Charity MacDowell has been a builder in the Pacific Northwest for 11 years now, both at work and at home on her big, forested property that, fittingly, used to be a lumber yard. It makes it easy for her to geek out about building in her free time, too, whether it is working on ongoing renovations to her home or building various projects in her shed – which she also built. The only thing she might love as much as building is the great outdoors and the environment, which is what makes her such a perfect fit for life at Lewis.
Charity has been with Lewis for over four years and is one of the many Project Managers who started her career at Lewis as a Project Engineer. After earning her degree in Construction Management and spending some time in the industry, Charity landed at Lewis. After that, her talent and knack for creative problem solving put her on track to becoming Project Manager on some of our largest and most complicated projects.
Q: What made you want to work in construction? And why did you want to work at Lewis?
A: I started in college as an environmental sciences major. I knew I wanted to do something related to sustainable design, but I was not sure how to get there, and eventually, as I researched green building, I realized there was an entire aspect to the construction management department that was devoted to green building. I love working at Lewis because I know my company cares as much about green building as I .
Q: What was your favorite part about being a PE?
A: One of my favorite parts of being a PE was learning about such a breadth of information every day. I did not grow up knowing anyone in construction, so there was a lot to learn. As a PE you partner with the specialty trades, and they can teach you fascinating things about their scope. You can go down a rabbit hole learning about how the mechanical equipment makes the building breathe, or the extent of the chemistry, logistics and technique involved in successfully executing a big concrete pour.
Q: What project has mattered the most to you and why? What cool detail do you love most about it?
A: The project that has mattered most to me at Lewis has been the Hans Rosling Center for Population Health at the University of Washington. This was a design-build project that pushed the envelope with the integrative contracting style. There was an exceptionally collaborative design and construction team on this project that made the entire process more fun. One physical aspect I love is the monolithic colored concrete columns that support the building overhead, they’re both functionally cool and beautiful to look at.
Q: When you think about building a better future, what makes you feel like you’re a part of that?
A: Most of Lewis’ projects have some sort of sustainable building requirements, which makes me feel good about building a better future. I also believe Lewis is an industry leader in their management style and cultivated company culture. In an industry historically known for traditional management styles, Lewis stands out to me as exceptionally inclusive of their employees as decision-makers. The mission statement of the company was generated from interviewing all the employees and stack ranking the number of similar responses to pull the ideas into a cohesive statement. I have never heard of another company crowdsourcing their value statement. It makes me feel like we are pioneering a future where employees in a large company can have a voice.
Q: What makes you feel fulfilled at the end of the day?
A: I feel fulfilled when I know I resolved at least one issue that day. It’s a win if I made someone’s day a little easier.
Q: What’s the most fun part about your job?
A: I would not call this job fun. If you want a fun job, go be a clown. One of my favorite books has the best title, “All Joy and No Fun.” The book was talking about raising kids, but I think it applies well to working in the operations of construction. There is a deeper sense of purpose and satisfaction that I get out of my work. This is hard work, but it’s taking on a challenge with a team. At the end of the day, there is a reason I keep showing up, and it’s not just the money, there is a fast-paced dynamic feel to the challenges, and you need to use all your creativity, social skills and follow-through to get a solution. That can be very satisfying.
This is the 2nd interview in a 3 part series. Be sure to check out Part 1 with Renata Popov and come back for Part 3!