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Women in Construction: Sara Hennningsgaard

The Drive288 project takes great pride in establishing an inclusive work environment, with a team of workers that reflects the uniquely diverse community of Houston. In one of the most male-dominated industries in the world, we deeply value the hard-working women whose diligent work on the project is unparalleled.

On this edition of Women in Construction, we highlight Sara Henningsgaard. Raised in Damascus, Maryland, Sara is a civil engineer and a graduate of the University of Minnesota. With six of Sara’s siblings also being engineers, engineering is a sort of family tradition for the Henningsgaard’s. Her father, who also happens to be a civil engineer, served as a role model for Sara, developing in her an early passion for the field.
“Engineering was the family business, but fortunately, I enjoyed the technical disciplines in school and the problem solving that goes along with being a civil engineer,”
said Henningsgaard.

From college student to intern to field inspector to project manager, Sara worked her way up her organization and now serves as an important piece of the Drive288 project, subcontracted with Roy Jorgensen. With over 12 years of engineering experience, she has also worked on several other major highway construction projects, including I595 Express in Florida, I70 in Colorado, and I495 Express in Virginia.

“This [civil engineering] field continues to be an enjoyable challenge and has always been a good fit for my skill set and personality,” she said.

The Drive288 project appreciates diligent workers like Sara, and she is just as appreciative for the cohesive atmosphere on the team.

“What I enjoy most is the diversity of disciplines that are involved and required on such a large-scale infrastructure project (construction, operations and maintenance, PI, finance, etc.),” said Henningsgaard. “All these project components need to work collaboratively to achieve project success. This exposure also enables me to continue to learn outside of my core skillset.

Women in Construction: Ashley Neighbors-Evans

“Success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.”- Michelle Obama

The Drive288 project prides itself on establishing a work environment of diversity and inclusivity, with equal and fair treatment for everyone on the project. Mirroring the unique diversity of Houston, its team of workers come from all walks of life and take pride in the individual challenges and triumphs that brought them to the Drive288 project.

There is one worker in particular who knows a thing or two about overcoming a challenge. Meet Ashley Neighbors-Evans. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, Ashley is a traffic engineer and a graduate of Florida A&M University. As a teenager, she slowly developed a passion for the construction field, spending her summers renovating old homes with her uncle. With five years of construction experience under her belt, she has also worked on the massive, $2 billion I35W-I820N North Tarrant Expressway project in Fort Worth—moving up the ranks as a Project Engineer/Project Manager to infrastructure, as a Traffic Coordinator/Traffic Engineer.

“I chose to be an engineer because I knew it would be exciting and challenging,” said Neighbors-Evans. “Engineering is a field that not only solves world problems but also impacts people’s lives.”

Entering a male-dominated industry, the road to Drive288 was not always easy for Ashley. She knew she had hurdles to overcome, but she was more than “up for the challenge.” Fresh out of college, she found herself applying to jobs without receiving any leads in return. Eventually, she took a step of faith and purchased a one-way ticket to Virginia in search of a job. Knocking on door after door aggressively job-hunting, she received her first job offer with a small 8A firm in Washington, D.C.

“Being the only woman in a group of men is a challenge, but it has been important for me to realize that people who do not respect me because I am a female are the exception and not the rule. I honestly embrace those experiences now because they have empowered me to be more assertive and straightforward.”

The Drive288 project is grateful to have workers like Ashley, and she is just as grateful for the cohesive atmosphere on the team.

“I really love the work environment. I like how everyone works together, as a team, coming from all different backgrounds, to get the job done,” she said. “Everyone has been very welcoming and respectful.”


A note from Ashley:

“I would like to thank all the strong women in my lineage who inspired me to be the best I can be, and who also taught us that we could be whoever we wanted to be. Because of you, I am where I am today and I thank you!”

Women in Construction: Jaclyn Tran

In The Median

Women in Construction: Jaclyn Tran

Work Ethic Has No Gender

The Drive288 project is a reflection of Houston itself: a combination of local and international companies, with a team of workers who represent the diverse and unique nature of our great Texan city.

One of these workers, Jaclyn Tran, is a field engineer and a graduate of Kerr High School and University of Houston—Downtown. Before joining the Drive288 project, Jaclyn started her construction career working with Houston Rapid Transit, the lightrail project which included civil works components and associated transit systems. As a Field Engineer, she has also worked on County Road 48, a 2-mile roadway and bridge expansion project, which included both civil and structural works.

“I’ve worked many different types of jobs to find where I belong now,” said Tran. “I started as an engineering intern in the construction field; I found it to be very challenging, yet satisfying to see the impact it had on the community.”

The demands of the construction field can be extreme, and many variables come into play. Weather concerns, working with subcontractors, equipment failure, and other inconveniences all must be managed while keeping the project on schedule and in line. Working effectively and efficiently is Jaclyn’s main focus, and she doesn’t let these complications deter her from the bigger picture.

“It is a gratifying feeling to see what I’ve built and the impact that it has on our community; from providing safe and quick public transportation systems, to expanding roadways and bridges to ease commute times and get our highway’s travelers home to their friends and family quicker.”

In addition to being young in her career, the dynamic of being a minority woman in a predominately male-dominated field brings its own challenges. Working with an older generation of blue-collar workers requires establishing a firm demeanor, what Jaclyn calls her “work persona.” When getting things done on the job site, or having to send someone home, being strict is often required.

“Some people may think I come across mean, but realistically I’m saying the same things and giving the exact orders as anyone in this position would,” she shared. “I always try to be approachable, but it’s not always possible to be relatable. What I’ve learned is how crucial it can be to separate my work life from my personal life.”

Despite this dynamic of the construction industry, Jaclyn is quick to point out how rewarding working with the Drive288 team has been.

“The Drive288 team really believes in inclusivity—equal, fair treatment for everyone on the project, and this really makes me feel like part of the group.”

“This type of industry thrills me,” she said, “and I cannot see myself in any other.”

Jaclyn resides in Houston with her red nose Pitbull, Riddick.

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