Breaking Norms in a Male-Dominated Industry
Hi! My name is Chelsea Welsby and I work in LendingHome’s Construction Department as a Feasibility Analyst. Every loan with a rehab involved has a Feasibility Analyst on file to review the project, so over the past few years in my role, I’ve reviewed more than 4,500 projects. I like to view every project as a unique puzzle that the construction team helps the borrower put together, taking into account multiple viewpoints and brainstorming the best solutions to get our borrowers to the finish line of the rehab.
When my interest sparked
As a child, I studied my dad’s manual drafts for the large-scale construction projects he edited for commercial and infrastructure projects through his work. I was a perpetual asker of “whatcha doin?” & “can I help?” while he completed a large addition to the home I grew up in. Even through it probably slowed him down, I vividly remember him explaining how he had that precise handwriting on his blueprints, the way he shared the idea he had for a new masonry product that he swore would revolutionize the business, and teaching me how roofing systems work (while standing on the roof of my childhood home, much to my mom’s dismay).
The start of my career
Before coming to LendingHome, I was a crew member and a project manager for a non-profit that helped increase the health and safety of homes in the Pittsburgh area, particularly in low-income neighborhoods. The majority of the crew member work involved patching and painting, waterproofing basements, replacing flooring, rebuilding interior and exterior stairs, and upgrading unsafe kitchens and bathrooms.
Eventually I became responsible for bidding out and hiring subcontractors that would complete the roofing, electrical, and plumbing work on the aging Pittsburgh houses I worked in. When I wasn’t at my day job, I would run a professional landscaping business alongside my husband. We did regular grass cuts and general landscaping, along with retaining walls and patios. I’ve also spent many hours helping my friends and family with home projects whenever I can; as a result, I have more paint, plaster, putty, and grass-stained clothes than I care to admit.
Being a female in the construction industry for the entirety of my professional life has come with its own set of challenges; I frequently find myself in conversations where I think “this person definitely doesn’t think I know as much as I do” when it comes to renovation. I once was on a supply run to a home improvement store and found myself stuck in a conversation where a stranger suggested I needed them to help me pick out a light bulb. People will approach my male counterparts with questions that I definitely know the answer to. When interviewing crew members and contractors or meeting with clients, they would often be visibly surprised to learn I was the one running the projects.
I have had my fair share of uncomfortable encounters, but I’ve also been able to face adversity and learn how to better manage people and their expectations of who I am. I’ve found that the roles imposed onto females don’t necessarily have to be true. I may not have the physical ability to run multiple 50 lbs bags of concrete to the jobsite, but I do have the awareness to remember to bring a wheelbarrow to get the job done. For each task that I cannot do myself, I can list out multiple others that I am capable of doing through years of exposure and pushing past external criticism and personal doubt.
A motto I’ve adopted into my personal and professional life is that I cannot fail if I simply try. With trying something new or different, inevitable hiccups are sure to sprout up along the way. When speaking to LendingHome borrowers, I try to encourage them to build in their safety net and account for these hiccups. I’ve been in scenarios where I found I’ve cut a piece of trim just a fraction of an inch too short and am grateful that I accounted for picking up extra material to get the job done. I make sure our borrowers know that incidentals, overages, and unexpected costs that come up along the way are standard part of the rehab business.
As much as anyone can prepare to get a rehab job done, there’s certainly not one linear path that every construction project follows. Having the mindset that allows for those changes to be dealt with proactively and efficiently, rather than a disruption, helps projects keep the momentum needed. I’ve found that when estimating how much money, material, and sweat equity I’ll need to put into a project, I automatically build in more than I’m initially expecting which allows for me to take a beat, regroup, and focus more on the path forward when complicated situations arise.
When producing a scope of work for a rehab project and reviewing all that needs done for a project, I’d encourage our borrowers to account for more than they think they’ll need, strategize their completion, and have the foresight to know that the path ahead may get rerouted at times. Keeping in mind that while some areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and additions steal a lot of attention and value, it’s still integral to a project that we ensure there is ample budget for the not so glamorous work like pulling permits, dumpster fees, and finishing touches on the rest of the home. The not so fun stuff is what can bog down a project and bring it to a dreaded screeching halt. The more attention and foresight we can have when diving into a rehab, the less risk faced when the project is running its course.
Extra perks at LendingHome
On a personal note, I love working with LendingHome’s employee resource group (ElleTV) which focuses on female professional development within the company. I’d love to continue to encourage women in this industry to pursue what they are passionate about and not let the fear of odds stacked against them hold them back. Feel free to pick up that sledgehammer yourself, manage your own project, and make your time and money investments work for you!
Thanks for the inspiration Chelsea! Your expertise and confidence are something to aspire to and we are lucky to have you on our team!
To hear more from Chelsea directly, check out our Scope of Work; Preparing Your Rehab Borrowers for Success webinar that our Broker Channel hosted. There, Chelsea gives some insight to projects and what to expect, showcasing her fantastic expertise and skillset.
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