CLC Leader Highlight: Claire Thompson, Nordic PCL Construction, GCA of Hawaii


  1. You have been with Nordic PCL Construction now for about 10 years and you were promoted to Special Project Manager last year. Congratulations! Could you provide an overview of the responsibilities of your current position? What do you like most about working at Nordic PCL Construction and your role at the company? Can you describe the culture of Nordic PCL and how the company has been supportive in cultivating young leaders like you?

As Nordic PCL’s Special Projects (SP) Manager, I am responsible for all projects under +/-$15M, which encompasses overseeing business development, estimating, and project execution for these projects.

I have always appreciated that NPCL is family-oriented. While, the expectation is to work hard, the culture is rooted in building communities. Communities within the neighborhoods we live and build, but also within our team. As SP Manager, it’s great to have the opportunity to perpetuate our NPCL culture of caring and ensure my team is as happy at NPCL as I am.

Throughout my tenure NPCL has provided me extensive support to grow my career. I have had the ability to take on roles that stretch my abilities with company support.  My Hawaii District family and the larger PCL company has provided leadership training internally and externally. One of my goals is to offer the same opportunities to my team and foster communication and training to help them achieve their full potential.

  1. You received a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell University. What made you want to pursue engineering? And are you currently doing what you had envisioned when you were a student?

I was originally interested in architecture but after reviewing college curriculums, I realized architecture was focused on the “look” of a building or space. I was more interested in the technical aspects of buildings. Structural and civil engineering aligned better with my interests and, with some research, I selected civil engineering. While attending Cornell, I took a course in Construction Engineering and Management and was immediately interested in the field and pursued a minor in construction management.

I was interested in working with people. Finding opportunities to bring diverse people together and successfully coordinating teams to complete a building was the real draw.

  1. How do you feel younger construction professionals contribute to the industry and are shaping the future of construction? Could you provide some examples? (Example: Quicker adoption and assimilation of technology, greater sense of environmental responsibility, etc.)

Younger construction professionals are the future of our industry. They contribute the moment they begin working and shape the industry from day one. Many of our young staff members bring a new perspective and different insights to industry challenges to help us move forward. They question why we do things the way we do and challenge if there is a better, faster, potentially technology-aided way to achieve the same goal. For the most part, our youngest employees are eager to learn and question the mantra of “that’s how we have always done things.” In general, the younger staff are flexible and more open to new technology. They are willing to spend the time to dive into a new application or software to try something new.

  1. What are some of the challenges that other younger construction leaders are facing, now or on the horizon? What words of encouragement would you give to peers to overcome these challenges?

Challenges on the horizon are not specific to young construction leaders. There are developing/ongoing industry issues that will need to be addressed by our future leaders. Issues such as labor force attrition, rising construction costs, climate change, financing concerns, etc. Most of the financial challenges are not new but they are new to the next generation of leaders. Workforce development and climate change are new and will force the industry to adapt. Young leaders may be better suited to adapting; the solutions to these challenges will likely require challenging the status quo.

A word of encouragement is the industry has faced challenges before and adapted, young construction professionals today work with great flexibility, thinking outside the box, and adapting to any situation. Those traits will be key as the industry continues to evolve.

  1. Construction is still regarded by some as a man’s domain. As a woman construction professional, how do you feel you are changing this outdated notion? What do you think would be needed to encourage more women to enter construction?

The main thing I try to do is to be an example for others, men and women, in our industry. I have one approach to being a woman in construction and it has been successful for me, but may not work for everyone. I recommend engaging with other women about successful approaches for them; it’s not a “one size fits all”. My discussions with women in construction are not that different from discussions I have with men in the industrywhich shows great progress in equality.

In my time the mindset has shifted away from “male dominated industry" and I expect it will continue in that direction. As more women enter the industry there will be broader and more diverse examples for up-and-coming women and men to follow. The more resources and examples of successful women in construction will naturally foster this upward climb. Reaching out to women in school and sharing stories of successful women our field is a great way to enable others.

  1. You have had a series of promotions at Nordic. What are some of your career aspirations for the future?

I look forward to continuing to grow in a leadership role at Nordic PCL. I enjoy taking on challenges and serving in roles that help grow and mentor younger staff. I am driven by challenges and I always look for the next challenge to build my expertise. I’m not 100% sure where that road will take me, but it will definitely be an interesting ride.

  1. How has being a part of GCA’s CLC and on its Executive Committee supported you professionally and personally?

Being part of CLC has been fulfilling in multiple ways. I have expanded my network of young and established leaders through various events as well as through connections that GCA Hawaii is establishing with the CLC and GCA boards. This network has allowed me to reach out to peers and others in the industry when needed. Going forward we are working towards a mentorship focus for CLC in Hawaii and I am excited about being part of that effort to reach out and engage the next generation of construction leaders.

  1. Besides networking, what do you think is the most valuable aspect of the CLC?

The programs that CLC offers to connect young professionals to mentors and other experienced professionals are invaluable. Being able to hear about leadership journeys is a good way to add new perspectives and reflect on your own journey. We recently held a mentorship panel featuring young CEOs and VPs in the industry and the audience engagement and questions were fantastic.

  1. Why would you encourage other young leaders to be involved with the GCA, particularly with the CLC?

The primary reason is networkingparticularly in Hawaiinetworking is invaluable. The second reason is we offer training and connections to programming that serves as a resource to industry professionals. Lastly, it’s a fun group of people and helps young leaders understand that there are others going through the same challenges. It creates a supportive structure for young professionals who are looking for guidance or connections.

  1. What advice would you give other next-generation construction leaders?

I would tell the next generation of leaders to be flexible and think outside the box. I would also emphasize investing in the people around you. People are the main asset in this industry and with good people the job is easier and time flies. The industry requires hard work; by caring and investing in those around you, it can be a lot of fun. We work with teams of people to build things every day. People in construction should take pride in what they do as well as the combined team efforts to successfully get it done.

  1. Since this will potentially be read by those outside Hawaii, can you share anything about living/working in Hawaii through a cultural lens that will showcase what makes Hawaii unique?

Hawaii, in particular construction, is an extremely tight-knit community and the importance of developing and preserving relationships cannot be emphasized enough . This impacts how we do business and how we treat our business partners (owners, GCs, subs, designers). You can never foresee where people will end up. A subcontractor you are working with today will be an Owner the next day. As a result, the industry generally has positive working relationships and strong networks are critical.

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