My name is Diane. I’m one of the women on staff at Bellweather Design-Build. I started out as the office administrator and am now part of the Design Team working with our clients on their kitchens, bathrooms and home additions. I’ve been with Bellweather for just over a year and I’ve learned so much in that short amount of time. One thing is for certain, the women at BW are badass! I am so fortunate to be part of the team.
I am excited to interview our very own Brianna Chakalis, in celebration of Women’s Equality Day. She was also recently recognized for her volunteer efforts in this great article.
Brianna is one of our construction site managers. She is responsible for taking the design contract and making sure that the team is “Prepared to Amaze”. Just like the rest of the staff, she is focused on proactive solutions to meet our client’s project goals. Brianna knows that Design-Build success is all about preparation. The few surprises that do arise during construction get proactively managed away before they become a problem. She’s been a key member of Bellweather’s Production Team for more than 5 years and we all know that we’re lucky to have her!
During my 4 years of service with the Army I became familiar with functioning in a male dominated environment. I was used to being surrounded by men who appear stronger and tougher than me, so I adapted to managing work within a male environment. Construction is also male dominated so I was curious to know what got Brianna interested in her field of work. We started talking over lunch;
DC: How did you get started in remodeling?
BC: I just fell into it. After high school, I wasn’t too sure about what I really wanted to do. After working in retail for a bit my dad was actually the one who pushed me to pursue a job with the Electrical Union. He knew how much I enjoyed working with my hands so he felt it might be a good fit. I applied, got the job, and loved it!
Our company encourages all staff to take time off from remodeling homes in order to volunteer and provides 3 days each year (paid time) for each staff to pursue volunteer activities of their choice. Most of our sales, design and production staff have participated in various team volunteer events together which is a great part of our company culture.
Brianna explained that she’s learned a lot during her time at Bellweather Design-Build and has truly enjoyed being able to give back to the community using the construction skills she’s acquired over time. She has a soft spot for animals and often donates to shelters and food banks, but nothing feels more fulfilling for her than using her skills to help at risk members in her community by renovating and restoring areas of their homes (kitchens, baths bedrooms, porches and basements) into safe, beautiful and clean spaces for their families to stay and live.
DC: What is your favorite way to volunteer?
I was first introduced to Rebuild about three years ago through Will. Bellweather was volunteering at a block-build hosted by Rebuild Philly and I really loved it! I’ve been volunteering with them ever since. I participate in multiple events with them each year and find it very rewarding to give back to my community this way.
Brianna was also showcased on a local news article with Raheem (one of our great carpenter trade partners). I wanted to know a little more about some of the work she does for Rebuild as a part of their team. I was curious about what some of the tasks she typically takes on and if she had any fun stories to share.
DC: What are some of the tasks you take on while volunteering with Rebuild?
BC: I usually work on health and safety renovation projects for underprivileged homeowners in the city. I’ve replaced carpets, installed grab bars and smoke detectors, and helped out with structural work as well.
DC: Can you tell me about a particular experience you’ve had while volunteering?
BC: Most of the people we help are older homeowners that have been in their homes for many years. It is important to them and their families to be able to stay in their homes, but as the house ages so does a loved one and their safety can be a cause of concern for their family members. I met the granddaughter of an 80-year-old woman who’s home I was working on. She explained that 4 generations had been raised in that house and she was so grateful that we were making it safe for them to continue growing their family there. We repaired a number of things there and when she hugged me I really felt such a sense of fulfillment having done something meaningful for someone else.
Sometimes as women we have a tendency of selling ourselves short. We often underestimate how strong we are. I know I am guilty of this! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in both the Army and at Bellweather is that I GOT THIS! I can do anything I set my mind to. No matter what the job is, you can do it. I wondered what Brianna’s thoughts were on renovating homes with mostly men. What might she tell other women that may feel unsure of their true potential and interest in home improvement?
DC: What tips do you have for other women interested in construction?
BC: Construction work is in high demand. You don’t need to have a fancy degree and the pay is good, so just go for it! Don’t get caught up in thinking you aren’t physically capable. You learn as you go, your body learns. You get stronger. You’d be surprised at just how strong you already are. Anyone can do it and we need more women in the field.
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