling of accomplishment I get from looking at completed tasks. From wood framing to concrete formwork, to interior finish work. I enjoy it all.

What do you find challenging about the industry?

What I find challenging in the industry is a tough question to answer because I enjoy a challenge. But a challenge for me would be my size. I’m not the biggest person out in the field at 5’2” and 130 lbs, and I did concrete formwork and commercial carpentry for 12 years and still am faced with heavy lifting and challenging jobs all the time. Regardless, I step up to the challenges and became a stronger person that can do a lot more then people would think by my appearance. With that being said, I know my limits and have always been able to count on the bigger, stronger men when the job required.

What have you learned most about being a woman in the construction industry?

I have learned that being a woman in the construction field is not as horrible as it may sound or as it may be portrayed by some. I heard horror stories of women trying to prove themselves in a non-traditional industry, while enduring harshness and criticism, or discrimination. I think times have changed, and I have had a great experience in my career. I could count on one hand any unpleasant experiences I’ve had in 16 years. Experiences that I couldn’t even recount for you because they were irrelevant to me and my development in my career that I love. Even still, my overall experience has been great and I would encourage any women who are considering this industry not to believe everything they might hear about it. I’ve always been given the opportunity to try and to learn, and have met great men, teachers, and friends out in the field.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently installing cabinets and other finish carpentry work for a dental clinic remodel, which I am really enjoying. Soon we will be hanging doors and installing hardware and bathroom accessories. I really enjoy working on the finishing touches right before the spaces are turned over.

What has been the coolest/most fun project?

One of my favorite projects I worked on was the addition to the Ordway Theatre in downtown St. Paul. It was a very fun and unique project to be a part of, which was full of learning opportunities. I also enjoy working in schools. I’ve worked on colleges and elementary schools and they are very fun projects to be a part of.

Any unique talents/hobbies?

I’m not too sure if I have any unique talents, besides my amazing skills as a carpenter ;-). But in all seriousness, I consider myself a good mom to my three kids, who are turning out to be amazing young humans so I must be doing something right, right? I am so proud of all three of them and what they are accomplishing and who they are becoming at ages 23, 19, and 17.

I like to read and I love to draw, but I don’t make enough time for either of them and probably should try more. Spending free time with people I love when they have free time can be a challenge, and it’s one of my favorite ways to spend my time.

What is one word to describe you?

I would say dedicated. I asked my daughters what they thought and one said “dedicated” and the other said “epic”. Whether it’s to my kids who are and always will be first or whether it’s my career or the company I work for. My boyfriend, my mother, or anything important to me has a dedication from me like nothing else. I’ll do whatever I can to provide for, or be there, or be the best I can, for whoever, or whatever I care about.