Like Father, Like Daughter
Yessica Sweeney Excels in Construction
Yessica Sweeney joined JFC four years ago and is currently a Quality Control Manager on the Rockwall Multifamily apartment project.
By Tricia Kagerer, EVP of Risk Management
May 1, 2023
Born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, with an entrepreneurial spirit, Yessica Sweeney started her lawn mowing service in North Richland Hills, Texas, by the age of 11. Yessica’s can-do attitude was a blessing to her family at a time when money was tight, and her dad was in Florida working in construction, helping rebuild after a hurricane.
Yessica spent her summers and school breaks on construction sites with her dad, Jesus Lerma, a roofer and carpenter. Yessica taught herself to speak English in the third grade by listening carefully to pick it up as quickly as possible. Her English ability came in handy, as she soon became a translator for her dad and other members of his crew. Little did she know back then the impact the construction industry would have on her life.
After studying business management in college, Yessica pursued several entrepreneurial businesses, including managing a biker bar named Big Slicks and working in Motorclothes for Harley Davidson but found that not to be a good fit.
A career in construction meant working only one job to make ends meet.
One day she ran into an old customer from the bar who suggested she apply for a job in construction. The interviewer asked so many questions that she knew nothing about, but Yessica remained confident and true to herself. After a month had passed without hearing from the construction company, Yessica pursued other opportunities in healthcare. The pay was low and would require her to work two jobs to make ends meet, and she was about to accept the position when the phone rang. Southernland Construction offered her a project engineer position! For a single mother, the construction salary was life-changing. Yessica no longer had to consider working two jobs to make ends meet.
Yessica’s first project was an $180 million high-rise. Yet when the project was completed, she was laid off. She worried about the future and how she would remain financially independent. Then, out of the clear blue sky, Yessica received a notice on LinkedIn from a recruiter that Jordan Foster Construction wanted to interview her for a position. “I couldn’t believe someone was calling me to schedule an interview!
I met Sean Boyd in the Dallas office, and he made me an offer, and I have been here ever since”, Yessica says.
JFC team members are supported and challenged by the best.
“At Jordan Foster, I have the full support of everyone on my team. The leadership structure is open, and I am comfortable discussing any challenges with everyone in management. Our VP of Multifamily, Jeff Hill, checks in with me often, and I hear directly from our President, Roy Raines.” Yessica continues, “I am supported and challenged here in my work. It can be tricky navigating owner expectations sometimes, as they may not be used to seeing a Hispanic female running a project. When faced with those situations, I always remember that I don’t know what others are going through, so I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Our management team steps in and has my back if it is unresolved. I approach each situation with kindness and respect. I am proud of my great relationships with our trade partners. I treat everyone the way I want my dad to be treated on a construction site. I communicate directly with our workforce because they are the ones that know the most about what needs to be done each day. I help them, and they help me.”
Speaking about her mentor at Jordan Foster, Yessica comments, “Our General Superintendent, Trevor Bartlett, has been in the business for years and is my constant advisor. He takes the time to consciously teach me how to build the job so that I can learn the right way and lead myself the next time. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from the best. My goal is to one day be like him.”
Now is the time for women in construction.
Yessica advises other women to consider joining the construction industry: “Find your passion and explore all the industry’s opportunities. There are many paths and ways your career can take off. Many women are afraid to join the industry because it has always been male-dominated. But if you want a well-paying job with a bright future, NOW IS YOUR TIME! I’m encouraged for the future because I see more women in the trades with every project I work on. Currently, on our Rockwall project, our mason painting crew is all female.”
The team at Jordan Foster has each other’s back.
Often, moms think they can’t work in construction, but when Yessica accepted the position at Jordan Foster on day one, she found out she was pregnant. “I went into the PM’s office and started to cry. He asked, ‘Did someone hurt you’ I replied, “I don’t know if you will fire me! But I am pregnant!” He replied, “Congratulations! When are you due?” Unfortunately, Yessica had a difficult pregnancy that required bed rest. However, the team created opportunities for her to work from home during the pregnancy and the pandemic. As a result, Yessica’s daughter, Penelope, is now three years old and part of Yessica’s JFC leadership journey.
Yessica concludes, “Having a family and raising kids while working on a construction project is not easy, but I have a support system at home and work. My mother is very involved and helps me with my kids, and my husband and I contribute to raising our family. Sometimes it can be stressful, but we make it work. JFC’s culture is one where I can be honest and ask for what I need regarding my family. The team has each other’s back.”
EVP of Risk Management
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- Going Against the Grain Paves the way for Women in Construction