How a theater background helped set the stage for a career in construction

How a theater background helped set the stage for a career in construction

This article is one in a series of conversations with women leaders in the construction industry.Click herefor past discussions.

In college, Dana Erdman had her sights set on a career in theater. She was particularly drawn to stage management and playwriting.

Dana Erdman

Permission granted by Bulley & Andrews

Erdman took a few jobs in the local arts community after graduation but then stumbled across a job with bully & Andrews in 2008 and found her true calling.

Even so, she hasn’t left her college instruction behind, because she said her arts management training aligns well with her work for the Chicago-based contractor.

“Managing a production is a lot like managing any other project in any other industry,” she said. “You have actors that know their lines and folks that need extra help. You have deadlines and an audience to win over. And at the end of the show, you always hope for the standing ovation.”

Here, Erdman talks with Construction Dive about her work in construction technology as well as her commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

CONSTRUCTION DIVE: What do you do in your current job?

DANA ERDMAN: I’m currently the director of technology and innovation and our diversity and inclusion officer. My responsibilities really run the gamut — everything from research and development of new technology solutions and companies to implementing companywide technology solutions, process improvement and working side by side with our clients to ensure the project teams have the best technology on our jobsites for the work at hand.

In my D&I role, I oversee three subcommittees (LGBTQIA+, Women and Multicultural) and we exist to create a safe space for everyone, to have honest conversations about real world issues, and to continue to move Bulley & Andrews forward as much as we can.

What led you to choose construction for your career?

Honestly, it was the right opportunity at the right time. My background is in theater arts/arts management, and while I never pictured myself in this industry, the way I’ve been able to carve out a role in a company that has been around for 130+ years where I feel like every day I make some sort of impact or progress is something I’m truly proud of.

What are a few of the projects you’ve most enjoyed working on and why?

I’ll never forget being a part of the interview team for the Howard Brown Health Broadway Youth Center project in Chicago and winning that job. Watching a center that will provide so many resources to the LGBTQ+ community come to life was remarkable.

In addition, my VDC team has been a part of some really challenging hotel redesign work and coming out the other side, we always talk about the lessons learned we can use on the next project. Being able to execute, learn and get better is the “why” for all of our work.

How has construction technology changed during the past 14 years that you’ve been in construction?

I think the real question is “how hasn’t it changed?” Absolutely everything has changed, and the change has accelerated over the last few years.

What was once a completely manual, paper-driven industry is now embracing robotics, artificial intelligence, automation, blockchain, virtual design, virtual reality and everything in between. You see technology in every single area of construction now, from the jobsite to the back office.

Even in the accounting world, there is such an emphasis on good, quality data and how we can use it to make us better at what we do everyday.

What are your favorite types of technology in construction?

I love the unconventional technology. Sure, I love the work my VDC team does and all the ways in which we’ve been able to serve our clients with the right technology tools and the right processes, but I also love the way we’ve been able to make our accounting department more focused on data and workflow, rather than just pushing paper. I love the technology that really makes our employees shine.

What advice would you give to young women considering construction as a career?

Representation matters — we need you! The construction industry is changing and diverse voices will keep it moving forward.

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