When the National Association of Women in Construction invited Debra Hilmerson to write an article for its September / October 2020 issue (page 43/44), she knew she wanted to inspire readers to also become trailblazers and achieve their career goals. “I had some flexibility on the topic,” she recalls. “Ultimately, I decided to tell my story because I’m often asked two very specific questions about my rise in the construction industry.”
In the article, “Notes to my younger self: Never discount your experiences along the way,” Hilmerson encourages readers, “I believe that everything we experience prepares us for what’s next. You build a life just as you might construct a building. So pay attention to whatever is going on in your life right now. It’s happening for a reason.”
She’s frequently asked if she had it rough because she’s female. “I didn’t have a difficult time because of my gender,” she writes. “I was a tomboy, and a tough, hard worker. I had two older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister. My dad owned a junkyard and we all had to pull our load. Growing up in that kind of environment – driving front-end loaders and crushing cars at 10 years old – gave me confidence in myself.”
She then takes readers through the early beginnings of her career, including standing in -35 degree temperatures, to discovering her passion for safety and eventually launching her equipment business. “I’m proud that our first two products, Hilmerson Safety Rail System and Hilmerson Barrier Fence Systems, are considered to be the future of our industry,” she writes.
She concludes with an important message about diversity in the construction industry. “We need more men at women’s construction events. We’re in a male-dominated industry. When few men show up at our meetings, that’s skewed. We want their perspectives. We need men actively participating in our associations and chapters. We would grow diversity and inclusion much faster if we had that.”