Energy. Boundless, uncanny and spirited energy. If you were to try put a label on what Jenn Sussman brings to the commercial construction table, you’ll want to start there. As the Director of National Accounts for Powerhouse, she is part of a company that places a premium on the instrumental contributions that women bring to the game. Known for the genuine and sincere approach she fosters in every relationship she creates, Sussman currently has submerged herself into the continually fast-paced world of construction, roll outs, and facilities and maintenance. We sat down with her to get her thoughts on today’s commercial construction business and why women continue to help bring a strong foundation to the industry’s future.
Give us a snapshot of the construction market today? What are you seeing out there?
Like most industries, construction faced a year of unprecedented trials and tribulations. Nevertheless, the trailblazers found a way to swivel when adversity struck. This pandemic hastened the need to transform the digital experience by elevating and expanding drive-thru capabilities, implementing buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) and contactless and/or curbside options, and employing state-of-the-art safety measures like upgraded air filtration systems to reduce airborne contaminants.
Also, due to an increase in permanent store and restaurant closures, there are more opportunities than ever to retrofit available spaces for new purposes. The obvious trend right now, and most likely for the foreseeable future, is the reinvestment into existing properties through remodels and refreshes, however at a slower pace than previous years given the current circumstances.
How did you get started in the industry? What’s your story?
My entire employment history would require a double issue, so I will only subject your readers to the abbreviated version. Unlike those who had a clear-cut path professionally, I guess you could say I took the scenic route. If one found himself wallowing over a receding hairline, I provided him with a new mane.
For those unlucky in love, I assisted in their soulmate search as a Director of Matchmaking in Manhattan. Private jet, LEED certified modular home, Maid of Honor speech, you name it, I sold it. I was a jack of all trades, but a master of none. After discovering the field of architecture and design, my snaked and encumbered trail found unobstructed alignment.
I spent eight magnificent years becoming well-versed in an industry I loved, and formed a tremendous network of superb clients and friends. What I did not realize at the time is that my true calling still eluded me. Until now. I am presently deep in the throes of the dynamic, fast-paced world of construction, roll outs, facilities and maintenance, and I am loving every minute of it. Sometimes it takes several wrong turns to find the right direction.
Any company that devalues a female’s capabilities purely based on the fact that she is a woman will not only miss out on superlative hires, they will also cease to evolve and ultimately be left behind.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen over the past few years?
Revolutionary developments in high-definition/360 degree photography, 3D survey scanning, Augmented Reality, Building Information Technology and cloud based/mobile, real-time construction management software has dramatically increased productivity, improved collaboration, supported turnkey data collection and allowed companies to seamlessly tackle complex, high-velocity projects.
Additionally, although guidelines pertaining to the optimization of energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact have been in place for decades, these procedures are becoming more stringent as time progresses. We should all seek to drive innovation in sustainability.
Name some of the opportunities available for women in the industry?
Women have made incredible strides both individually and collectively. Although the glass ceiling still exists on varying levels, I’m ecstatic to witness the commitments progressive organizations have made to empowering women. It is that allegiance that continues to fracture the figurative “glass” barrier holding us back.
I’m elated to be part of a company where the majority of the senior leadership team is women. This is certainly rare in the construction industry. Powerhouse truly recognizes and promotes the instrumental contributions that women bring to the table. As far as I’m concerned, all opportunities in construction are available to women through grit, tenacity and assiduousness. Any company that devalues a female’s capabilities purely based on the fact that she is a woman will not only miss out on superlative hires, they will also cease to evolve and ultimately be left behind.
What challenges remain?
I think one of the biggest challenges is being genuinely respected in a male-dominated industry. We habitually encounter the antiquated posture that women are not sufficiently qualified to assume conventionally male positions. Rather than battle every naysayer, demand reverence by proving them wrong. Lucretia Mott, an early feminist activist and strong advocate for ending slavery, once said, “Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.” We continue to chip away at the archaic mindsets hindering our advancement in order to foster future generations of fearless young women.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Self-doubt is the real killer of dreams, not failure. We tend to be crippled by the fear of the unknown, but the only way to live outside the confines of an ordinary existence is to be courageous and take risks.
What advice would share with women just coming up in the industry?
Be a voracious learner. Seek out a mentor. Go on site whenever possible to learn in the field. Knowledge unleashes unremitting power.
What’s the biggest lesson the past few months have taught you?
This ongoing pandemic has imparted crucial clarity that had long evaded me. I was so engrossed in the daily demands of work that I often failed to appreciate the invaluable entities right in front of me. When I stopped grumbling about being confined and concentrated on spending more time with family, I realized that the little things in life are actually the big things. I replaced my grievances with gratitude and transformed my overall outlook.
What’s the biggest item on your to-do list?
My to do list is more like a colossal scroll, but other than making it past the end of my driveway without a mask, I’m anxious to meet my phenomenal new colleagues in person.
What’s the first thing you’re going to do when everything gets back to normal?
We’ve all but replaced human interaction with digital communication because our only option is to adapt to the current landscape. That being said, when this is all behind us, I’m going to host a sensational celebration in NYC with friends to commemorate the start of new beginnings.