Thursday, December 11, 2008

Former carpenter becomes key part of Scott Construction management team

December 9, 2008
Carrol Watamaniuk accepts her Outstanding Women in Construction Award during the 20th annual VRCA Awards of Excellence gala.

Project Management
Former carpenter becomes key part of Scott Construction management team
Brian Martin

No matter how you slice it, it is a very long jump from running a local movie house to being the senior project manager during construction of an entire university.

Nonetheless it is a jump Carrol Watamaniuk made.

In November, she was honoured as the Outstanding Woman in Construction at the 20th annual Awards of Excellence put on by the Vancouver Regional Construction Association.

Recipients of the award are selected by the Canadian Construction Women’s Association.

As Watamaniuk tells it, in 1989 she had an epiphany in the middle of the night.

She woke up. A voice in her head told her she should become a carpenter. At the time she and her partner, the father of her two children, were running all the independent movie houses in Vancouver.

She is nothing if not determined. Not having a clue how to become a carpenter, she simply looked in the telephone book under the “Cs”. The only thing she found was the Carpenters’ Union so she went off to meet them. They directed her to the B.C. Institute of Technology.

There she was quickly enrolled in an entry-level trades program.

She discovered that not only was she good at carpentry, but she also loved it.

“How many jobs are there where you get to work with your body and your brain at the same time?” she asked.

Before long, Watamaniuk was a member of the union and working on a high rise residential project in New Westminster.

At the same time she continued taking courses at BCIT and concentrated on things such as blue print reading.

“When I was at BCIT there were not any women, which was a shock to me,” she said.

“I had no idea that women didn’t do that back at that time. The first five or 10 years, I didn’t see any other women.”

She didn’t, however, let that bother her nor has she experienced any type of harassment.

“I just kept my blinkers on and concentrated on my work,” she said. “It’s a gender neutral job as far as I am concerned.”

Eventually Watamaniuk had a parting with the Carpenters’ Union.

She took a construction management course at Douglas College.

“They had an issue with that,” she said.

In typical fashion she holds no hard feelings towards them.

But, she said, she had her plans and she intended to follow them.

As is typical for a journeyperson, construction took her to many different locations.

In addition to straight construction work she did a stint as an instructor for the Southern Interior Construction Association in Kelowna and then went on to teach for about a year at Okanagan University College in the same city.

Eventually life led her to Whistler and Squamish.

She got busy building her own home in Squamish with the idea of selling it.

Not long after that Scott Construction offered her the job of superintendent on the $53 million Quest University project at Squamish.

It was the chance of a lifetime.

“Without a word of a lie, I woke up every day wanting to go to work,” she said.

In contrast to her early days in the industry, on the Quest no less than five members of the Scott project team were women.

Among the most rewarding parts of her job, she said is looking at a site and envisioning what will be built there.

That and the personalities she deals with keep life interesting.

“There’s never a dull day,” she said. “To work with all these personalities and to see them succeed – it’s a huge pat on the back, which I can give to myself.”

Watamaniuk isn’t the only award-winner in her family.

Only days before she was honoured as Construction Woman of the Year, the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series.

Her 24-year-old son, Scott Mathieson, is a pitcher for the team.

All in all, it was quite a week in a family that seems to specialize in setting goals – and reaching them.


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