Project Manager Noel Anderson is overseeing the $52.4 million renovation of the massive Hangar 101 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville.

January 20, 2022

Andersen Excels After Trading a Hotel Career for Construction Sites

In just three years at Haskell, Noel Andersen has ascended to Project Manager, leveraging her people skills to solve challenges and build confidence.

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Noel Andersen is proof that it is never too late to pursue what you love.

After a career in the hotel industry for more than 30 years, Andersen made a bold change to pursue her passion — a career in construction.

“I really liked construction and was interested in how things are built and how they work.,” Andersen said. “I thought, ‘Am I actually going to do something about it?’”

In 2018 at age 50, she actually did. With her son, Carter, finishing high school, she made the leap: She left her career as a hospitality sales manager and applied to work as an administrative assistant for Haskell while she was enrolled to earn a second college degree, this one in construction management.

“The folks that hired me knew I was getting a second degree,” she said. “They understood my time as an administrative assistant was short-lived to get my foot in the door.”

Leaving her six-figure salaried job for an entry-level position was an adjustment, but she added that “it was more about enjoying what I do. The people and team really do care. It doesn’t feel like work.”

She advanced from administrative assistant to assistant project manager and, after just three years, was promoted to Project Manager in Haskell’s Federal Group.

Currently, she oversees the $52.4 million renovation of the Hangar 101 at Naval Air Station Jacksonville, one of the original buildings when the facility was commissioned in October 1940. After almost 80 years and numerous additions and internal modifications, the U.S Navy chose Haskell for the design-build project to undertake major repairs and renovation of the historic structure.

Every day brings new challenges for Andersen and her team.

“No day is like the one before,” she said. “Every time we peel something back, there is something new. We need to figure out, ‘How are we going to handle it?’”

Blazing New Trails

Without prior experience, it is uncommon for professionals to shift into the construction industry, but Andersen’s transferable skills make her well-suited for the role.

“Noel started out wheels-spinning and never stopped. She’s got a passion to do what she wants to do,” said Roger McDonell, Federal Group Director of Construction. “I have seen a few folks come along and do what she’s done, but she has excelled at it faster and better than most I have dealt with.”

Drawing on her experience as a leader in hospitality, Andersen is known for her strong people skills.

“When I was in school, no one played up how valuable people skills are in our business,” McDonell said. “It was all technical. Well, people are people in construction, too. The ability to understand people, meet them where they’re at and get them what they need — while getting what you need — is a real skill.”

Senior Project Manager Greg Hagerman echoed praise for Andersen. He said breaking into construction anywhere is difficult, but the federal sector presents unique challenges because of its nuanced rules and regulations.

From variations in budget to diverse building materials, there is always more to learn in the Federal Group, which is exactly why Anderson likes it.

On the hangar project alone, Haskell’s team has had to process more than 100 change orders to overcome unforeseen hurdles. And while that number is not atypical for a renovation project, the degree of difficulty is increased by the need to gain approval from the government, the owner, and coordinate with subcontractors.

Andersen has streamlined this communication with ease.

“She has such a good personality with the customer, they have confidence in what she says,” Hagerman said. “She learned who the players were, who had the authority and who would get things done. If there’s an issue that arises, she’s able to process it right away.”

Building a Construction Career

Andersen is still growing in her role, but she has a promising future at Haskell.

For project managers, advancement eventually means a fork in the road. They must decide if they want to chase projects, write requests for proposals and win work as a project director. Or they can work as a senior project manager and continue building buildings.

McDonell said he could see Andersen excelling as a project director because of her great people skills and sales background.

In the meantime, Andersen is committed to her passion: problem-solving and executing with her team on as many different projects as possible.

“I don’t have the need to progress ‘up,’” she said, “so much as explore different jobs and projects.”

Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 1,800 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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