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2017-2018 Features

Women in Construction: Staff Spotlight: Jessica Pavelka – Project Manager

You might say that design and construction is in Jessica Pavelka's blood. Her dad is a general contractor, her mom, a civil engineer. It's no wonder that, as a young girl, Jessica used to design houses for her dolls. "I was more interested in making the houses than actually playing with the dolls," she says. Now a project manager for the Beaverton School District, Jessica has moved on to bigger things, like building schools.

Jessica grew up in a small town in Minnesota. After changing colleges a few times, she settled on the University of Arizona's Architecture Program. The climate was too hot and dry in Arizona, and Minnesota was too cold to move back to, so Jessica and her husband moved to the Portland area.

Jessica started working with an architecture firm where she worked on designing nursing homes. "You get kind of pigeon-holed into the design of a certain type of building. Once you know the codes, no one else wants to learn them, so you tend to stay on that same type of building," she says.

The Great Recession actually set Jessica on the path to construction management. She was laid off in 2009 for about a year and a half. During that time, she decided to go back to school, taking construction management classes at Portland Community College. "I found that I didn't like the design side as much. I was more interested in how things are put together, space planning and how to communicate those designs so that people understand," says Jessica. After being hired back at the architecture firm, she realized she needed a change. A friend told her that the Beaverton School District was hiring for a project manager.

Jessica got the job and her first project for the District was the renovation at the Capital Center. She also worked on the Sunset High School Title IX project and theater upgrades. Jessica spent the last two years of her career as the project manager for the building of Sato Elementary School. She says her architectural background came in handy. "It was nice to have that background because I was able to guide the architects in the direction we wanted to go and give them suggestions, as opposed to them giving us options and we react."

Construction management gives Jessica the opportunity to use her architectural background to solve problems and create spaces. She encourages students interested in design and art to take classes like wood shop and drafting. Says Jessica, "You learn how things go together and you learn what you enjoy just by trying something different."