A Relentless Ally for Our Company and the Community

Katherine Breeggemann

The definitions of ‘mentor’ and ‘leader’ are ‘a trusted counselor or guide’ and ‘a person who commands a group,’ respectively. Cecilia Kucharski is both. As vice president of estimating and preconstruction and as one of the founding mentors of Connecting Women—Balfour Beatty’s employee resource group in California—Cecilia is a Relentless Ally for her company and community.

In fact, just this year, Cecilia won a Tribute to Women and Industry (TWIN) Mentor award to commemorate her outstanding achievements in encouraging the professional and personal development of others—both in the construction industry and community-at-large. “There were hundreds of amazing women there, so when I heard my name called out, I was sincerely shocked,” recalls Cecilia. “I was honored to just be in these women’s company, let alone be selected as the winner. The event was truly inspiring, and I’m proud to be considered in the same league as these outstanding leaders.” While Cecilia may have been stunned by her win, her work with Balfour Beatty reveals exactly how deserving she is of the award.

Since joining Balfour Beatty in 2013, Cecilia has played a significant role in helping the California team land over 213 project wins totaling over $2 billion. Furthermore, Cecilia has been instrumental in fostering new partnerships within the industry. She participates in numerous outreach events across California, leading her team to open house nights and meet and greets—all in an effort to form connections with new subcontractors and develop strong relationships in diverse market sectors. Her genuine, personable demeanor has attracted new partners, supporting strategic growth for the business.

In addition to her preconstruction and estimating roles, Cecilia has dedicated much of her time and efforts to Connecting Women. Comprised of over eighty women from each department within the California verticals team, the Connecting Women resource group strives to empower the women of Balfour Beatty through fostering alliance and networking. This is achieved through a multitude of endeavors that provide supportive, inclusive and diversified environments. In addition to working towards these goals, the group strives to create a culture of encouragement and source of inspiration; provide educational and personal development opportunities; empower women leaders within the industry; and promote a spirit of generosity that enriches the communities in which we live and work.

Cecilia understands that, as an executive in her office, she has the ability to influence and guide her teammates. Which is why, through Connecting Women, Cecilia has helped provide professional training to women in the workplace, alongside other leaders in the group. For Cecilia’s part, she has assisted in bringing in guest speakers, including Jenny Prisk, an award-winning motivational speaker and coach who conducted several leadership and presentation trainings. Cecilia is currently scheduling a trainer who will lead a discussion on improving negotiation skills, influence, and decision-making strategies that can have a positive impact on career success.  A range of speakers is being scheduled by others that include topics ranging from personal wealth management to crucial conversations, each developing unique sessions geared toward women.

As Connecting Women grew within California, the organization recognized its capacity to serve the greater communities of Balfour Beatty. In 2016, Cecilia attended the Annual West Coast Women in Construction Conference, where she met the CEO of the San Diego Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Heather Finlay, who praised the YWCA’s annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event. The event, in which men walk a mile in women’s shoes, was created to increase awareness about domestic violence and raise funds to support YWCA Becky’s House®.  Built by Balfour Beatty in 2001, Becky’s House® provides a safe haven for women, men and children to overcome trauma while obtaining support with career development, financial planning, counseling and efforts towards permanent housing.

Instantly impressed with its ideals, Cecilia worked hand-in-hand with her colleagues at Balfour Beatty, helping to gain sponsorships and gathering coworkers to participate, including four male teammates who sported six-inch platform heels. The event was both fun and rewarding for the Balfour Beatty participants, cultivating an atmosphere of synergistic leadership between coworkers.

This year, Cecilia is serving on the YWCA Walk a Mile in Her Shoes® event committee, using her leadership position to help institute family-friendly enhancements to gather greater participation in this year’s 10th anniversary walk. She’s hoping for higher involvement from Balfour Beatty San Diego employees and their family members, with a goal of recruiting even more volunteers than last year and shattering fundraising goals. She knows it’s possible—recalling this year’s earlier San Diego Habitat for Humanity Women’s Build event—in which our company had the largest participating group —and earned the esteemed honor of being named, “Top Corporate Fundraising Team” with nearly $20,000 raised.

When it comes to guidance and support, Cecilia will always be there to lend a helping hand to those around her, whether in her office or around her neighborhood. “The best I can do is lead by example,” explains Cecilia. “Because we can always do better.”