March 6-12, 2022 is Women in Construction Week. Matern Staffing is excited to feature partners and employees in the construction industry. Heather Lear is a long-time friend and hiring manager with whom Matern Staffing has partnered over the years.
Heather Lear’s background in mechanical engineering and her love for travel and meeting people have been the backbone of her 30-year construction career. Like some of us, she notes her career was accidental. However, like many accidents they provide purpose and passion. After engaging in a short conversation with Heather, you’ll feel the pride, focus, and talent she has for her construction career and her teammates.
Heather grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a B.S. in Biomechanics. Her grand plans working with Nike didn’t pan out, so she relied on her mechanical engineering knowledge. After her part-time Park Ranger job for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts she became a Shipping/Receiving Clerk for a dental distribution company in Charlotte, NC. Then, she began a 20-year+ career in the steel industry. Heather earned promotions to Shift Supervisor, Plant Superintendent, and Plant Manager during her time in the steel industry. As her company grew, she moved to different east coast states serving in those respective positions.
In 2019, Heather traded steel for concrete when she joined her current employer, a leading U.S. concrete manufacturer. Heather is the Plant Manager overseeing the operations and production of made-to-order concrete products at their Virginia plant. Her typical day starts early in the morning. She begins with troubleshooting equipment, orders, and coverage issues. Then, she collaborates with managers about casting changes, QC processes, production goals, and customer order statuses. She also attends customer or plant meetings, monitors customer schedules, and calculates materials to order. Finally, Heather checks in with specialized crews and visits customers in the field. She loves her teammates and exclaims, “It is a pleasure to come to work. We have a lot of pride in what we do.”
Drive down any major road in Virginia or Maryland and you’ll see finished products from her plant. Thanks to nearby state departments of transportation, her plant stays incredibly busy. They produce about 75 custom products per day including sound wall panels, retaining panels, concrete posts, MSE panels and storm traps. She anticipates hiring 25% more staff over the next few months as projects increase. Heather is excited about a current project along Route 7 where they designed a stacked stone pattern with a dogwood decal, a nod to the Virginia state flower.
Switching from the steel to concrete industry certainly had its learning curves. She explains the importance and complexity of measuring the strength of finished concrete products. Heather is thankful to stay in contact with old rebar coworkers, who are now vendors.
When thinking about women in the construction field, Heather shared some advice, that she said frankly applies to anyone entering the construction field. Heather noted, “Stay focused and listen to advice. Be approachable, but firm with your expectations. Common sense goes a long way. Be willing to go above and beyond to form good relationships with coworkers and customers. Finally, be humble and look for positive examples to follow.”
Simple, but wise advice coming from a woman leading the production of products crucial to the foundation of our roads, buildings, and bridges. The next time you see sound panels along a road while driving, tip your hat to the women (and men) construction workers who helped build it.
When Heather isn’t managing a concrete manufacturing plant, she enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and exploring new breweries and festivals.
If you are interested in starting a new career in the construction industry, search our open job opportunities or call us today!