March 9, 2023 | Articles
From Drawing to Building: Laura Capraro’s Career in Construction
Architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) is a field of limitless opportunity. Whether delivering transformative public infrastructure or raising the next iconic skyscraper, AEC professionals help address some of the world’s most pressing challenges and transform our living environment.
However, in both the field and the office, women remain underrepresented in AEC. To challenge the status quo, much needs to be done. This ranges from direct investments in women’s education to cultural shifts that promote pay transparency and help women identify with AEC professionals. To that end, several women working for Hill International, Inc. in Greece recently shared their own experiences as professionals in the AEC industry. While these women share a company, a region, and a background in engineering, each works in a different capacity for widely different projects throughout the country. By using their critical thinking, creativity, communication, leadership, and problem-solving skills, they help realize architectural marvels, deliver transformative public infrastructure, and serve as role models for women considering a career in the AEC industry.
With a background in engineering and more than eight years of experience on large-scale infrastructure and complex building projects, Lydia Rempi supports Hill’s clients in Greece with design management services. She joined the Hill team in 2017 to work on the Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Redevelopment and currently works as a design coordinator on the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Health Initiative. Part of a grant by the SNF to enhance the Greek public health sector, the SNF Health Initiative involves the construction of three new, state-of-the-art hospitals in Thessaloniki, Komotini, and Sparta. Designed by the renowned Architect Renzo Piano, the three projects incorporate anthropocentric design, sustainability, and high-end digital services. Hill is providing project management services for the program, overseeing the design, construction, and outfitting of the three hospitals.
Lydia says: “I consider myself fortunate to have worked with international companies implementing large-scale, complex projects since the beginning of my career. I have worked with many reputable design offices and clients and have learned every step of the way. It has been very rewarding to be part of impactful and sustainable projects that aim to achieve a broad, continuous, and positive impact for humans and society at large, and I remain as eager to get further involved and learn more as on the first day of my career.”
Lydia adds that she is grateful for the many lessons she’s learned from her peers, managers, and mentors, as well as the trust and inclusivity that many of her colleagues have shown. While there have been many positives in Lydia’s career, she also recognizes that women in construction inevitably come up against challenges. “I’m glad that our team, our Hill family, includes a very high percentage of women engineers,” she says. “With a high level of inclusion, we are developing a strong network for knowledge sharing and pushing against the industry’s gender-gap.”
Another professional hailing from Hill’s office in Athens is Vasiliki Kontou, who uses her engineering background and field experience to manage procurement, cost estimation, and cost control processes. She supports the Hill team as a cost manager, helping monitor costs, validate estimates, and capture efficiencies on Hill’s projects in Greece. She appreciates the challenge inherent in her work and loves supporting the development of innovative and transformative spaces.
“In 2016, before I came to Hill, I worked as a procurement engineer on the Urban Renewal of Chorafa Area in Athens,” Vasiliki says. “This project involved the renewal of a 28,000 SM public space in the city and was the first urban development in Athens to implement bioclimatic design and energy optimization techniques, such as the use of geothermal energy to regulate temperature of built environment. The Urban Renewal of Chorafa Area gave me the opportunity to encounter new challenges, cultivate my skills, advance my career, and support a unique and innovative project.”
At Hill, Vasiliki supports the Hellinikon Project, one of the largest urban infrastructure investments in Europe. Situated on the 6.2 million SM site of the former Athens International Airport, the Hellinikon Project involves the construction of multiple residential and hotel properties, a new public park, and a variety of other amenities. As cost manager, Vasiliki is providing cost estimation services from project initiation through design completion.
Dimitra Diamantidou joined Hill in 2018 and currently works as a senior manager for advisory services at Hill. She is a chartered civil engineer and in her role with Hill, she uses her engineering and business acumen to forecast and creatively overcome obstacles to help ensure program success.
More specifically, Dimitra provides upstream technical advisory services (transaction mergers and aquisitons, technical due diligence, project maturing, etc.), supporting several pre-closing assignments with international investors, governmental authorities, financial institutions, and developers to mature major infrastructure projects, real estate, privatization, and concessions programs, while creating downstream project management opportunities. Dimitra’s current and recent projects include serving as the lenders technical advisor for the €100 million financing in connection with the Athens International Airport Capital Expenditure program, serving as the lead technical advisor for the 49% sale of shares of the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO), and supporting several technical due diligence assignments of various assets. Finally, at the project level, Dimitra is supporting the Hellinikon Project as the stakeholder and interface manager for the Infrastructure and Landscape packages.
