Engineer, Explorer, Infrastructure Builder Extraordinaire
Long before the acronym DIY made its way into our everyday vernacular, Jen Shore was disassembling every device, gadget and gizmo she could get her hands on. Unlike many children caught prying apart and rebuilding the family remote, Jen wasn’t on the receiving end of exasperated lectures. Her parents understood their daughter’s drive to discover how things work.
From an early age, that insatiable curiosity was focused squarely on transportation infrastructure. An unlikely passion, to be sure. But Jen—one of only a few women in her class at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona’s Construction Engineering Technology program—has never been one to follow convention. Jen secured an internship with Balfour Beatty on the Los Angeles Metrolink Communications and Signal project, and the rising construction star knew instantly that she’d found her calling.
“I’ve always been fascinated by how people get around,” says Jen, who joined Balfour Beatty as a fulltime field engineer in 2010. “Building these huge rail projects, I get to be a part of something that changes people’s lives.” During Jen’s tenure with Balfour Beatty, she’s done just that, contributing to the 40-mile Eagle P3 Commuter Rail Network in Denver, Colorado and the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) LYNX Blue Line Extension in North Carolina among other notable projects.
As any builder knows, construction management is often an exercise in problem-solving. And given Jen’s favorite childhood pastime, it should come as little surprise that she loves to crack some of Balfour Beatty’s most challenging. When her team discovers a deviation from a contract drawing, Jen is in her element—especially when it requires calculations. “I love creating new equations for something like a track ballast. It’s just geometry,” says Jen unassumingly, perhaps unaware that most people would prefer a root canal to trigonometry. Driven by a deep sense of purpose in her work, Jen brings energy and excitement to every team she joins.
Over the course of two weeks in the fall of 2017, that team just so happened to be a group of 11 Balfour Beatty volunteers who, in partnership with Bridges to Prosperity, built a 101-meter, suspended footbridge in the rugged and remote community of Tetillas, Bolivia. Prior to the team’s departure from the U.S., they chose Jen to serve as the project manager for the mission. The new bridge, which spans a deep and wide canyon over a river, connects the people of Tetillas to healthcare, education and economic opportunities.
“This experience changed me in a way I can’t put into words,” says Jen. “We had an incredible team, and each person’s unique skills and background helped make the project a success.” To bring this lasting change to the people of Tetillas, Jen and her teammates lived and worked in modest conditions. There was no hot water, the primitive toilets required a bucket to be flushed and the team slept on cots in the same small, uninsulated, one-room former schoolhouse. Jen nevertheless affirms how difficult it was to make the trip home, “I missed enjoying a cold cerveza with the locals and telling jokes with the team around the campfire,” she reminisces.
If Jen were to take a DNA test, she’d likely discover that the “construction gene” skipped a generation. Her grandfather worked as a lineman in Korea and for PacBell when he returned, even going on to build his own home. Jen probably possesses the chromosome for adventure, too. She’s not only moved across the country three times for Balfour Beatty projects, but she’s also traveled to all seven continents. A trip to Antarctica might not make many bucket lists, but it topped Jen’s.
Predictably, she wasn’t content to visually take in the mile-long ice shelfs and colossal glaciers. Jen did what she always does – jump right in! Though it took her muscles a few minutes to thaw after a plunge into the arctic waters, Jen beams, “Totally worth it. I’d do it again.”
She’s offered similar advice to up-and-coming women in the field. Thanks to companies like Balfour Beatty leading the way, Jen sees a future for the construction industry in which diversity is the norm, not the exception to it. Part engineer, part explorer, in many ways Jen Shore is still on a quest to discover how things work, building infrastructure that transforms communities and carving out her own legacy in the process.