Growing up, Meagen Hendricks recalls how involved her family was in the different components of design and construction. So it was natural that she was drawn to the great pieces of architecture in the world and the buildings that define countries, towns and people.
“I remember just wanting to leave my mark on the world, and the best way to do that is with the construction and architecture,” said Hendricks, a Construction Manager at Dunkin’. “I’m so fascinated by the way things go together and what’s behind the skin so to speak.”
Determined to make a lasting impression, Hendricks achieved a master’s degree in architecture and began her career with a construction firm directly out of college.
“I worked there for a number of years and then the economy crashed,” said Hendricks. “So I got laid off and began working in construction with a general contractor.”
Instead of working behind the screens and table, Hendricks got first-hand experience with boots on the ground over the next decade. She worked on the project management side of the business, in construction estimating and a variety of focus fields. Hendricks even was able to assist on a historical renovation of an old Indian meeting house belonging to her federally-recognized Mashpee Wampanoag tribe.
“One of the first projects that I was able to work on early in my career was one of the oldest buildings in Mashpee, Massachusetts, where the settlers first came,” said Hendricks. “It was in such disrepair. I got to work with the historic district commission of Massachusetts and the tribe itself. We restored it back to its original glory, and that’s kind of been a legacy project for me.”
After about 15 years working across countless projects in the field, Hendricks jumped at the opportunity to join Dunkin’s construction team in January 2020.
“I finished training just before the pandemic, was handed over projects and then COVID shut down the country. For me, it was sort of a blessing in disguise. I had much more time to have conversations with our teams, chat on the phone with folks and really be able to build relationships,” Hendricks said. “I have never in my career worked with such an incredible team of people. And I’ve never had the support I do at Dunkin’ in any of the companies I’ve ever worked at. You know, some companies talk about it, but at Dunkin’ they really mean it with real support from teams and leadership.”
While Hendricks can point to the support she’s received during her time at Dunkin’, it hasn’t always been that way, working in a historically male-dominated field.
“I think a lot of the challenges sometimes is the old-school thinking and working with men who have been in this field for 30, 40 years,” Hendricks said. “But my dad always taught me, ‘You’re not going to change that kind of thinking unless you show people what you know.’ So, thankfully those situations are few and far between today, but when I do encounter them, I use it as sort of an opportunity for me to educate people that, ‘Hey, I’m different and you may not come across a lot of women or minorities in this field, but we’re here and there’s more of us coming and let me show you how we can contribute.’ And then in return, it’s a two-way street. That guy, who’s got 30, 40 years of experience, teaches me, tells me everything he knows and I’ll really take it as an opportunity to learn, too.
As a leader in the industry, Hendricks is taking those lessons and passing them on as the Vice President of the National Association of Women in Construction’s Rhode Island chapter.
“It’s a huge organization that is across the nation and works to empower women,” said Hendricks. “We’re there to support, mentor, educate and help facilitate relationships with others in the field. We’ve done a lot of work with volunteering, building houses for Habitat for Humanity and getting more women into the field, trades, shadowing and such. Dunkin’ has been a huge supporter of this group, which is really women from all walks of life and backgrounds, whether they do construction, admin, are construction managers, project managers or estimators. Obviously our goal is to see many, many women out on these job sites in the future.”
To do that, Hendricks has one piece of advice for women entering the field: be persistent.
“Really just be an advocate for yourself,” said Hendricks. “If you feel strongly and passionately about something, you can do it. We have to be our own advocates and leverage our partners as well. There’s a lot of incredible men, that I came across that were willing to teach and learn. And there’s no shame or reason not to leverage that and use that to your advantage as an opportunity to push yourself ahead.”
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