Jessica Ely grew up in Western Pennsylvania and fondly remembers visiting her grandparents on the other side of the state, near Philadelphia. Her grandfather worked in the building industry as an inspector and would often take her with him to work.
“He would put a yellow hardhat on me that was way too big,” said Jessica. “That was my intro to the industry, palling around with him during those couple of weeks each summer.”
Jessica went to Penn State and, after some initial uncertainty, majored in architectural engineering. After college she signed up with a prominent engineering firm in New York and started fast. Her first project was a large resort and casino in Las Vegas – a construction project with 5,000 rooms and a central plant with pipes so big she could fit through them.
Going to (and leaving) Las Vegas
Jessica was a little starstruck at first. Every week, she’d fly to Vegas with architects from firms she had read about in college. It didn’t take long for her to realize she had more to learn.
“I worked really closely with the contracting team, and they would ask me questions and teach me about construction,” said Jessica. “Once, I didn't know there was a flange and the opening I had drawn wasn't big enough for the flange to go through. You graduate from a top program, and you think you know it all, but then you're humbled very quickly by craftsmen.”
When the project was closing out, the contracting company she’d been collaborating with suggested she interview with them – her first step toward becoming a design-build contractor, a path she hasn’t veered from since.