Building her way to the top
By Andrew Clark
Growing up with a father who worked as an electrician introduced Eva Walsh (T’02) to the construction world at a very early age. But following in dad’s footsteps didn’t initially appeal to Walsh. Instead, she had always wanted to be either an engineer or an architect.
But during her college days, Walsh had an epiphany.
She didn’t want to design bridges or homes anymore. Instead, she wanted to work in a field that was more “hands on.”
One day, she met with a career counselor who recommended that she look into construction, a suggestion that initially caught her off guard.
“When I heard that, I thought ‘But I’m a girl,’” Walsh recalls.
However, after spending a summer working as a home framer, Walsh was sold on a construction career. Fast forward over a dozen years and Walsh is now vice president of construction operations for Payne Family Homes in St. Louis. Since taking her new title with the company this January, Walsh joins an exclusive group, as less than 10 percent of construction leadership roles are held by women.
“It’s a real honor,” says Walsh of being part of that elite population.
“It’s been so much fun to work in construction.”
From Boilermaker to dream maker
In her current role, Walsh is in charge of the purchasing and estimating departments for Payne Family Homes, which has become one of the St. Louis area’s fastest growing businesses. Walsh also works with customer service and oversees the construction of homes, in addition to other daily duties. Before her recent promotion, Walsh was a purchasing and estimating manager for Payne. In just a four-year period, she reduced construction costs, improved building time, and increased overall revenue by 10 percent.
For Walsh, the most satisfying part of her job is that she gets to come to work every morning and have the chance to impact someone’s life forever.
“The biggest thing for me is that you are making someone’s dreams come true,” says Walsh, who spent seven years as an estimator prior to joining Payne in 2009.
“You really get to touch people’s lives. You are building something that they’ve been dreaming of.”
Getting the right tools for the job
Walsh says that pursuing a building construction management major was a pivotal moment in her career — especially when it came to gaining practical experience.
“The program required you to work in the field before graduating, which really solidified the major for me,” says Walsh, who added that she had the opportunity to work hundreds of hours in the construction industry before receiving her degree.
“I did everything from rough framing to punching out homes to being an assistant superintendent.”
Looking back at that visit to the career counselor’s office, Walsh is thrilled with the path she took. And having risen to the top in a field traditionally dominated by men, Walsh says that if another young girl is thinking about taking the career path she did, there’s no reason not to pursue it.
“I would tell them to follow their heart and go for it,” says Walsh.
“The sky is the limit. It really is. There’s no reason that gender should have anything to do with it.”