Women @ MATT

Women @ MATT: Part One

Highlighting some of the women who have been integral to our success

To celebrate Women in Construction week, we are launching a two-part blog series highlighting some of the women who have been integral to our success as a company. Meet Jennifer Halstead, Cory Kuo, Erica Leung, Lucy Egbe, Holly Wilde and Sameera Khurana below.

Jennifer Halstead, MATT Construction

Jennifer Halstead: Executive Vice President/ Chief Operations Officer

Q: What advice would you give young women entering the field of construction?

A: 1. Learn everything you can about how a project is built in the field. Utilize your team, and especially your Superintendent, as resources. If you have a strong foundation in the technical aspects of construction, it makes everything easier later in your career. It makes you a better problem solver, more strategic and a better collaborator. 

2. Follow your intuition and bring YOURSELF to work. Don’t try to be someone else. Bring your unique gifts and talents every day, it makes for a much more creative, innovative and interesting workplace. 

Q: Tell me about a time when your technical skills aided your team in succeeding on a job.

A: When I was working on the Stead Family Children’s Hospital at the University of Iowa, I was able to bring VDC laser scanning and modeling capabilities from another part of the company to that specific project. There was a very complex, signature curved roof and cladding problem at the hospital that had been stalled for two years. Once I was able to integrate the VDC technology, we were able to model the pieces, solve the problem in a few weeks, and keep the construction process moving forward. That success led to applying the same technology to a complex wall art installation. The precision of the installation was spectacular, and we saved months of installation time.

Q: What is your vision for the construction industry five years from now?  

A: My vision is that the construction industry will be able to disrupt itself with more efficient and integrative technology. Up until this point, most of the construction technology that exists is fairly stand alone, inefficient and lacks integrated business intelligence. I would like to see the construction industry pair up with the technology industry so that the technology can do what it’s best at, while freeing up humans to do what only humans can do, things like elevating relationships, being creative, coaching, teaching, etc. The construction industry needs a more holistic approach to technology, and my vision is that the industry is able to disrupt itself rather than be susceptible to someone else stepping in. 

Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: After 4 years in the auto industry, I left and put myself through school full-time to get my Master’s degree. I started in construction right after I graduated and never looked back! 

Cory Kuo, MATT Construction

Cory Kuo: Project Manager

Q: What is your favorite part about the construction industry?

A: I love the people I get to work and collaborate with every day, and I love that I get to build things that people in the community depend on. In construction, we get to see progress happening on a daily basis; it’s so exciting to watch a project evolve from a 2D blueprint into a physical 3D building. I’m learning new things each and every day.

Q: What is your leadership/management style?

A: I definitely have a coach-like mentality when it comes to my leadership style. I always try to understand everyone on my team’s strengths and weaknesses so that we can work together to reach our ultimate goal as a team. I am also very detail-oriented and process-driven. With that being said, I really try to teach new people on my team the processes and reasoning behind the tasks being performed. I like to teach big picture. When you understand the reasoning and purpose behind a task, it becomes easier to reach the goal that you are trying to accomplish.

Q: What advice would you give young women entering the field of construction?

A: 1. Be curious. Be passionate. Be confident.

2. Work smarter, not harder.

3. Always ask questions when things aren’t clear to you—there’s truly no such thing as a stupid question.

Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: I don’t think many people at MATT know this, but in college, I was a lead vocalist in a Taiwanese band. Our band was called ‘XD’ and we performed at various university events. (Don’t ask me to sing for you because it’s been a while, haha).

Erica Leung, MATT Construction

Erica Leung: Project Engineer

Q: What advice would you give to young women entering the field of construction?

A: Have patience and be open to learning and absorbing everything on the field. There’s so much value in immersing yourself fully in the experience and learning as much as you can from the people/trades on-site. Take full advantage of those opportunities.

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at MATT?

A: The people. At MATT there’s a common mentality that no question is a dumb question. No matter what level someone is at, everyone is always very approachable and willing to help you learn. MATT’s people are also very easy to work with—they aren’t stubborn, and they don’t turn their backs on you. We really foster a great team environment no matter what project we are working on.

I also love that MATT makes an effort to bring the company together as a whole through external activities. You can build great relationships and learn so much from other people in different roles and departments throughout the company.

Q: What are your favorite hobbies outside of work?

A: Snowboarding and flying. I grew up in Hong Kong and learned how to snowboard in Japan. Once I moved to the U.S. for school, I went on to race on USC’s Ski & Snowboard team.

