Advice from Cathy Simmons, Design Manager - Women In Construction Week

Cathy Simmons has been with Todd & Sargent for 27 years. Cathy has a degree in Industrial Technology from McPherson College and Industrial Education and Technology from Iowa State University. She has worked as a drafter, designer, Assistant Design Manager, and now Design Manager during her time at T&S. Read on to learn more about her experiences and her advice for young women joining the construction industry:


1. Don’t over think new challenges.  Just start.  One step will lead to the next.

                When I was in college, I had to machine an aluminum step shaft on a horizontal lathe for a class called Materials and Processes.  Just standing in front of the 5’-0” long machine with my little 3” long piece of aluminum covered in blue layout fluid was a daunting place to be.  The professor, Dr. John Pannabecker, sensing my hesitation came up to me and said there are no such things as girl machines and boy machines.  He pointed out a whole row of guys sitting in another room at sewing machines creating upholstery coverings for car seats.  The comment resonated with me.  The machine wasn’t the issue.  The difference was in my head.  I had to take a chance and start one step at a time just like I had done with a sewing machine years ago.


2. You will make mistakes.  It’s how you handle them that counts. 

                I had to admit, my little aluminum step shaft project on the lathe wasn’t going so well.  I knew it was out of tolerance but my greatest fear, that I had worried and obsessed about – happened.  The tool hit something on the lathe and it started knocking and gouged the piece I was creating.  It was ruined.  However, the fear and obsession I had created in my mind was far worse than the mishap.  No one was hurt.  Only time and a little piece of aluminum was lost.  It was easy to create a second step shaft. The process went faster and the step shaft was in tolerance too.  I would have never learned the fear was worse than the event, how to weigh the results of failure, or how to keep going in the face of adversity if I had succeeded the first time.


3. You can’t do it all.  You have to find a balance.

                Another mentor, Dr. Gary Thompson said, “Consider these three things -  marriage, college, and work – you can do two well but not all three.  One will suffer.”  In other words, you need to be very careful how much you take on and decide what is important to you.  It is impossible to be a wife and mom, work a job, keep the house spotless, cook three square Betty Crocker meals a day, work out, and advocate for your favorite charity at the same time.  Be proactive in defining your life the way you want and don’t be afraid to say no.