Annie Tooley

Nikki Penland

Project engineer

For Nikki, construction was second nature. She grew up around her tough, heavy equipment operator step-dad. So as she put it, “I have no problem putting my foot down." That confidence served her well when she decided to become a project engineer. 

Working in heavy civil and being a mom took plenty of grit. But Nikki's smile, encouragement, and support for her coworkers was pure grace. "I am very kind, but I am not as sensitive as some people may be,” Nikki said.

That goes a long way when communicating to a mostly male team. She added, “It’s all in how you read people, how you treat people. Help them better themselves, and you’ll be bettering yourself.”

Nikki aspired to a project management position, but first, she made it a goal to learn everything she could about each project. Public works jobs were some of her favorites because she could show her kids years down the line, “I worked on this project!”

The most important thing to Nikki was taking pride in her work, because “you owe it to yourself and your team to do the very best you can.” 

She learned a lot in her role and appreciated that her company, Rino, trusted her to get her work done. They gave her the freedom to do her own thing but reach out when she needed help.

Nikki added that respect has to be earned in the industry, especially as a woman. She said, “I’ve noticed that whenever I meet someone new, they tend to have an attitude until they see that I am willing to do the work and I am on their side and want to help them. I will do whatever I physically can do, and I give them the respect they deserve. And I let them know that I expect the same.”

Her advice to younger women: “I would say, if it is something you are interested in, make sure that you don’t give up. It’s a hard world to get into, and you have to show that you have what it takes. It isn’t overnight. Men are not immediately willing to have a female telling them what to do.”

Learn more about becoming a project engineer like Nikki.


Field Support
Project engineer

What’s next

Create a Dirt World profile

Create a BuildWitt Jobs profile

people on each thumbnail

Learn why others have joined the industry

Check out companies in the Dirt World

Check out companies in the Dirt World

Why Build a Career in the Dirt World-button

Read the article: Why Build a Career in the Dirt World?