Hi everyone! SciCheer Wendy here with another great interview from former San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleader Tristin! Tristin co-founded a Construction Management company where she works as a Construction Manager for projects in the Colorado area. She was also a Pop Warner and Fresno State cheerleader and cheered continuously for 18 years! As a woman with an established and rewarding career in STEM, Tristin has some great advice for our future Science Cheerleaders.
Update, June 2020: Tristin was featured on the Queen of Construction episode on the CuriosiFy Podcast! Read more and listen here!
What turned you on to STEM and when?
My dad is a mechanical engineer, so I spent a lot of time helping him in the garage with his car hobby. I knew I liked getting my hands dirty but not exactly sure in what way. In high school I was able to enroll in architectural drafting classes. I loved it! I was the only girl those 3 years, but boy was it a confidence builder, especially when you are getting better grades on assignments than the guys on the football team I was cheering for! That teacher, Harvey Kirk, along with my dad, inspired me to pursue my ultimate desire to become an engineer.
Why did you try out to be a cheerleader?
At a young age, dance was a big part of my life. The natural progression and extension of that was cheerleading in my hometown. Cheerleading is not only a fun team sport, it’s one that is super positive, which was a big part of why I loved it so much. Ultimately, I was lucky enough to be on a cheer team consistently for 18 years straight.
What do you do in your science career on a daily basis? What tools do you use? What’s the goal of your work?
I recently completed 19 years at a company I co-founded called Project One, which is an Owner’s Representative/Construction Management firm. After working for large construction companies for 6 years out of college, managing large projects and wearing my hardhat and boots every day in the field, I found a niche opportunity to help the Owner’s manage design and construction of their buildings as a consultant. Knowing how things are constructed helped make this transition very valuable to the clients who hired us. In this position, I help Owner’s hire and then manage their architects, engineers, and contractors, along with all of the other inspectors, vendors, and partners it takes to complete a development. I get to review plans, build budgets, plan and review schedules, negotiate contracts, lead teams, and be in the field reviewing work in progress, among many other things. Some days I get to work with the City and other jurisdictional departments on permitting and final inspections. The ultimate goal is to help an Owner get their project built on time and on budget, so they can ultimately run their business successfully in the new environment you have helped build for them. I love taking my construction knowledge and putting it to work for all types of projects including healthcare, retail, residential, etc.
What does it mean for you to be studying/practicing in STEM?
Given that there is still only about 9% women in the Construction field, it means a lot to me to be representing this small minority. Construction provides amazing opportunities for women to get involved in so many areas. When on a construction site, it is critical that I am prepared and know what I am talking about. I work hard to be knowledgeable about the work at hand, earn the respect of all the other team members, and make sure they know that I am there to help them. I am hopeful that as more women see the opportunities for them to have a successful and rewarding career in construction or construction management, I can be an example for them to as a woman who has found her passion and been able to excel and break barriers.
How do the qualities that made you a great cheerleader benefit you in your STEM career?
The discipline and work habits needed to be a great cheerleader can benefit anyone in their career pursuits. The cheerleading teams that consistently worked hard were the teams that nailed halftime shows and competitions. The same applies to my career, the hard work and consistent preparation pays off in gaining respect and allowed me to excel. With anything, if you come prepared, it’s easier to display confidence and earn trust, respect, a solid reputation, or that winning trophy!
There are stereotypes about cheerleaders that make it seem unlikely that a cheerleader could be a scientist/engineer/etc. Obviously, these stereotypes are untrue, and you are a great example of that. How do you feel about breaking down these stereotypes? Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders [or being a woman in a STEM field]?
It is unfortunate that these stereotypes still exist, but the absolute best way to combat the sometimes-negative stereotypes of being a cheerleader is to be the best you can be at every turn. No one will be able to deny that you have what it takes to do your job well if you are knowledgeable and prepared. Many times, I have faced doubters, including myself, while in a room of 20 men. But time and time again, I focused on the serious work at hand and not what they potentially thought of me. I never got stuck worrying about people thinking less of me. It only sparked me to work harder and prove my worth. Learning about self-esteem during an 8th grade speech my principal asked me to give taught me so much about valuing myself and not letting others dictate that value to me.
Best cheerleading experience?
There are so many, including the ’95 Super Bowl in Miami, but I would have to say the most impactful experience was a USO tour I was selected to go on to Bosnia and Croatia to visit our frontline troops. It fell over the week of the 4th of July. Getting to represent the Forty Niners and the USA during that trip was one of my proudest moments. Also, the opportunity to meet the men and women serving our country who are away from their families for extended periods of time and to hear their stories and sacrifices gave me a sincere and deep appreciation for what it means to be an American and how very blessed we are to have the democracy and freedoms we have.
Best science-related experience?
Over a long career, I have been very fortunate to be involved with so many amazing projects, like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Education and Collection Facility, Metropolitan State University Student Success Building, and 1600 Glenarm residential tower. But the most memorable project for me is the non-profit Denver Hospice. This project allowed me to help them build a dream facility that truly helps patients and the families impacted by a dyeing loved one. The time, care, and details put into that project were the most impactful work I can remember.
What advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Looking back, I wish I learned earlier that you can go for it and take big risks without letting other’s success take the wind out of your sails. When we compare ourselves to others who have more or are more accomplished, it can be hard. Hopefully, you can learn as early as possible to do your best, focus on yourself, and be happy for other’s success. Eventually you also learn there is enough to go around for everyone!
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Although I cheered for 18 years continuously, didn’t make the team 2 of those years but was able to try out for alternative teams. Don’t ever count yourself out!