From Coding to Construction

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It seems like everyone is talking about how more women need to go into technical careers. For a while I considered studying computer science. During high school, I learned some Python, C++, and other programming languages. But I found myself craving something more tangible. I ultimately opted for less screen time, and more hammer time. I decided to go into construction.

My dad is a general contractor, who works on residential projects. Through him, I’ve come to appreciate the joy that comes with building. He and his brother own a company, and I grew up working with them on jobsites.

A typical workday involves hard labor in the morning. Sanding rough wood in preparation for staining. Nailing down plywood for a home remodel. Organizing a creative plan for narrow workspaces. Etc, etc.

Then at noon, my family and I would gather for lunch. We’d sit on our coolers and upside down milk crates, digging for our tuna fish sandwiches buried deep beneath the now-melted ice. Our faces would be wet with sweat and coated with sawdust.

My cousin, sister and I would try extending our lunches longer than our dads ever thought reasonable. We always lost those arguments and would end up working until the sun went down.


In the fall I’m heading to Cal Poly to study construction management, a career that I know isn’t going to be easy. Barriers like sexual harassment, lower pay, or just being viewed as bossy rather than the boss, are all issues women face when entering heavily male-dominated fields, whether it’s construction, tech, or business.

Beyond fighting to close the gender pay gap and create opportunities for women in the workplace, there’s another reason I am doing this; It’s because during those lunches with my family, I always felt like I had truly accomplished something. A visual reward for my visual mind, an actual physical structure I could walk by later with pride, because I was a part of creating something.

I am ready to don a hard hat and challenge the status quo. Because at the end of the day, I’m committed to building something bigger than myself.

With a Perspective, I’m Grace Vaughan Brekke.

Grace Vaughan Brekee is 18-years-old and a high school senior in Oakland.