Women in Construction: Lily Iftner
Lily Iftner never imagined her career would land in construction, as she was very focused on science and math growing up. It took a college professor telling her that if she wanted to be the best engineer she could be, she would need to spend some time in construction. Lily took that advice and hasn’t looked back since! She loves the people and projects in the industry, and has become actively involved in industry groups that focus on advancing womxn in the trades.
What about the construction industry appealed to you?
Nothing until I got into it! I had no frame of reference of what construction was. I was a trained civil engineer that loved people and being a part of projects from the beginning to the end. It was a college professor that gave me the advice that if I wanted to be the best engineer, I would put in time in the construction industry. I haven’t looked back since! Construction folks are some of the smartest people I have ever met.
What do you enjoy most about your job? About working for Sellen?
I love getting to see the start to finish of a project! I am pretty social, so a traditional engineering job wouldn’t have given me the same environment that construction does. Here, I get to communicate all day long and learn from others. I love the ability to be mentored by a variety of roles – from a superintendent to the chief operating officer!
I have been at Sellen for 5 years, and the people here really make it special. There is something about Sellen that I didn’t experience at other organizations. There’s a positive mentality here that is contagious. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from, or what your role is – we all help each other grow and perform well. At Sellen, we lead by example. It’s refreshing in our industry to have this as a cultural value!
Advice for women in the industry or interested in the industry?
In the old-school construction world, there was a lot going against me as an Asian woman. By joining industry groups, I was able to hear and learn from others. It’s a reminder of the great things women can do to strengthen and support one another. I know women will continue to learn and lean on one another so that we can continue to advance the industry as a whole. There are a variety of roles and personalities in construction now. It has progressed very quickly and I look forward to watching it continue to grow.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
To watch a project get built successfully! I feel so much pride in the work I do with my team. Construction is full of possibilities and at the end of each project I’m rewarded with this immense sense of accomplishment, especially since I can always drive by one of my completed projects around the Puget Sound.