Anyone who thinks that major construction sites are no place for a woman to spend her professional life should talk to Hoffman Construction Material Manager and Laborer Foreman Katie Kost. She’s found a unique job in the building trades that fits the arsenal of skills she gained in college and in various jobs. Plus, it’s meshed well with her life outside of work. Kost was on the job up until two weeks prior to giving birth to her baby last year.
Not to say that life has been free of challenges. “You have to have tough skin,” says Kost. As a female, “you just have to work hard. It’s not an easy trade. But for me, who has been to college, and wanted to do sports marketing, it’s been great.”
After earning extra money by delivering Domino’s pizzas for $7/hour, Kost graduated from Barlow High School at 18 as a star volleyball player. She received a full ride from North Carolina State to play her sport. She wound up transferring to Portland State her senior year, and left that school with her degree in business management.
After college, Kost wound up working at Lowe’s, then doing inventory at a wholesale auto dealer. She became close friends with a surveyor who had ties to Hoffman Construction, and through the strength of her inventory managing experience, Kost got her first job in that area with the company in 2005.
But Duane Meduna, a Hoffman Superintendent, was impressed by what he saw, and invited Kost to step into the “hybrid job” (as Kost puts it) of Materials Manager/Laborer Foreman. For the position, Kost spends time in the Hoffman offices, but also out on building sites, advising workers on how to keep track of expensive supplies. She’s worked on the concrete crews as well, she says, to get a hands-on feel for the work.
Before Kost got on the job, she says, losses in materials per job could sometimes total $200,000. She’s been able to keep that figure down to $1,000, as was the case when Hoffman worked on Portland’s Cyan Building. “I would say that’s when I gained the most respect,” Kost says, looking back on that project. “She’s a very important part of the job,” affirms Meduna. “When no one is in her position, the guys slowly stop taking care of business”, he says.
One challenge in her position is getting people to recognize her authority as a young woman. “It took a year or two before they’d really listen or respect me,” she says – many of the people whose work she oversees are many decades her senior. “I’ve learned that you just need to put your foot down,” she reflects when we ask her the secret to gaining respect on the job.
But Kost’s capability is undeniable. She’s praised for her attention to detail, and the precision with which she does her work — her value to the company is well established. Plus, she’d have a hard time going back to a desk job. “I really like being in different places all day, not just sitting behind my computer.”