This week’s feature in our Women in Construction series is Rebecca Cook, Perlo’s IT Manager. Rebecca is a 17-year Perlo veteran and has witnessed many changes within Perlo and in the world of information technology. Read on to learn more about Rebecca’s journey into the construction industry.
What is your current role, and what does it entail?
I am Perlo’s IT Manager. With that, my day-to-day involves oversight of all IT related items including communications, technology, and infrastructure.
What led you to the construction industry?
Although my grandfather was a general contractor and my father was a self-employed subcontractor, my background was actually in medical. I was an EMT by the time I was eighteen years old and loved everything about it, with no plans to go into the construction industry.
After my husband and I moved from California to Oregon, I was in search of a job and ended up meeting Crystal Bentley. Crystal, who is currently the Lead Assistant Project Manager at Perlo and had been working there back when it was still Perlo McCormack Pacific, informed me that her job was hiring in insurance.
Being an EMT, I could see the connection between the medical field and insurance and decided to go for it. Thinking it would be a temporary stint, I started as a part-time Insurance Coordinator. However, as soon as the company realized I was good with computers, I became more of a jack of all trades. Especially with the small group of employees at the time, I spent time in Accounts Payable, Reception, and even served as a Safety Coordinator for ten years. My position evolved over time into what it is now, and I really appreciate all of the different opportunities and experiences that Perlo offers.
What do you think the most interesting thing about IT Manager is?
I enjoy that we’re so innovative and that we keep expanding into what’s possible and next on the horizon. When I first started, our superintendents weren’t using computers. From implementing those computers to the field to now looking at the advancements in cloud technologies, it’s clear how much has expanded over the years.
It’s so interesting to see everything that has helped keep Perlo growing and expanding the way it has been. It’s so much easier nowadays to get information back and forth and communicate. Back when I first started, everything was on paper. Now, you can get information much quicker because you don’t have to ask someone to go digging for a physical file. It’s great to bring in that flexibility for employees to do their work efficiently every day.
What do you think is the biggest challenge about your role?
I would say the biggest challenge is finding the right fit for the current technology. It can be a challenge to find software that can work with and improve your current technology environment and integrate in a seamless way.
What skills are required to be successful?
Both in my position and in the construction industry in general, communication is the number one most important skill to have. You must be flexible and have a sense of project management in terms of logically connecting an idea and the implementation of that idea. Not only do you have to be able to implement an idea, but you have to be a team player to implement others’ needs and wants. At the end of the day, it all comes down to communication skills.
What changes have you seen in IT over the course of your career?
The biggest change is seeing a device, or even multiple devices, in every hand. When I first arrived at Perlo, email was just being implemented. Now we have people with computers, cell phones, iPads, and more in their hands.
Another big change I’ve seen is the onsite access that is now available to our superintendents, foremen, and other crew members. Onsite personnel had to adapt to remote internet connections, emails on the cloud, and handling video conferences through zoom. Although it was adapted and accepted easily, it wasn’t always that way. A huge change that many of our onsite crews had to adapt to years ago was the implementation from written to online timecards!
Do you see women advancing in the industry? Why or why not?
Yes. I think it can be hard to get into this industry because generally, people don’t understand all that you do. There are so many different levels of the construction industry, and it all comes down to educating those who are young on all of the opportunities available
What is some of the best advice you have received when it comes to women working in construction?
My mother and father were always the types of people to give the advice that “you can do anything.” I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had this advice and grew up knowing that if you put your mind to it and do the hard work, you can accomplish anything. I would give the same advice to anyone.
Do you have any favorite stories or memories you can share from your career?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I have a favorite story or memory, but I would say that old memories are a part of our culture. It’s always nice to remember where we came from. Perlo is trying to expand, but having shared memories with those around you is what makes the biggest difference. When you start somewhere, the best memories come from trying to make an impact and seeing things get better from that day forward.
What kind of culture shift have you seen at Perlo?
I believe we have grown our culture into something that everyone can feel involved in. We all join forces and have the freedom to plan anything or become invested in a Perlo committee. It gives employees the chance to feel validated, and there is something for everyone. When people feel invested, it helps Perlo make the changes that keep it a great place to work.
Whenever we tell people about the fun and unique things we do, they always say they want to work here. We promote our culture, because the changes make employees want to work hard so that they can join in on the fun.
What is your mantra or favorite quote?
“See a need, fill a need.” I truly believe that if something needs to happen, you just have to jump in and do it. One of the Perlo practices says that everyone takes out the trash. I believe that if there is an opportunity for you to help, you should.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I personally feel so lucky to work here, be involved, and be able to both watch and help Perlo grow. Perlo as a company invests so much time into their employees to ensure we’re all growing and, most importantly, having fun in the process.
Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your story as a woman in construction! For more information on our Women in Construction series, visit us here.