In a new editorial series from the UTOPIA team, four housing industry leaders from diverse backgrounds and circumstances share advice and lessons from their successful careers in homebuilding and housing. Our editors profile a public homebuilder executive, a housing industry entrepreneur, an engineer at a building products manufacturer, and a small private homebuilder. Meet our Women in Construction!
A doctoral degree in education is an unconventional credential for a homebuilding career, but it served as a gateway for Nicole Tysvaer, Ph.D., to discover her passion for expanding sustainable living options. Tysvaer spent the first 20 years of her career working in youth development and job training programming, with a heavy emphasis on the construction trades. But it wasn’t until she built a new home for her family in 2010 that she realized how much she enjoyed construction. Read more.
Ricarda Dietsch traces her passion for the U.S. homebuilding industry to her experience growing up in communist East Germany. “I grew up in an environment where literally all you see is Eastern Bloc housing and pre-World War II housing—where people chose not to build homes because you don’t know if you’ll have nails or concrete or lumber,” says Dietsch, the Denver-based mountain area president for Taylor Morrison, a national homebuilder and developer. Read more.
Kimberly Llewellyn got started early in construction. “My first job was being my dad’s helper,” remembers Llewellyn, a senior product manager for emerging markets at Mitsubishi Electric Trane in Austin, Texas, with two teenage boys of her own. “He was an engineer and a do-it-yourselfer, and so every weekend we worked on repairs and projects. He just assumed my sister and I would be able to do math—and he was right. My sister became a math teacher, and I became an engineer.” Read more.
With a background in sustainability and a belief in affordability, entrepreneur Bec Chapin sees the housing industry with a different lens than many other builders. To Chapin, the central challenge for builders is not the shortage of land, but labor. “We need so much more housing than we have labor to build,” says Chapin, who hopes to address that problem with Node, a Seattle-based housing startup focused on creating affordable, sustainable buildings. Read more.