Industry Leader Persists in Trailblazing Career
During her first week working on a construction site in 1978, Jennifer Pinck was painting a K-Mart when she noticed a man on the other end of the mall wearing a white hardhat and holding a clipboard. The man was supervising a steel-hanging crew. “I didn’t even know what the job was, but knew I wanted it,” the 63-year-old Pinck said during ENR New England’s December Best Projects awards event in Boston.
After her brief stint in commercial painting, Pinck went on to hold more than just a clipboard. The future field engineer and superintendent eventually became the first woman to receive her Boston ABC Building License and also earned an MBA. She has worked on two of the country’s largest public works projects: as a construction manager for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Boston Harbor project from 1988 to 1992 and immediately following that became a senior manager for Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel project known as the Big Dig, where she worked until 1996.
Since founding the program and construction management firm Pinck & Co. in 1998, Pinck has made it a point to help women gain a foothold in the industry. “Two-thirds of my staff have been or are women,” says Pinck, whose firm provides construction services to nonprofits, private developers and public agencies.
For the past two years, the LGBT-owned firm has been named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America and was recognized six times as one of the fastest growing inner-city businesses in the country. Based on its stellar track record—growing every year since its inception and recording a 94.5% revenue growth rate through the Great Recession of 2008—the firm was acquired for an undisclosed amount last October by Anser Advisory, a newly formed capital program advisory firm that specializes in program management, construction management and project management nationally in transportation, education, health care and other sectors. Under Answer Advisory’s umbrella, the firm will continue to operate as Pinck & Co. Pinck, herself, is a managing director, maintaining the same role with clients.
Pinck says joining Anser is “an exciting venture” because it not only expands the firm’s “capacity and expertise both regionally and nationwide, but it brings together like-minded professionals under one entity who genuinely care about our clients and each other.”
Bryan Carruthers, Anser chief executive, says, “Each of our legacy companies were leaders within their geographic or market niche and respected providers of strategic and innovative program management services to their clients.”
The acquisition marks Pinck’s latest milestone in a career filled with achievements. She received the 2018 Boston Business Journal’s LGBT Trailblazer Award and the 2017 Associated General Contractor Massachusetts Building Women in Construction (BWiC) Mentor of the Year award. She also won a distinguished alumni award from Simmons University.
Anthony Consigli, chief executive of Milford, Mass.-based Consigli Construction Co., has worked with Pinck on six projects valued at a combined $95 million during the past 20-plus years. He describes her as “a consummate construction professional who is responsible and accessible to clients, and cares deeply about promoting diversity in our industry.”
The Hard Way
Growing up one of four children in a middle-class home in Belmont, Mass., Pinck’s path to construction was an unlikely one. Pinck’s parents both worked in academia and instilled in her a love of reading the classics. Unlike her bookish parents, she also loved to tinker and investigate how things worked. But Pinck’s trailblazing early feminist mother left another lasting impression on her daughter. Working her way up to serve as an assistant dean at the Harvard Business School, Pinck’s mother advocated for women in the workforce. “You can do anything you want, but it won’t necessarily be easy,” is a motto Pinck’s mother shared with her daughter early in life and one that Pinck took to heart.
After landing her first job with a general contractor at the defunct George B.H. Macomber Co. in 1981, a then century-old commercial builder, Pinck worked her way up from field engineer to construction superintendent, learning about construction technology, building management and how to get the job done in a construction world that was hostile toward women. “I had few allies and few friends,” recalls Pinck, who says at the time she was a deeply closeted lesbian. “When the labor foreman came into the trailer, he would swear like a trucker …, but I didn’t let it intimidate me,” she recalls. “There were no accommodations for women, so I would find sympathetic property [owners] nearby, where I could sneak in and use a real bathroom,” she recalls. “With thick skin and round shoulders, I just let it wash off.”
On her first project, she worked in downtown Boston on the Devonshire, which for two decades was the tallest cast-in-place concrete building in New England, and later she worked on 399 Boylston St. in the Back Bay, along with some historic renovations. “I loved working on high-rises—that was the most exciting thing I’d done,” she recalls.
Eager to advance her career, Pinck took a year off in the mid-1980s to earn her MBA at Simmons College. “After working in the field with all men, I found myself in a brutal boot camp with all women. I learned how to cram; I read books on masonry and read code books.”
Pinck earned her MBA in 1986, the same year she passed the oral exam to become the first woman to receive the Boston ABC building license.
All of Pinck’s effort early in her career led to work on the MWRA Boston Harbor Project and the Big Dig, two of the nation’s largest public work projects. “These incredible public works projects allowed Jennifer to shine and highlighted her incredible abilities to manage complicated projects, negotiate complex mitigation agreements and assist communities and businesses impacted by these projects,” said Marianne Connelly, who worked with Pinck on the Boston Harbor project at the MWRA, where she recently retired as senior program manager. “[Pinck] managed these projects with grace, respect and a deep commitment to all stakeholders.”
For the Boston Harbor project, Pinck relied on writing skills learned from her father, who was a leg man for the New Yorker’s A.J. Liebling before writing his own espionage memoirs. For the MWRA, Pinck wrote RFP that under state law was specific enough to buy concrete, but not specific enough to show the team was constructing a concrete batch plant. “Public procurement requires being very strategic and careful in soliciting favorable pricing,” she says.
Today, Pinck’s employees and contractors alike say her effective communication and consensus-driven management style helps her elicit cooperation from her team. Joe Albanese, president of Commodore Builders, says “Jennifer drives consensus, which is different than seeking consensus … she’s not passive.”
Pinck & Co. project manager Larry Berger says she’s engaged in her employees’ work without micromanaging. “She gets an update on the big picture and allows the team to manage the project,” he says. “There’s no second guessing and she’s always available as a resource if we’re up against something.”
Pinck says she will stay at Pinck & Co. “as long as I am having fun.” The late-blooming entrepreneur isn’t done innovating. “I have ideas,” she says with a glimmer in her slate-blue eyes. “I’m constantly thinking of new clients and new projects.” But Pinck, who lives in South Boston with her wife, Kelle, is beginning to imagine life beyond construction. She loves painting landscapes with heavy architectural elements. “I have been learning to play with color using simple buildings to explore color,” she says.