“You are building something from
nothing. Taking flat land and building
Written By: Hailey McDonell, Future FCS Teacher
When someone mentions “construction worker”, what picture comes to your mind? Probably the image of a burly man with a five o’clock shadow in a hard hat and dirty jeans. But what comes to my mind is a strong-willed, petite Indian woman named Chandni Haria.
Not your stereotypical ironworker huh? Chandni’s story goes against gender role stereotypes and serves as inspiration for those who choose other non-traditional careers.
Chandni was born in India and moved to Kenya when she was five, where she stayed until she completed high school at age 15. In Kenya, she attended a British school where she was taught to speak strictly English, even though the language of the town was Swahili. She grew up in a mixed-culture neighborhood with Africans and Indians of various socio-economic statuses. At night, people stayed in their homes due to the amount of violence and robberies that took place after dark. To ensure a better future for Chandni, her family moved to the states. Her father, who had a passion for building things, was her role model. When still a teenager, she told her mother that she wanted to build things like her dad. Her mother was not thrilled with the idea, so Chandni tried accounting for a while. Soon, however, she was drawn back into her passion for construction and enrolled in the Civil Technology associate’s degree program at Macomb Community College. Out of a class of nineteen men, she and one other were selected for a prestigious summer internship in the construction field. After completing the internship many opportunities presented themselves, and upon graduation in 2007, she had several job offers from across the country. Chandni has a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a master's degree in Construction Management from Lawrence Tech and has done everything from inspection and surveying to engineering and project management. She has worked on projects with bridges, highways, buildings, land mines, water mines, oil refineries, and wharfs. Chandni is thrilled with her line of work and is constantly “entertained” by the variety of personalities she encounters. “Because of the variety of backgrounds that come to work - it is entertainment!” she says. “I laugh a lot because it is a laid back environment where we are not supposed to be the ‘professional stereotype’, and we can be ourselves.” Chandni also added that being able to wear jeans to work every day isn’t so bad either.
Organizations, such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), support the employment of women in the construction industry. To increase the amount of women going into non-traditional fields, I believe young women need a strong role model, like Chandni. In the course of her career, she has only worked with one other woman. “I think women are wanted in construction. I have never been out of a job in a good or bad economy”. This does not stop with construction however; trades such as automotive and engineering also have organizations that promote the advancement and employment of women. Chandni is involved in the Society of Women Engineers and hopes to encourage more people to enter non-traditional fields.
As a woman, Chandni often sees the look of surprise on the face of employers when she enters the room for a new job. She has learned to prove herself over the years and says, “Many times when I was not confident, I still acted confident”, and that attitude has helped her reach where she is today. I can only hope that teachers will read this and share this story with their students. Teachers can assist students by promoting internships, apprenticeships, and career and technical student organizations, anything to expose the student to the many career options that exist. Just maybe, a student will read Chandni’s story and feel that it is the right path for their life, even if it goes against the social norm. Teachers can help by getting in touch with related companies and arrange for students to get a glimpse of life in a previously unthought-of career. So many doors can be opened for students if they are aware of all the possibilities that are available to them. As for Chandni, this is just the beginning. She is looking forward to many more adventures that lay ahead of her.
“You are building something from nothing. Taking flat land and building a skyscraper”.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Iron Woman - Chandni Haria