The future is bright: Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles show their creativity and passion for sustainability

For the second year in a row, I joined our Los Angeles team in celebrating Women in Construction (WIC) Week with a group of young women who are aiming to make the world a better place: Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. Female leaders from our USA Building, USA Civil and USA Commercial Development business units kicked off the two-hour virtual event by giving Girl Scouts an overview of Skanska and our national sustainability efforts, and a virtual tour of our 9000 Wilshire project in Los Angeles (L.A.). We warmed the group up with a team-led Stretch & Flex, and then the fun began.

Girl Scout Eliza P. describing Ketchup Dragon’s “Creative Café” concept, which won the competition.

Skanska “event coaches”—Project Executive Jenny Walker, Director of Project Accounting Danielle Siringo, Manager of Real Estate Development Fei Ye, Development Associate Mari Zamora, Engineer Alejandra Lizarzaburu, Field Engineer II Mahsa Safaei and Project Engineer Jessica Gonzalez— announced a creative competition for Girl Scouts: building a one-of-a-kind project in L.A. on our 9000 Wilshire site.

The Girl Scouts were shown a demolition video and images of Beverly Hills to get a better understanding of their prepared project site. They were then split into seven groups led by a Skanska coach, and given 20 minutes to “build” a project. The team with the most creative idea would receive a special prize.

Every group was given five minutes to present the following:

  • Team name
  • Project name and logo
  • Mission statement
  • Building description and plans (drawing)
  • A sustainable feature
  • List of creative elements, such as art, bike racks, a dog park or a gym

Our Skanska coaches were on hand to provide industry tips and trends, like sustainable elements and typical roles on a project, which included a manager (note taker), developer (presenter), architect (drawer), and marketing and branding consultant (creator of logo and mission statement).

When the presentations kicked off, I was amazed by the girls’ creativity, cleverness and thoughtfulness. A few notable ideas included a farmer’s market built with sustainable materials, a train station with transit-oriented development, and a solar-paneled building constructed around a large fruit tree that produced fresh air and a wonderful aesthetic. However, there was one idea that caught the eyes of the judges: team Ketchup Dragons’ “Creative Café.”

The “Creative Café” is a two-story cultural and inspirational center. The upstairs featured smaller art pieces and a library, while the downstairs featured murals and street art that embodied L.A. culture. After the judges, Development Associate Emma Loos, Field Engineer II Dianna Barba and Director of Business Development Ellen Mair, announced that Ketchup Dragons won the competition, they revealed the winning prize: the Skanska Los Angeles teams would purchase 100 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies from their team!

To cap off the event, we hosted a panel to share the different career paths that could take the girls into construction and commercial real estate, and offered advice with some of our lessons learned. Project Engineer Megan Byrne, Regional Vendor Diversity Manager Cassandra Manansala, Project Engineer Sofia Sandoval, and Development Manager Lauren Acosta, were the panelists. I moderated the discussion on how we got into construction because a few of us took nontraditional paths to get to where we are today. We also discussed how we define success and how we have learned from past mistakes we have made.

For the grand finale, the Los Angeles team announced that we will donate $10,000 to Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles.

Following a year of challenges and uncertainty, carrying on this tradition has meant so much to all who were a part of it. I may have left the event even more encouraged and inspired than the girls! Thank you to all my team members who participated in this event with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate WIC Week than with this next generation of great female leaders.

Last updated: 3/25/2021