An Exclusive Interview With Teri Jones, President of The Building Group for Sundt Construction
With Over 40 Years of Experience in The Construction Industry, She is The Companies Highest Ranking Female Executive.
Q: What attracted your interest to the General Contractor industry?
A: While in high school, I enrolled in drafting classes and realized how much I enjoyed design and construction. After earning my degree in civil engineering, construction was a natural fit. The built environment is challenging, constantly changing, diverse and fascinating. It requires problem solving, building relationships at many different levels, teamwork and meeting many fascinating people. To be a part of constructing buildings that help educate, hospitals to care for the sick, and launch pads to send rockets into space provides an incredible sense of accomplishment to those who are fortunate enough to work in construction.
Q: For those in our audience not familiar with Sundt, can you tell us more about them?
A: Sundt is a diverse, employee-owned company specializing in transportation, industrial, building, concrete, and renewable power work. We’re known across Arizona for our expertise in bridges, highways, solar, water treatment plants, semiconductor facilities, commercial, municipal and educational buildings and much more. We pride ourselves on creating prosperity through the work we build and giving back to our communities through the Sundt Foundation. To date, the Foundation has distributed over $11 million in grants to hundreds of nonprofit organizations.
Q: Were there moments in your career that were pivotal to getting where you are today?
A: Yes, a few key ones come to mind. I’ve been fortunate to work for leaders who supported women in becoming all they could be in their careers. Business development, preconstruction and operations are the three key areas for a general contracting business. Although I started my career in preconstruction, I had the opportunity to move into operations. After many years, I transitioned into a business development position. That pivotal point provided the opportunity for me to become part of the management team, including a member of the company’s senior management group, and provided the path to gain experience in the last of the three critical areas of our business. I initially declined the offer because I thought it only involved socializing, cocktail hours and golf! I soon learned that it was a tough and challenging position and required me to grow in areas I never imagined. It soon became my favorite aspect of our business, although it did involve a few cocktail hours and golf.
Q: What are the best practices you have employed to build a successful career?
A: Always be open to the next opportunity or challenge. Very few of us feel like we’re ready for the next step in our career when that opportunity presents itself. Grasping that moment in time when you can advance your career may take you outside of your comfort zone. Stretch, grow and push yourself. Surround yourself with people who challenge you and are smarter than you! Read, read and read. I’ve learned that becoming a lifelong learner is key to building a successful career. Also, active listening is so much more important than talking. It’s much easier to learn when you’re listening!
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
A: DO: Focus on always doing the best job possible for whatever role you are currently in.
Work hard, show up early and do more than what is asked of you.
Implement discipline and determination in everything you do.
Be true to yourself and never give up.
DON’T: Listen to those who discourage you or tell you that you can’t succeed in that industry.
Q: What's the greatest fear you've had to overcome to get where you are today?
A: Public speaking! I used to be petrified to speak in front of a group or do a presentation. Today it’s one of my favorite things to do. I also thought I had to have all the answers. It’s liberating to realize that no one has all the answers, and you don’t have too either. Asking for help or information is a sign of maturity, not weakness.
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with our audience?
A: I spent several years early in my career trying to emulate others’ leadership styles. Eventually I developed my own leadership style based in part on what I had seen and admired in others. That transition was pivotal in allowing me to become the best leader I could be. Others realize very quickly whether you’re being genuine or not. They become much more engaged and loyal when they know you’re vulnerable and are putting your true self out there.
Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work life balance?
A: I believe that work life balance has evolved into work life integration. With today’s technology comes expectations of always being available, blurring the lines between work and life. There have been times in my life when family responsibilities took priority over work, especially when my children were younger. Although I’m not sure we ever feel like we’ve balanced it perfectly, I think we learn what works for us as we advance through our careers. I’ve learned that I have to set aside time to nurture relationships, take trips and engage in recreational activities to be the best I can when I’m working.
Five Things About Terri Jones
1. What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
Mountain bike, golf, run (actually jog), hike, travel to places I’ve never been, spend time with friends and my kids. I guess that’s “favorite things.”
2. Who is your favorite author?
Jim Collins and Patrick Lencioni They both write excellent business/leadership books. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorites and I recommend it frequently.
3. What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I don’t ever want to look back and know that I missed an adventure or opportunity out of fear.
4. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Definitely a morning person! I love to watch the sun come up while on a run, bike ride or enjoying my morning coffee on the patio. Arizona has the most beautiful sunrises!
5. What would your perfect vacation look like?
Blue ocean water, sun, and sand with people I care about