This is the second post in our series celebrating Women in Construction Week—showcasing inspiring female leaders amongst CarbonCure’s ready mix concrete producer network. The first post profiled one woman who works in concrete operations, and another in plant health and safety. This story follows two women who are specialists in the other two pillars of the industry: quality control and marketing.
Amanda Schweighardt, Southeast Tennessee Regional VP/GM, Irving Materials Inc.
Amanda Schweighardt was a freshman at Middle Tennessee State University with a passion for math and science, but no declared major, when she heard a representative of the school’s Concrete Industry Management (CIM) program wrap up a presentation with these words: “a job guarantee at graduation.”
No other department had made such a bold offer, so while she knew nothing about concrete, Amanda signed up to become one of just a few women in the around 20-member CIM class of 2005. By the time she graduated, she’d been exposed to the diverse opportunities that the industry offered, and was hooked. Her internship quickly led to a part-time job, followed by a full-time job.
And it wasn’t just any job. At Irving Materials, Inc. (imi), a ready mix producer and building material supplier in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Amanda could pursue her budding love for solving customer challenges with custom concrete mixes, first in technical services and then as quality control manager. In 2019, she became Vice President and General Manager at imi for 18 plants, managing the customer service efforts, quality control (QC), sales, operations and safety.
“What’s been so great is stumbling upon a path that I genuinely enjoy,” Amanda said.
Amanda said one of the most exciting and rewarding projects she’s been a part of was Nashville’s Fast Fix 8, a USD $62 million, four-month initiative that tore down and reconstructed eight city bridges, each of them over a single weekend.
“There were so many moving parts, definitely an opportunity to work with some great people and grow my knowledge,” Amanda said.
Another of Amanda’s career passions has been giving back to the concrete industry, which she’s found to be very close-knit and supportive, by staying connected with the CIM in a myriad of ways and mentoring her own staff.
When asked about her advice for anyone considering entering the business, Amanda noted,“I would say, first and foremost, be yourself. Find a career you enjoy.”
Jan Holt, Chief Customer Officer, Chaney Enterprises
“I will be honest, it wasn’t the construction,” said Jan Holt, Chief Customer Officer (CCO), when asked what first drew her into the industry. Instead, it was philanthropy: As a marketing professional in the restaurant and commercial real estate industries, she kept crossing paths with executives at Chaney Enterprises while leading her companies’ charitable efforts.
“Whether I was sitting on the board of the Boys and Girls Club, or soliciting support, Chaney Enterprises was in the mix, because they were so civic-minded,” Jan said. So when they offered her a job 12 years ago, Jan immediately accepted.
Jan noted that she is proud to work with the family-owned Chaney, a concrete manufacturer and construction materials supplier based in Gambrills, MD. She discovered that they are not just civic-minded, but also a company with a “salt of the earth” culture that she has become deeply proud of.
“The honesty, integrity and the transparency” are far different from the politics and backbiting so common to corporate environments, Jan said. The attitude towards problems, for example, is “let's work together and let's fix it.”
“Everybody is important here—it doesn't matter if you're driving, or you're in accounting or you're doing what I'm doing,” she adds. “And it’s good to know that everybody here is taking care of their families and feeling good about their jobs.”
As CCO, Jan oversees everything that has an impact on customers, from customer service and sales and marketing to operations, technical innovation and tracking and rewarding employee achievements.
Jan thinks of herself as a person in construction rather than a woman in construction and notes that barriers are being broken, with women filling jobs such as drivers and technical positions.
She also does her part in helping dispel the misconception that construction is still a man’s world. “My go-to is always early education,” she said, so she represents Chaney at career days for high school freshmen and invites whole classes—girls and boys—back to Chaney for “a day in the life” experiences.
“The more exposure we can give to the youth, I think, the better off we will be.”
Being A Part of the Solution
There are infinite ways to help bring more women into the concrete and construction industries. But as Amanda and Jan point out, lack of awareness and dated misconceptions are two of the biggest impediments. We applaud them for the work they are doing—from outreach to high school students, supporting the CIM program, and mentoring and supporting women entering the ready mix business.