After 30 years climbing the ladder in a male-dominated industry, one trailblazer shares hard lessons from the hard-hat business.
When she was in high school in Roslindale, Rose Conti took an aptitude test that revealed a strong ability to read three-dimensional drawings. It was a perfect skill for Conti, who told her guidance counselor, a Catholic nun, that she wanted to work in the construction industry.
The nun just shook her head. “‘Women don’t work in construction,” Conti remembers being told. “‘You’re going to take typing classes.’”
So she did. She took a clerical position at a local insurance company—in its construction division. It was here that she first interacted with Lee Kennedy Company, a company of builders based in Quincy, and let them know she’d like to work for them. As soon as they saw her organizational skills and ambition, they hired her away from the insurance company’s clerical pool and set her off on a new course.
Thirty years and two children later, she can reflect on how she built a thriving career as a working mom in an industry not exactly known for welcoming, and promoting, ambitious women. And one of the biggest influences on her career rise? Returning to school to get two degrees: an associate’s in building construction and a bachelor’s in construction management, both from the College of Professional and Continuing Education at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
It’s a pattern schools like Wentworth are seeing more and more of—people returning to school later in life—to either develop a new skill set to launch a new career or to advance their existing one.
Today, as the director of interiors/special projects for Lee Kennedy Co., Conti leads a business unit that generated $140 million in 2016, and continues to grow.
And she hasn’t forgotten the role that Wentworth, which recently obtained official “university” status from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, played in her career. Today Conti remains an active alumna, grateful for the doors it opened for her and eager to mentor the next generation of industry leaders.
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