The GTA Construction Report Special Feature
Today Kim Shelswell is a licensed onsite wastewater designer/installer with Simcoe County based Morris Shelswell & Sons Excavating and Grading Ltd. Someday she hopes to be its third generation owner.
Shelswell grew up with the family business, founded by her grandfather Morris. “Growing up, spending time with dad meant time out on the different job sites, watching and learning about what he did.”
Though initially she considered a career in law, she says as her schooling progressed, she realized that her heart was not in it. “I’ve always had teachers and coaches tell me I would make a great lawyer, but at the end of the day my passion is and always has been ‘playing in the dirt’.”
After graduating from Laurentian University she went back to work for her dad and realized she loved being outdoors and that she had always enjoyed the site work. She has been with the company ever since. Today, as a licensed installer she is responsible for the design, layout and installation of both commercial and residential on-site wastewater treatment systems.
While she hopes one day to take more of a management role and someday run the business for her dad, for now she is learning from the bottom up and enjoying her time on job sites. Many of her mentors are staff who have been with the company for upwards of 30 years.
“I’m being mentored by people with decades of experience who have a lot to teach. I enjoy watching as a site progresses from an empty lot to a finished product, and learning about all the different stages that go into each phase of development.”
She says she also loves the diversity of the work; that every job and every site is different.
Shelswell says few women work in her trade. She says she occasionally meets another woman on a job site from another company but at her own, she is the only female field staff member out of a staff of approximately 30. Despite that, she says she has rarely found it difficult on site. “There are a couple instances that I can think of when I felt I was being treated differently because I was a woman. The majority of the time the men are respectful and the only thing that matters is that I do my job.”
She says it may help that she is a sit back, listen and learn kind of person, and has never been afraid to get her hands dirty.
Her advice to other women contemplating a field construction career: “Ask questions, don’t be discouraged if there are hard days, and don’t let anyone talk you out of trying something you’re passionate about because you may find you love it.”