2020 Outstanding Women in Construction Finalist

No.1 must-have: “Perseverance—having the mindset that whatever challenges arise, you have the capability to get through them.”

She came of age in the industry as the daughter of a general contractor, and now represents her family in the crucial role of vice president finance and administration at her aunt’s company, SSC Underground. SSC, where Michelle Walker started 22 years ago, is one of Arizona’s leading underground construction companies, providing trenchless installation of underground utilities, utility locating and excavating services.

“I love construction. It’s in my blood. I can’t imagine working in any other industry,” said Walker. With her roots firmly planted in construction accounting, Walker says one of the most pivotal industry involvements she has had is with the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA). As a CFMA member, she exercises her leadership skills and motivational abilities at both the local and national levels.

Since joining the organization in 2009, she has served her local Valley of the Sun chapter as a board member, committee chair and president, and currently serves on multiple committees. At the national level of CFMA, she is a popular presenter on subjects including finance and accounting, workforce development, risk management and suicide prevention.

 

She has also served the national association as co-chair of a sub-specialty committee and participated as a member of its strategic planning task force. Walker also holds CFMA’s highly regarded designation of Certified Construction Industry Financial Professional (CCIFP).

Walker doesn’t sit on the sidelines. And that notion might be even more evident in her work than it is in the five full and 10 half marathons she has completed. Her early involvement in CFMA led her to discover a cause that she now considers to be one of her greatest career achievements.

As a founding member of the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP), she has worked to raise awareness and equip organizations and employers as they address this significant threat to the safety and well-being of individuals in the construction industry.

In her work with CIASP, Walker is an advocate for suicide prevention in the construction sector, which is currently one of the top three industries whose workforce is at the greatest risk of dying by suicide. She served as CIASP’s chairman from 2016 to 2020 and was able to help it grow from a committee within CFMA to an industrywide initiative involving a wide range of associations and unions, delivering their message that is estimated to impact over one million workers and growing.

Walker is a speaker, an organizer, a collaborator and a doer. She has briefed the former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and the Occupational Safety and Health Advisory (OSHA) Committee for Construction Safety and Health about the need to expand suicide prevention resources, as well as authored leadership articles and presented at industry conferences on the topic.

In addition, Walker is a member of the Workplace Suicide Prevention and Postvention Committee and contributor to the Workplace Suicide Prevention Guidelines.

“My key phrase that I use is ‘creating caring cultures,’” said Walker. “By creating a caring culture—a place where people aren’t afraid to ask for help, whatever that might be—employees can see that we care about them as people and not just as tools to get the job done. If they’re struggling with mental health, or if women in are feeling diminished, and we can do something to facilitate change or make it an easier place for them to be, we should. This idea of creating caring cultures in which people feel safe to ask for help is my dream for the industry.”

Walker, who has recently been able to experience more of SSC’s project-level work, says that outside of the walls of SCC, it’s a different environment. “On jobs, I might be the only woman in a room with 30 men. It was eye-opening to see the imbalance,” said Walker. “One thing I learned from being more involved on the jobsite is not to try to be one of the boys. Respect who you are. You’re a woman and you’re in construction and you have a right to be both.”

Walker proudly endorses construction as her career of choice and continues to promote the trades to younger generations to build future generation of workers. “Confidence is such a big factor. Just being confident in who you are and what you do—regardless of your gender—can do wonders to steady your credibility. How you present yourself and what you say with conviction can reinforce your right to be part of the conversation or have a seat at the table,” she said.

 

Read the original article on Construction Business Owner.

What Our Clients Say:

  • “Just wanted to say thank you for the safety culture your company has. It’s a breath of fresh air to see other companies embracing being safe. I sat in on your crews’ safety meeting this morning prior to the start of their work on Ray Rd. “

    Scott Nunemaker – Vice President, RCCM

  • “Kuddos to your guys. Not once has any of your foreman’s EVER put up a fuss when I’ve asked them to work a little late. Response is always “whatever you want and we’ll stay as long as you need us to.” I really appreciate all the hard work they do for me. Thank you sir.”

    Travis Barrick – Field Supervisor, Felix Construction

  • “A big thank you to SSC for jumping on this quickly as they did to help the team get this information so quickly. It’s much appreciated and was pretty impressive to see 5 separate potholing crews descend upon Rio Salado the way they did today!”

