Grassi Team Members Share their Perspectives

In honor of 2021 Women in Construction Week and continued celebration of National Women’s Month, Grassi asked a few of the female professionals in our Construction practice to tell us more about what led them to this sector and what advice they would give to other women who want to break into this traditionally male-dominated field.

The Grassi team members who joined us for this conversation are:

Jessica Gomes and Laura Holfester headshotsMichele Lindner and Donna McAuliffe headshots

Pictured from left: Jessica Gomes, Supervisor; Laura Holfester, Supervisor; Michele Lindner, Principal; Donna McAuliffe, Manager.

Q. How did your career lead to the construction industry? 

Michele: I started at Grassi as a public accountant 23 years ago and obtained my CPA. Grassi is well known for being a high-performance accounting firm for construction contractors, so I began working with a lot of them. Currently, a large percentage of my client portfolio is still construction professionals, to whom I provide consulting, financial and tax assistance. This led me to pursue and achieve my CCIFP certification, which is a certification for construction financial professionals.

Jessica: Honestly, my career just landed in the construction world. Starting out in Grassi’s tax department as a generalist, I began getting assigned to various construction clients, given that a large percentage of our firm’s clientele is in the construction sector. After this initial exposure to the industry, I found it very interesting how the taxation and accounting for contractors is so unique. I enjoyed learning about various construction sub-sectors, such as electrical contractors, mechanical contractors, general contractors – and what their businesses go through. Each client is different, which makes each day at work different, so I am always on my toes!

Donna: In my early days in public accounting, I worked in many different industries, but I found a home in construction. When I had to pick an industry, construction was a natural fit for two reasons. First, I had family that worked in the trades, so construction was familiar to me. Second, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of professionals in the construction industry and found a home within the niche. One of the biggest factors was that I found a mentor in the industry who chose to train me and help me progress in my career.

Laura: I started my career at Grassi right out of college, and every bit of research I did prior to starting had one common theme which was that Grassi was “The Firm” for contractors. For that first year as I worked within different niches, I was quickly drawn to the fast-paced environment within the construction niche, learning how this industry impacted the world around us and seeing the projects come to fruition.

What is your favorite part of being in the construction industry?

Donna: My favorite parts of being in the construction industry are the people and the opportunity to be an advisor to business owners in the industry. Business owners face many challenges unique to the construction industry, from managing cash flow, to dealing with the continuous changes in designs and contracts, to keeping their people safe through the occasional pandemic. It takes the expertise of so many different people and the collaboration of that team to get a project to successful completion.

Laura: The best part about being in the construction industry is being able to see how our clients are impacting the cities and towns we live in. This goes not only for the physical construction but also for their charitable work within the communities. During my time here, I have watched buildings start from scratch that now house stores, restaurants, tenants; to me, this experience is unparalleled to being involved in any other industry.

Jessica: My favorite part of being in the construction industry is watching clients grow their businesses and helping them do that. Being there for clients to provide them with consulting and compliance services allows me to see what their challenges are, brainstorm together and offer various opportunities for them to make their businesses flourish. Also, the construction industry is extremely unique. Working on something that is so unique makes each day exciting – you never know what you’re going to get!

Michele: I love working in the construction industry because it is a unique sector that requires a vast knowledge of the industry. I enjoy providing insight to owners and CFOs in this industry on running and improving their businesses and helping them with tax planning and tax deferral opportunities.

What is your advice to other female professionals who are considering a career in the construction industry? 

Jessica: My advice to other women is to go for it!  When most people think of the construction industry – you think it’s a male-dominated industry. As a woman, we can bring a different prospective to the table.

Michele: Construction is an ever-changing industry and staying current with the industry is important.

Laura: Get involved! There are no barriers in this industry – if you stay up to date, learn about our clients and the industry, you will succeed.

Donna: My advice to women considering a career in the construction industry is to do your homework and ask questions. Find organizations within the industry and speak with people who have the job you are considering. Ask them what they like, what they don’t like, and what their biggest challenges are. Start to build your network in college because the people you meet will become your peers, and some your mentors. The construction industry has historically been a male-dominated industry, but it has changed over the years and women have become an integral part of all aspects of the industry, including the trades. The last thing I would tell them is to be the best at whatever they do and they will be accepted into any career because they are good at their jobs, not because they are male or female.