Q&A: Adolfson & Peterson’s Mingo blazes her own trail in construction.

Nathalia Mingo didn’t grow up in a construction family, but she gravitated toward the building profession in school and then discovered a construction management program at the University of Florida.

The Minnesota native and Chaska High School graduate enrolled in the program and proved to be a quick study. At age 19, just after her freshman year, Mingo landed an internship with a small general contractor in Florida and got some valuable hands-on experience.

She graduated from college in 2019 and joined Golden Valley-based Adolfson & Peterson Construction two years ago. An assistant project manager with A&P, Mingo has since contributed to a range of projects, including a major renovation and addition at Tartan High School in Oakdale.

In the following interview, Mingo discusses her career journey in a male-dominated profession.  She also talks about her efforts to educate young women about opportunities to earn a living in construction, among other topics.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: How did you become interested in construction as a career?

A: I’ve just always enjoyed working with my hands, participating in workshop-style courses like woodshop, engineering, construction-based classes that were offered at my grade school. I grew up in an all-female household with an immigrant mother and grandmother. I really had to pave my own path in the construction industry.

I didn’t know much about the construction industry. When I was in high school, I thought you had to start in the trades to be able to get in construction. Or, if you wanted to earn a college degree, I thought that you had to become an architect. One thing I did know was that I didn’t like sitting at a desk all the time and drawing. So I knew I did not want to become an architect, but I did want to obtain a college degree.

I was looking at different majors that were offered and I saw construction management as a degree. I did a little bit of research and it really intrigued me, so I signed up for that major. I did that at the University of Florida.

I was hired as an intern after my freshman year, at 19 years old, at a smaller general contracting company in Tampa. I was the only project engineer on the project that I was on and I was in the trailer every single day, working hand-in-hand with the project manager, the superintendent and the assistant superintendent. It was just the four of us on this project, so I really had to do all of the traditional project engineering roles. And from that, I really knew that I picked the right major.

Q: Talk a little bit about some of the projects you’ve worked on at A&P?

A: I work directly with project managers, superintendents. I review, analyze, resolve field construction problems and discrepancies. I also help with project reports, schedules, contracts, the project finances. I work closely with our subcontractors and client representatives.

Currently I’m working at Tartan High School. It has been a great experience so far, a great project. I’ve done data centers in the past; I’ve done a parking ramp with an amenity deck and multifamily apartments.

Q: What’s your advice for other young women considering construction careers?

A: I often tell women, and myself as well, considering construction as a career to just be a sponge and learn everything you can. There are constant opportunities for learning and growth and it’s important to take all of them.

I tell women to listen to criticism because you can either take it or leave it. I love hearing how I can improve. It’s important to listen and learn from that feedback.

Stay true to yourself no matter what role, department or industry you’re in. I always say, ‘Treat others with respect and treat them how you want to be treated.’ Every day, I strive to just become more confident within myself. Every day, I’m just growing to become more comfortable within myself and just grow as a person.

Q: Have you mentored other young women?

A: I have. I volunteer at the ACE mentorship program here at Tartan High School. ACE stands for “architects, construction and engineering.” It basically just shows students that a career in all three of those industries is possible.

We have a small group, six students. There is one female. I love to talk to her and pick her brain. She wants to get into engineering, but she doesn’t know what type of engineering, so we discuss different options. It’s been a great opportunity. I wish that was offered at my high school when I was growing up.

Q: Where did you go to high school?

A: I went to Chaska High School and I actually was quite lucky because we had a wood shop and a construction course that was offered at our co-op and some engineering-based courses that we were able to take as electives. So we had those, but it still didn’t really talk about it being a career.

Q: To the extent that you’ve had an opportunity to talk to younger women, what kind of response do you get? Are they surprised to learn about the opportunities in construction?

A: They are. We’ve also gone into classrooms with these courses that have construction elements in them, and to talk to students here at Tartan, and they’re predominantly male. When I was growing up in these woodshop classes and whatnot, I was usually the only female in them. We still go to these classrooms and we’ll see maybe three females out of the sea of males. So, I think they’re still kind of surprised.

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