    Christopher Laute, Resident Engineer, Valley Metro

  • We’ve used SSC for a number of years and I’ve been very pleased. Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Dave Klann, Staff Engineer, Mactec

  • SSC did a great job. Their assistance during pre-construction was greatly appreciated and differentiated them from the competition. Keep doing what you do best!

    Jim Drago, Sundt Construction

  • I called with short notice to some work and SSC responded immediately. In this market, dollars seem to control everything and quality of people and work seem to have diminished. The professionalism and hard work of your crew takes me back to when people knew what they were doing and cared. Intelligent guys that work […]

    Lonnie Ferguson, Project Manager, Construction 70

  • As a civil engineering consultant, I usually recommend your services but rarely use them with the exception being vacuum excavating. I have attended your seminars in the past and find them very helpful. I recommend continuing the education to make designers better. If we understand and know how to specify your service, we are more […]

    Bill Gasque, Sr. Civil Engineer, Dowl HKM

  • SSC handled the project perfectly even went above to schedule directly with the gas company, made my job easier.

    Tony Smith, Owner, Western Underground

  • You and your staff are always responsive to our needs and make sure you clearly understand the scope of the work in advance, so there are no surprises. I really appreciate that attitude.

    Michael Rhodes, Civil Engineer, Gila River Indian Community

  • Overall a good company. Very professional in approach and execution of work. Courtesy and respect shown by all personnel, a welcome rarity in the business. Keep doing what you’re doing, and thank you.

    M. Gartner, Project Manager, Sybrant Construction

  • We have been using your company’s services for about 3 years now. I have never heard a negative comment. Bringing Curtis on board is a definite plus as far as I am concerned. He keeps me informed about the work that I have done and he is very through and dependable.

    David Cross, Utility Coordinator, MCDOT

  • Your field crew did a great job!

    Nick Nikrant, Project Manager, Builders Guild

  • Crew was courteous & helpful.

    Jayde Bullard, Project Manager, Caljet of America, LLC.

  • This is the second time working with this foreman. Will request him again. Easy to work with.

    David Willett, Aero Automatic Sprinkler Co.

  • Superb foreman…Exceptional!

    Curtis Briggs, Shea Homes

  • Great work! SSC was timely, responsive and professional. I would use them again.

    Stewart Vaghti, Project Engineer, Gannett Fleming, Inc.

  • I have always had good and quick service from SSC.

    Sally Raymer, Sundt Construction

  • Arvid was very accommodating in getting crew onsite within 2 hours of my call.

    Dennis Sime, Project Superintendent, Hunter Contracting

  • First I want to express once again how impressed I am with you and your support group. You are all “top notch.” Yes the job went well and I appreciate your help. It really made a huge difference on such a critical facility. I still can’t believe (even though I saw it with my own […]

    David McKinley, VFC-Arizona

  • Great service on short notice. Thanks!

    Richard Komzelman, Carson Construction

  • The entire SSC crew was extremely professional and flexible. All of your company’s efforts are greatly appreciated and you will be our boring subcontractor on any future projects.

    Ben Myers, Project Manager, GRG Construction

  • Your team made this challenging casing push a success.

    Michael Fossett, Project Manager, SDB Inc.

  • Extensive knowledge of the local soil conditions coupled with their proven skills has insured that every job is completed within our schedule and budget. We’ve worked with SSC for many years and always found them to more than equal our high required standards and able to complete any task.

    Brian Chavez, Chief Estimator/Project Manager, Tyers Contracting

  • I would like to thank you for your prompt response to our urgent need for your services. The men you sent did a fantastic and quick bore. We do so appreciate your company for that. Thanks!

    Patricia Riggs, Town of Gila Bend

  • Our job was especially challenging. The SSC team worked six days, around the clock and the testimony to the success of their efforts is that the general public never knew they were here. An additional thanks to SSC for their professional courtesy. In our industry, it is something I do not encounter often enough.

    Chris McCoy, Superintendent, Gilbane Building Company

  • Your project manpower’s knowledge, attitude, safety and work ethic are outstanding!

    Mike Levi, Estimator/Project Manager, Holloman Corporation