February 17, 2021 Building a Career in Construction: A Q& A with HBI Board Member, Brooke Woodson
Brooke Woodson is an experienced senior executive with more than 25 years in the non-profit, public, and private sectors. Currently, he serves as Director of Trade Partner Diversity at Suffolk Construction, a prominent Boston-based building contractor that provides pre-construction, construction management, design-build, and general contracting services to a variety of clients. Brooke joined HBI’s Board of Directors in 2019. See our Q&A with Brooke about the future of the construction field below.
How did you start working at Suffolk?
Suffolk recruited me after a former colleague recommended me for the position. I previously was the director of Boston’s Small & Local Business Office for 20 years and then worked as a vice president at Madison Park Development Corporation, a community development corporation in Roxbury.
How is Suffolk setting itself apart from others in the field for recruiting new talent?
Suffolk Chairman and CEO John Fish had the vision to realize that if Suffolk was going reach its full potential, we needed greater focus on diversity. Suffolk hired Linda Dorcena Forry as VP of Diversity, Inclusion & Community; established a D&I Council that Linda co-chairs with my supervisor, Sara VanDeCarr; and created Employee Resource Groups for women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and veterans. We recently hired Max Reed as our VP for Accelerated Talent to ensure that employees of color have a viable career path at Suffolk. My team and I have focused on building a diverse pipeline in the building trades and advancing the growth of minority and women-owned businesses through our Build With Us @ Suffolk series.
How do you see your work affecting Boston’s future?
People of color and women have historically been underrepresented in the construction industry. At an industry leader like Suffolk, we have been able to show what’s possible to move the needle on diversity. For instance, on the Encore Boston Harbor project, we had the greatest number of tradeswomen in the history of the country. We have awarded $80 million to MBEs and more than $250 million to diverse businesses overall. I think the best practices established on Encore and current projects like Winthrop Center will reverberate in the industry into the future.
Where do you see your field advancing in the next 10 years?
The technology used in the diversity and compliance field is largely stuck in the 1990s. Suffolk prides itself on using the newest and best technologies to become more efficient and bring greater value to our clients. My team is working with our IT department to find new solutions that enhance the work we do. We think it can be a game-changer in the compliance world.
What is the number one piece of advice you would offer to others looking into pursuing careers in your field?
While next-gen technology is important, building your career depends on people and partnerships. A lot of the success I have had at Suffolk is based on connections I have built with community-based organizations, government officials, and union leaders over the years. Networking is critical to building your brand. Also, look to join organizations that share your values. Events in 2020 awoke a lot of people to the importance of diversity. We need talent that reflects the communities we build in and people who have a passion for creating equity.