From an early age, Karina Jarzen was interested in technology and learned best with hands-on experience. While in high school, she took courses at Tulsa Tech and loved the field aspect and working with machinery. Some of her first experiences in the field were working side-by-side with her father who owns a small remodeling business.
The best advice Karina received from her dad, was “if you don’t ask, you won’t know”. Living by this advice has helped expand her knowledge and connections within the construction industry. Asking questions and showing initiative to learn can also motivate the person who is teaching and mentoring you. While pursuing a degree in Industrial Engineering at Oklahoma State University, Karina soon realized she needed a more engaging work environment. She switched her major to Construction Engineering Technology. The courses in Revit and BIM were exciting and challenging which fed her love for technology. Karina graduated with several other women and quickly recognized the need to build your network and create lasting connections. “Use the resources around you, especially LinkedIn,” stated Karina.
Karina’s advice for women interested in construction is powerful. “Don’t let the industry scare you,” Karina says. “People will welcome you onto a project if you are willing to learn and show interest. You have to put yourself out there.” Karina acknowledges that it takes a certain personality to work in construction and women bring different perspectives to the workplace. She believes the phrase “honey is thicker than oil” is a good metaphor for working in construction. “You need to kill them with kindness,” she says. “It’s important to be persistent and show your thirst for knowledge and desire to grow in your role.”
A challenging aspect Karina comes across is being heard. “There are times that people look at you but don’t hear you. You may be new, and the assumption is that you do not know what you are talking about,” she says. Karina believes that you can overcome that stigma by going to project sites and starting a conversation, even if it’s not work-related. It’s important to find out about them on a personal level.
You gain a level of respect by speaking up in meetings, engaging with trade partners, and showing that you are interested in delivering a high-quality construction project. Karina said, “Gender roles don’t exist when others see you working hard and adding productivity to the project”.