Kassandra Kloster-Braden Takes a Diverse Route in Civil Construction
From motorsports to rail to water/wastewater, there’s not much she won’t take on
Kassandra Kloster-Braden always knew she was suited for a hands-on career. Much of her childhood was spent in the family garage working on various auto projects with her father. Her young, curious mind enjoyed the challenge of taking things apart and putting them back together again.
Dreaming of one day working in NASCAR, Kassandra studied mechanical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), known for its renowned and accelerated engineering program.
As enticing as it is, Kassandra soon realized that the motorsports industry didn’t offer the permanence she desired. After evaluating her options, Kassandra turned her attention to another fast-paced career: construction.
Starting out as an intern with Balfour Beatty, the stars aligned almost immediately on her first project, the Charlotte Blue Line Extension. The recently completed light rail connection runs through Charlotte and ends at the UNCC campus. Knowing firsthand how beneficial this would be for UNCC students, Kassandra was moved by the realization that the work we do in constructing vital infrastructure has a real and lasting impact on people’s everyday lives.
The idea that her hands-on skills could be used to touch people’s lives has been one of her greatest ongoing motivations. “The opportunity to connect people has wholeheartedly reinforced my decision to make the career moves I did and continue to build the infrastructure we do,” explains Kassandra. “I see the connections from the projects we work on and the impact on the communities we serve firsthand. It inspires me daily to challenge myself on each project.”
After the Charlotte Blue Line Extension project completed, Kassandra was offered a full-time position with Balfour Beatty and the opportunity to relocate to California. There was just one catch. The opportunity wasn't another rail project, it was to join the team building the EchoWater Tertiary Treatment Facility. Moving from a rail to water/wastewater project is a huge a leap for any construction professional, much less someone who was still carving out a path in the construction industry.
Curious to at least try, Kassandra embraced the new challenge. To this day, she jokes about how quickly she accepted the opportunity, and the very brief conversation she had with her husband in preparation for the cross-country move.
It was a major shift in more ways than one. In addition to setting up a brand new home, Kassandra was faced with a brand new professional challenge. The significant differences between the rail and water/wastewater sector left Kassandra with no choice but to adapt her experience – ASAP.
“When working on rail projects, you must safely account and plan for the many ways construction interacts with the existing environment, including pedestrian and vehicular traffic - especially at intersections. And the work is generally linear, moving from point A to point B. On a water/wastewater project, you don’t have to account for pedestrians or vehicles as much, but the style of building is very different. The project schedule involves multiple areas moving at various progression rates within a more confined space.”
The speed at which Kassandra was able to adjust to the major sector change quickly earned the respect of her teammates and has become one of her defining features as a builder.
“As Kassandra has grown within her career, she’s honed her versatility and adaptiveness, and has a team-first attitude,” expresses Mike Chilcott, senior project manager. “When it comes to getting tasks done, she does so without question and thinks outside of the box to address a task at hand. She continues to expand upon her skillset and experiences, proving her to be an asset in any market within our industry.”
Switching gears between two very different, complex projects so early in her career has accelerated Kassandra’s expertise, opening her up to a wide range of rewarding career opportunities.
Where will she go and what will she build next? Kassandra is just as curious as the rest of us. With youth and diverse experience on her side, her journey as a builder has only just begun.
Wherever her career may be headed, we know this much is true – this is a talented young builder on a fast-track to success. No matter which direction she takes, Kassandra will be the one in driver’s seat – and she won’t be hitting the brakes anytime soon.