June 13 2023 08:52 AM

Making quick decisions and handling difficulties in projects requires being calm under pressure.

Overseeing and coordinating multiple construction crews has its challenges. A few months ago, I was leading a project that required concrete to be poured. There had been a few unexpected snafus, including locating electric lines that had not been marked (fortunately this was because they were abandoned and not active) and heavy rainfall, that had delayed our schedule. Finally, on Thursday night after a long week of work, we just needed to finish installing the rebar and we would be ready for a few truckloads of concrete to arrive first thing the next morning. I showed the foreman the rebar pattern I needed, he agreed, and I headed home.

Early the next morning, I arrived onsite knowing that we had concrete headed our way in just a few hours. I went to check out the rebar and was immediately disappointed. It was not even close to the pattern I had visually demonstrated to the foreman. (Think Pinterest Fail memes: it was that bad). I immediately made some phone calls. The foreman was just a few minutes down the road. When he arrived, we discussed the shortcoming. He responded, “I thought your request was overkill.” Hard stop.

Here there is a fork in the road. Some may yell, get red in the face, and even throw around a few foul words. Now believe me, deep down inside I wanted to practically shake the guy and colorfully shout, “Are you kidding me?!” But that’s just not my style. I took a deep breath and calmly and coolly explained the heavy forklift traffic and why this project fundamentally required such “overkill.” The foreman made a few phone calls, and not too much later we had a bunch of guys racing to get rebar in while the concrete trucks idled.

That day happened to be our annual service awards at the office. After the concrete was poured, I raced into headquarters with a change of clothes in a bag under my arm. I ran into one of our executives as I entered the building in my splattered clothes. I apologized for my near tardiness and simply explained I was pouring concrete. I had made it just in time and was able to change into a nice sweater before it began. As I accepted my five-year award, he mentioned that I do everything from develop new products to pour concrete. I thought to myself, “Oh I wish it was as simple as just pouring concrete this week!”

I have heard plenty of rumors about how I have handled issues during that project and others. They are kind of like fish stories — they get bigger every time. I guess the calmer you are under pressure, the more seriously folks will take you. Being a woman in charge in a hard hat draws plenty of double takes. Now I have the persona to boot!

Erin Massey

Erin Massey is the product development manager at Prairie Farms, a farmer-owned cooperative based in Edwardsville, Illinois. She is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the development process, from concept to commercialization. Erin grew up on a Florida dairy farm and has a deep-rooted passion to invigorate the dairy industry. Erin earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of South Florida. Her personal mantra is "Be Bold."