Profile on Anna DeRose, Technical Manager

During this year’s Women in Construction (WIC) Week, taking place across the US, (3rd – 9th March) we celebrate and promote our colleagues operating in the industry. Now in its 26th year, the theme for 2024 Is ‘Keys to the Future’, looking at how females are shaping the sector to make it more inclusive and accessible for the next generation.

When Anna DeRose entered the construction industry as a labourer more than 25 years ago, she was very much a woman in a man’s world, both in her work environment and when she started her apprenticeship at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM).

In the years since then, thanks to a combination of hard work, a determination to prove herself and simply being very good at her job, she has worked her way up the construction ladder to her current role as Technical Manager.

Most of her career has been spent working in semiconductors and she joined EnerMech in September, being headhunted from her previous role as a senior project manager. As a member of the management team, Anna’s new role includes providing all technical support to semiconductor projects in Arizona and New Mexico, working with client and partner organizations to ensure KPI’s are achieved, and developing execution strategies to continually improve delivery.

“I’ve previously worked on both the client and trade side of things, so this is like joining the dots and completing the triangle,” she said

“I had worked as a labourer for two years before the company I was working for put me into a four-year apprenticeship programme for plumbing, gas fitting, and pipe fitting at CNM through the Associated Builders and Contractors, (ABC),” she said, “I also got my welding certification on site.”

Anna’s third child was born just before she completed her apprenticeship and determined not to miss any of her final lessons, she took the baby to class with her when she was only a few days old. That didn’t go down particularly well with some male classmates, but her instructor said she had just as much right to be there as anyone else, and said if anyone had an issue with that, “there’s the door”.

Anna, who had the highest grade point average (GPA) in her class, is one of only three women to have graduated from CNM as a journeyman and to date, is still the only woman to have gained three journeyman licenses from the college. Since then, she’s gained many additional certifications, some semiconductor specific and others necessary industry standards. She’s also worked in hospitals and for the pharmaceuticals sector and has relevant welding certification for that sector.

After completing her apprenticeship she worked as a journeyman for about 12 years, moving on from there a variety of different roles including construction coordinator, general operations manager, superintendent, quality assurance supervisor and senior project manager.  During that time she worked in six states and in four countries outside the US – Singapore, Ireland, Malaysia and Costa Rica.

“I learned by trial and error, and I’ve had some great mentors and people who advocated for me,” said Anna. “But on the other side of the fence, I wasn’t always valued and was told I didn’t belong there.

“It was at that point I found my phoenix and decided to take every opportunity to learn new things, take any additional apprenticeship training or anything else to gain additional certifications and licenses.”

While more women are now entering the construction sector compared to when Anna started, they are still very underrepresented with WIC’s latest figures showing that only around 10 percent of all construction workers in the US are female.

Anna says she is committed to supporting women who are working in the industry – and to encouraging more females to consider it as a career route – that includes her little sister who joined EnerMech to train as a pipefitter.

“EnerMech now has six females working in semiconductors on site in New Mexico which is great. At the moment though there is no semiconductor apprenticeship available in the state. I’d like to help change and drive that, to do whatever needs to be done to help. I’m advocating for ABC to introduce an apprenticeship programme so that we can give these girls a platform to take their career forward.

“I’m always ready to provide mentoring support for them at any time and to lend a listening ear, because I didn’t have a female mentor when I started out.

“As a licensed plumber/welder I regularly get asked to give presentations and demonstrations at events. I also volunteer and out teach programmes with K-12 students. It’s very hands on, the kids love it and I get a buzz from inspiring and mentoring.

“I’ve also taught my own kids, Sebastian (19), Natalya (17) and Izabella (15) to weld. Along with my husband, they often come to help me with the set up at voluntary events and we make it a family thing with all of us getting involved.”

So what next for Anna?

“I still strive to be the best that I can be, and in doing that, create value for others and an environment that women want to be in.”