This article was originally taken from Construction Executive Magazine.

When Brooke Wenger started at Triad Engineering, Inc., Hagerstown, Md., as a marketing coordinator nearly a decade ago, she was terrified of going to networking events. She let nerves and the fear of not knowing anyone get to her, not to mention the idea of having to talk in front of a crowd. 

Today, as Triad Engineering’s more seasoned director of business development, Wenger spends the vast majority of her time out of the office attending meetings and events, serving on committees, following up on project leads and building relationships with potential business partners.

“You can’t be afraid of what, or who, you don’t know,” Wenger says. “I still get nervous, but I don’t let it show. Obviously someone thought enough of me to put me in this position, and I do it well.”

She also encourages colleagues to come along to networking events, promising to provide a guiding hand and work through the
natural silences that occur when people get to know each other. “It’s not even necessary to talk about work. We’ll find a connection and build that relationship.”  

In short, comfort zones lead to stagnancy; pushing outside those boundaries results in growth. Wenger is committed to the latter, and she has the career advancement to prove it. Most recently, she was named Associated Builders and Contractors’ (ABC) Young Professional of the Year—an award that recognizes career achievements, leadership and industry vision among ABC member employees under the age of 40.

“Brooke’s passion for helping others and developing our future leaders is a testament to her devotion to our association and the merit shop philosophy,” says Zak Wolpert, who handles business development for Kinsley Construction, York, Pa., and is chairman of the ABC National Young Professionals Committee. “Her relentless determination has resulted in the formation of a successful young professionals program at the ABC Cumberland Valley Chapter, persistent growth and recruitment for the national program, and support of ABC’s core values and strategic initiatives.”

Adds Bradley A. Reynolds, regional manager for Triad Engineering: “Brooke’s accomplishments at Triad and within industry
organizations such as ABC are impressive and show her remarkable ability to connect. It has been an honor to watch Brooke grow and succeed personally and professionally.”

Wenger learned the value of challenging herself right off the bat as a Penn State graduate. Unsure of how to use her associate’s degree, she answered a newspaper ad for an administrative position with a small land-surveying company, but realized within six months that life behind a desk wasn’t fulfilling. When a field worker called in sick, her manager offered to teach her how to run a rod as a member of the survey crew. 

Wenger worked there for seven years, all the while furthering her education: first trying civil technology at a community college and eventually earning a four-year business administration degree from Penn State. Within the company’s close-knit, six-person staff, Wenger had the advantage of direct access to the owner.

“He was interested in giving me the opportunity to learn,” she says. “And from a personal standpoint, he showed me how business owners should invest in people. They aren’t just a dollar sign.”

Armed with a business administration degree, and ready to give up the manual labor side of the industry, Wenger pursued a marketing position with Triad Engineering—a huge jump from a staff of less than 10 to a 150-employee engineering consulting and design firm with seven locations throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. She embraced the challenge and put her general knowledge of construction sites to use preparing proposals while expanding her skills as a people person.

“At first it was intimidating to think of this as a sales job, but business development at Triad Engineering is really about meeting potential clients and keeping our valued partners happy,” Wenger says. “I meet many people who have been in the industry way longer than I have, so my learning style gravitates toward hands-on, personal interactions. I rely heavily on people whom I view as mentors to help me develop skills and strengthen my weaknesses by meeting with them one on one or asking to tag along to see their methods up close.

“My direct supervisor right now has been a huge supporter and gives me the confidence I don’t always have,” she adds. “I want
to be able to be that person to somebody in my career.” 

The wheels are clearly in motion on that front. Wenger’s job responsibilities include training and mentoring business development staff and ensuring consistent activities across Triad Engineering’s corporate footprint. And her involvement in industry organizations—from the ABC Cumberland Valley Chapter’s Young Professionals Group and an ABC National Peer Group to the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services and the Contractor’s Committee for the United Way Day of Caring—provide ample opportunities to impact young men and women and promote
AEC careers.

“With all the evidence of a generational gap of AEC personnel, I feel some responsibility to help alleviate the situation,” Wenger says. “The younger generation needs to know having a lifelong career in the AEC industry is a very attainable option. If we can mentor and train young professionals already in the industry, we start to close the gap.”

Case in point: Directly after receiving the Young Professional of the Year Award at ABC’s Leadership Week in Dallas, a young woman participating in the ABC Student Chapter Construction Management Competition told Wenger she was an inspiration for all women in the industry. 

“She stood there and waited for me—just to say that,” Wenger recalls. “I wish I wasn’t so overwhelmed right then and had a longer chance to chat with her. But that moment will stick with me forever.”

Fortunately, Wenger has a lifetime to mentor the most important person in her life: her 5-year-old daughter Braelyn. 

“I’m proud of being a working mother and hopefully a good role model for my daughter to see she can do anything she dreams. I strive to share all I can with Braelyn so she learns there are no limitations other than the ones you set for yourself.”