I got my private pilot’s license during undergrad, and what I love about flying is that it really helps me clear my mind and reset my perspective.

Q: What is something that would surprise us about you?

A: I think some people would be surprised to know that I speak 5 languages: English, German, Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese.

Lucy Egbe, MATT Construction

Lucy Egbe: Senior Project Engineer

Q: What is your favorite part about the construction industry?

A: I love how being in the construction field allows me to be hands-on with projects. I used to want to be an architect in the field, but I’ve realized that physically connecting to the projects as they go up and contributing to them in such a tangible way is very rewarding for me.

Q: What advice would you give young women entering the field of construction?

A: When I was first starting out in this industry, I wish someone would have advised me to be confident in the knowledge I had already accumulated. When you’re new to the field, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the moving parts and new vocabulary. Even though you have a lot to learn, don’t discount the knowledge you do have. Every minute piece of knowledge you have can end up benefiting your team, so don’t be shy about speaking out.

Q: What is a challenge you’ve had to overcome while pursuing a career in this industry?

A: I think a challenge that I’m still developing upon is learning to have a sense of confidence in my role. I don’t think I am the only one who feels that way, especially while being in the early years/stages of my career. I’m still learning how to figure things out and move on from my mistakes without letting them knock my confidence. Mistakes are lessons and realizing that they don’t define my career is something that I’m working on. 

Q: What is your favorite hobby outside of work?

A: I love to go salsa dancing, and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. Even if you’ve never danced before, it’s such a fun time.

Holly A. Wilde, MATT Construction

Holly A. Wilde: Director of Marketing

Q: What is your favorite part of the construction industry?

A: What I love most about the construction industry is seeing so many people come together and focus on achieving one fairly sophisticated goal. I remember I was at a video shoot on the top deck of UDR’s Vision on Wilshire while the team was preparing to pour the next floor. There were people everywhere and it looked like chaos, but as I absorbed the scene, I realized it was more like a hive of bees. Everyone knew exactly where they were going, everyone had a specific job to do. It was totally synchronized. It was so amazing to see everyone working together in tandem, and that’s a daily occurrence on our jobsites.

Q: What advice would you give to young women entering the field of construction?

A: 1. Trust yourself.

2. Own your value.

3. Be who you are.

4. Speak up.

Q: What has been your favorite project to be a part of and why?

A: My favorite place in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Bowl, and MATT has consistently done work there during the off-season. Going to the Hollywood Bowl is a very quintessential LA experience and I love knowing that we contribute to a place that is cherished in the lives of so many and is part of the fabric that ties the city together.

Q: What is your proudest moment at MATT?

A: I am most proud of how I’ve been able to develop the marketing department at MATT and integrate it into the business. When I joined the company, we were in the very early stages of leveraging digital marketing, so it was very rewarding to lay the foundational elements for that and other parts of our marketing department, like marketing analytics. We’ve come a long way now and have a clear structure, strategy, and organization. We’ve also become savvier at understanding our markets, competition and customers, which allows us to give our people the tools they need to support our clients in a way that’s most meaningful to them.

Sameera Khurana, MATT Construction

Sameera Khurana: Project Engineer

Q: What is your favorite part of the construction industry?

A: My favorite part about being in the construction industry is that I get to contribute to the built environment around me and directly impact local communities in a positive way. I also love how every day in construction is so different. Job stagnation often leads to burnout, and the fact that I’m in an industry that allows me to see tangible results and progress on a daily basis helps me stay motivated.  

Q: What do you enjoy most about working at MATT?

A: MATT is currently supporting me to achieve my LEED accreditation while I continue to work on amazing projects, which is exciting as a young professional. To that extent, MATT’s strong focus on continued education is very important to me. I also enjoy being able to work alongside such talented and knowledgeable people who truly love what they do. MATT is great at celebrating their employees and all our hard work, which I think is felt throughout the company.

Q: What has been your favorite project to work on and why?

A: I’m currently finishing up on a custom high-end luxury family residence in Bel Air, which has been my favorite project to date. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself being able to work on a project like this, it’s so unique and has allowed me to learn so much about high-end finishes. Building great relationships with the owners has made the experience even more memorable. 

Q: What is your favorite hobby outside of work?

A: I love cooking, practicing yoga, reading, and leading my book club. Travel is also a huge part of my life – I’ve traveled to 22 countries and my goal is to travel to 30 countries by the age of 30.

Thank you to all of the talented women who participated in these interviews and be sure to check out part two of this series in the coming weeks.