“I consider myself lucky for many reasons,” Dimitra adds. “When I started my career in the United Kingdom, I was able to enter the industry via graduate/associate programs and get my foot in the door. But for young women, this is not always the case. Hill’s Southern European region does a great job by specifically targeting recent grads with entry-level job offers to grow our own pool of talent and remove barriers to entry. Plus, women make up nearly 50% of the Athens office. With Hill, I’ve been provided with significant opportunities and given all the support required to grow and have a successful career.”
Sylvia Tsitziloni is a senior mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) construction manager at Hill. She works with Lydia and the rest of the Hill team on the SNF Health Initiative. Sylvia monitors construction to reduce rework and ensure the new hospitals’ MEP systems are fully functioning on day one.
She started working in the AEC industry in the 90s. “At the time, even the presence of women on a construction site seemed odd,” she explains. “So, it was a challenge.” While Sylvia didn’t have any women as mentors at this early stage in her career, she was resilient and says many men supported her along the way. Sylvia’s resilience and the support she received are good for the rest of us, too. In addition to her important work on the SNF Health Initiative, Sylvia played an important part on the construction of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, one of the most important archaeological museums in the world and an architectural marvel. “I worked as MEP construction manager for the construction of the Museum,” she says. “It was a technically challenging project that gave me the opportunity to learn a lot and advance my career. It was also my first assignment as a team leader.”
Sylvia says that things have changed for women in the industry in recent years, but adds, “it is still true that we have to work twice as hard to prove that we are capable for the job.” Her advice to young women entering the field: “Believe in yourselves and your strengths, work to improve your weaknesses, always speak up, and always stand your ground.”
After several years on the contractor side, Kalypso Kyriakopoulou joined Hill as a proposal writer in 2014 and quickly became an integral member of Hill’s team in Greece. Now a project controls director and deputy project management consultancy director, Kalypso has contributed to many of Hill’s projects in the region, including the renovation of the Four Seasons Astir Hotel, a technical assistance assignment with the Albanian Ministry of Transportation, and Hill’s framework agreement with Fraport Greece. For her hard work and contributions to her projects, Kalypso was recognized with one of Hill’s employee spotlight awards in 2018. Currently, Kalypso leads a team of almost 35 colleagues—nearly half of whom are women—on the Hellinikon project.
“Throughout my career, I have been very cognizant of female presence, or lack thereof, on project teams,” says Kalypso. “Fortunately, Hill’s team in Greece includes an unbelievable number of qualified women at all levels and in all facets of the organization. It is not rare, for example, to have internal meetings that comprise all women, and this is fantastic! This network is particularly valuable to me since I am a recent mother of two. My colleagues’ support has made it possible to balance my career goals with my parental ambitions and obligations. I am also grateful to Hill’s management, who have given me and my colleagues the space we need to excel. As I continue growing within our organization, I hope to motivate, support, and mentor junior employees and maintain a nurturing environment for all of Hill’s professionals.”
All of these women share an engineering background. All of them work for Hill in Athens. Yet as seen above, each has had a very different experience in the industry. Engineering has led them to diverse careers in design management, cost management, advisory services, project controls, and MEP construction management. And while each of these women experienced a different level of difficulty entering the AEC industry as a woman, all of them have helped break down barriers to women entering the industry.
Thank you to Dimitra, Kalypso, Lydia, Sylvia, and Vasiliki for sharing your experiences, for your hard work delivering incredible projects in Greece, and for helping to make the AEC industry accessible to all! Your stories offer a glimpse into what is possible for women who study engineering and choose a career in project management.
Dimitra, Kalypso, Lydia, Sylvia, and Vasiliki are just some of the many exceptional women working on different projects and in different roles in Hill’s Greek office. At Hill International, we are proud to count these and many other women as our colleagues. We encourage women to learn more about the industry and explore careers in the AEC industry. To review our available positions, please visit: https://www.hillintl.com/careers/join-our-network/.
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