Dr Patricia Galloway has recently completed her term as president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She is the first woman in the organization’s 152 year history to hold that office.
She has been appointed by President Bush to the National Science Board. The Board is composed of 24 part-time members, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They are selected on the basis of their eminence in basic, medical, or social sciences, engineering, agriculture, education, research management or public affairs. Dr. Galloway has been appointed for a six-year term.
She is CEO and CFO of the Nielsen-Wurster Group. The Group, was founded in New York City in 1976 by Chris Nielsen. It is a 150-person construction management company with offices at 345 Wall Street. She became president of Nielsen-Wurster in 1999, and was appointed CEO in 2001, when Chris Nielsen, whom she married 20 years ago, stepped down. Pat had joined the firm in 1981 and has taken on consulting projects that took her all over the world – 84 countries, and counting;
Pat on her first job assignment;
“My first job assignment was as a tunnel inspector on a deep rock tunnel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was the first woman to serve as a tunnel inspector on this project, which was a wastewater treatment project. At the pre-construction meeting with the contractor, the older Italian male owner of the company pointed at me and said, “That woman will not be allowed in my tunnel!” My project manager just calmly responded that he would gladly award the project to the next lowest bidder the next day. I was mortified and could not believe that someone would not allow me to work because I was female!”
On working for Nielsen-Wurster;
“At Nielsen-Wurster they throw you off a pier and if you swim, they let you swim as far as you can. I have been fortunate to work on the Panama Canal, the Xianghli dam in China, the City Link Toll Road in Melbourne Australia, the Tsing Ma Bridge in Hong Kong, a multi-purpose irrigation project in Northern Lugon in the Philippines, and the Kuala Lumpur Malaysian International Airport.”
On her life outside work:
I have four stepdaughters and a wonderful Border collie dog named Rings, who travels with me everywhere I go domestically. You might ask how I can fly everywhere with my dog. Well, I have my own plane! In fact, I am President of a women-owned enterprise called Unionville Aviation. We own two planes that are mostly used for business travel with my company, as well as charter flights. We employ a full time pilot, but my husband and I are also private pilots.
I interviewed her in April 2007
Q. What situations cause you the most stress?
It can be stressful when there are lots of deadlines, lots of quality issues. I usually have a very busy schedule with high quality, tight deadlines – it can get very stressful.
Q: How do you cope at these times?
I’m lucky in that I really do love what I’m doing. I could imagine I would feel a lot more stressed doing a different job. My Work life balance is important. I enjoy my time off.
For instance, I had a very busy, stressful period a number of weeks ago. It was very difficult but I took the whole weekend off and never touched the computer once. I came back on Monday more refreshed and more effective than ever.
Q. What support mechanisms have you?
I have a very understanding husband who knows the business, the pressures. I also have a dog that doesn’t. It’s very important to have people to talk to.
Q. What support is there for employees in your Organisation?
This is similar to how I manage my stress. We have an open door policy – all employees are welcome to talk to me. There is a mentoring scheme within the organisation – “an open ear” for all employees. It’s important that people have a system of release. Everyone needs to be able to vent.
Q. Is there different stresses for your different roles within the Company?
I am the Financial Executive as well as a CEO. I find the finance aspect extremely stressful. Managing money is a very stressful item as you always have to watch the bottom line. You need to make sure you’re constantly on top of things with invoices etc…
An added burden for CFOs is facing a lot of questions from the board, shareholders who want to know why things can’t be done better, cheaper, etc..
Q. Is there a time when you’ve been under more than your usual amount of stress?
A few years ago I became the first female president of ACSE and found it very rewarding but very stressful. I had little control over engagements, travel, expert witness testimony, etc.. It was a fixed term appointment and I was relieved at the end of the period to return to my ‘normal’ stressed CFO and CEO role. I probably had more travel, more deadlines to meet but I felt calmer as I had more control of my schedule. It was a great opportunity as president but for me was a more stressful.
Q. Any final thoughts on stress and control?
I feel stress and control go hand in hand. I can imagine that it would be very stressful for executive directors of public companies. They would have less control and more stress.