Jessica Pelayo poses for a photo in front of a Sturgeon Electric truck
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May 10, 2022 A Day In the Life: Estimator Trainee, Jessica Pelayo

After a decade of working in the industry, Jessica Pelayo took a leap of faith. Despite her friends and coworkers thinking she was crazy, Jessica saw the potential for a brighter future. A future made possible by MYR Group Inc.’s estimator trainee program with Sturgeon Electric California.

Now in her second year of the three-year program, we talked with Jessica to learn more about the estimator trainee program and her experience as a woman working in the construction industry. 

Q: What does an estimator do and why is it important to the company? 

A: An estimator within the Transmission & Distribution (T&D) side of our business bids projects for distribution, transmission, and substation work. We go out and field the jobs, assess, and take a query of all the materials that are being replaced or will be constructed. We then go back to the office and prepare the estimate, providing all the bid documents required to submit to the client. 

Q: What is the estimator trainee program and how is it beneficial? 

A: You’re assigned a mentor – who is an experienced estimator or operations manager who supports and guides you throughout your apprenticeship. The first year, they have very strict expectations of you. You’re fielding jobs with the crews and understanding the safety aspect of things. After that, your ultimate goal is to understand how long it takes to construct a line, or remove a pole, and what equipment you need.  You graduate and become an estimator after three years in the program. 

There are so many aspects of this job to learn. You need to understand the construction side, establish relationships with the crew, and earn their respect, as well as understand the corporate estimating aspects of the job such as gauging the work hours required, how to obtain the equipment, and what vendors you need.

I think over the long run, the estimator trainee program will be beneficial to my career and set me up for success. 

Q: What does a typical day look like for you? 

A: Oftentimes, I’m working with a vendor on the delivery of materials. So, first thing in the morning, I’m on the phone with the vendor, making sure they have everything they need. Others, I’m coordinating with our client, touching base to determine final close-out details. As an estimator, you take full control of the project. Not only do you bid for the job, but you also sit with the crews, the superintendent, general foreman, and walk them through start to finish what the expectations are and provide them all the key contacts. With all my projects, I always go out to the field and make a presence on the first day to touch base with the client, follow up with the foreman, and make sure we have alignment of what’s going on. 

Q: What attributes are important for someone to have in this role? 

A: Management Skills: You have to be able to manage multiple projects at the same time. 

Handling Stress: When you have the operations manager relying on you to help win bids on projects and help grow the company, you want to do a great job. So, you must be able to handle that responsibility and move forward on the projects. 

Using Your Resources: Knowing where to get the information and understanding who your key contacts are. I don’t have a problem calling a person in marketing and saying, ‘Hey, I have this piece of the bid that I have to submit. I don’t even really know where to begin. Can you help me?’ This program helps us be successful because we have so many resources and are encouraged to ask for help. 

Q: What are the unique challenges you face(d) as a woman in construction? 

A: I would say that it takes time to earn respect. After a year and some change, I can say that my superintendents and I work really well together, and I’ve earned their trust. They treat me with respect and appreciate my hard work and effort, which has helped me get to where I am today. 

Q: Why do you believe more women should consider construction careers? 

A: For me, I just think that we can do anything. We can work under pressure. We can learn the material. When in doubt, there are so many resources available for us to make it happen. I’m passionate about what I do, and I like to earn respect. And I also like to create a path for future estimators — especially females — because I honestly believe we are good candidates for this scope of work. I just think we’re a little intimated by it. But with a strong personality, a little bit of determination, and some hustle, it can be done. 

Q: What would you say to women out there considering a career in construction? 

A: I always tell them that there’s more opportunity for them. What that means is financially, career-wise, there’s more. I tell them, ‘Don’t be intimated by having to work with the guys.’ I try to challenge them because I want better for them. I want them to have this opportunity. Financially, they take care of us very well and you have the mentorship. I get to travel … the sky is the limit with this opportunity. If you have somebody with that ambition, you can do it. I’m the biggest cheerleader here to these girls, especially because we have every right to work beside these guys. 

Q: If you could go back and give advice to your younger self, what would you tell her?  

A: Be patient. Fight all self-doubt. Because let me tell you, it’s not easy. Although I’m very passionate about what I do, I have days where I’m like, ‘What am I doing? Do I belong here?’ But I keep going. There’s no reason we can’t get to where we expect to be. It’s up to me to make it happen.