Women in Construction: Avery Gray on Trust and Teamwork on Modern Jobsite
Earlier this year, Gray Construction welcomed Avery Gray, a member of the Gray family and student at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., back for her third internship with the company. This time, her position was dedicated to a jobsite rather than in the office to provide an even deeper connection to the company. As the daughter to Franklin Gray, vice president of Gray Architects & Engineers, P.S.C. and niece to Stephen Gray, president and CEO, Avery Gray understands the importance of a family-feel atmosphere in the workplace. “I love how close and connected everyone is – just the way that everyone cares for one another,” said Avery. This year, Avery was given the special privilege of working on the Buffalo Trace jobsite, an expansion and relocation of a pre-existing bottling hall to another area on site, with both sides of her family. Gray Construction, the design-build firm responsible for the Buffalo Trace project, was founded by Avery's grandfather in 1960 and is currently run by her two uncles and her father. Tommy Wells Construction Company, a subcontractor to Gray providing site demo, site work, site utilities and asphalt paving, was founded by her mother's father.
In 2016, Avery joined the team as an intern in the IT department. Then, the following year, she returned as an A/E Intern, working mostly in design doing redlines/markups. While she enjoyed her time in the office and developed a foundational understanding of Gray’s services and processes, Avery was thrilled to acquire a new perspective from the unfamiliar atmosphere of the jobsite.
Tommy Wells Construction Company was started by Avery’s grandfather, Tommy Wells in 1956, and they were employed as subcontractors throughout the duration of the project. Although related to a few people on site, Avery grew especially close to her peers. “[My co-workers] went from being just that, co-workers, to being people who really felt like members of my family,” she said.
When speaking to her favorite things about the internship, “the family atmosphere” came first. “I know it’s different for me being family by blood, but I notice it in others too, just in the way that everyone cares about one another.”
“It was really special that I was able to work with both sides of our family to complete a project and see how they interacted with each other,” said Avery.
We were given the opportunity to sit down with Avery Gray and discuss her experience as a college-aged woman interning on a construction jobsite with both sides of her family.
What did a typical day on site look like for you?
The site manager, assistant site manager, safety technician and I started every day discussing all updates on the job. We ran through a rough schedule update and talked about specific accomplishments from the prior day and goals for the current day. Each morning I organized, entered and filed the paperwork from the day before: daily reports and subcontractor documents. I assisted the site manager or assistant site manager with daily audits, which was a great way to learn about the nuances of each specific aspect of the job. I interacted with each of the subcontractors who openly welcomed all of my questions. Additionally, I helped with the general organization of the job from accepting deliveries to walking the site and helping with safety orientations.
What was your biggest takeaway from your internship at Gray?
My biggest takeaway from my internship was that the people at Gray are the best in the business. They are kind, supportive and caring. They will help you with anything, and they will do it with a smile. The people I have worked with over the past few years have become family to me. Whether it was bumping into someone on the elevator in the office or meeting someone who came on site, every Gray team member embraced me with kindness and pure, genuine respect.
How would you describe your experience as a woman working in construction?
Construction has historically been, and is currently, a male-dominated field. Today, more and more women are joining construction, which is exciting to see! Following the experience on site, I can say that being a woman has not hindered my learning or limited my opportunities in construction. It did teach me, though, that as a female in construction, it is important to uphold a sense of confidence and assertiveness.
What would be your advice to a college student considering a career in construction?
There is a common stigma with construction work that is an inaccurate depiction of the modern construction industry. Many of my peers think that construction is a very simple process. Unbeknownst to them, the industry is actually very complex and involves the collaboration of many skilled professional working closely to create impressive projects.
I would tell college students considering a career in construction to “go for it!” It is an exciting industry that is always changing. Being on site is a great career for someone who isn’t looking for a traditional office environment. Working in the office is also exciting because of the diverse nature of the projects. This summer, being on site, I saw projects go from paper to reality.