Senior Estimator Claudia Garcia is someone who finds joy in both the quantitative and creative sides of her job. Her strong analytical nature and curiosity makes her dive into the what, why and how of a construction job, helping her visualize the design and key architectural features of the finished product.
“I don’t know, there’s something very dorky and thrilling about getting a brand new set of drawings,” she said. “Feeling so excited about the possibilities is my first reaction when I get something of substance. The second is that Sabre is really going to kick ass on the project and then figuring out the best way to achieve that. But they all sort of start with a spark.”
From a very young age, Claudia had a natural affinity for planning, architecture and building things.
“My love for architecture began in middle school in Arizona,” she said. “Each year we would take a field trip to Taliesin West, home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin.” Built in 1937, the property served as the architect’s desert laboratory and a winter home in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in Scottsdale.
“I just fell in love with Wright’s building style and the sense of place that he created. Even at that age, I would use foam boards to build little mock-up homes of his creations.”
It was the beginning of a career trajectory that was grounded on a foundational construction education, followed by on-the-job training in a number of industry roles, hard work and the right opportunities at the right time.
Once she hit high school, Claudia decided on the building trades rather than the architectural path.
“There is something about building and getting my hands dirty that I really enjoy. I started in the building trades program where I could compete in carpentry.” During the summer, she held internships in the field building houses, where she learned plumbing, framing and drywall, and how to understand blueprints and put them together into a 3D model.
Local companies would donate materials to help sponsor the high school’s carpentry competition. At Claudia’s last competition in high school, 3G Construction, residential framing and lumber supplier, offered her a job.
“So I graduated with a job in the construction industry and the rest is history. My last paper for Building Trades was about what we wanted to with our training, and I wrote one about being a cost estimator.
“I think that hard work really speaks for itself, so when I moved to Austin, I started off as Assistant PM for a mechanical company. It was there I really learned the technical part of construction—the guts and what makes a building functional. That has become very useful now, because I have a real sense of what’s going on behind the walls.” Eventually, Claudia moved on to her second mechanical company, AirCraft, which she considers her big break. She started out building software templates for their estimates and ended up the lead estimator.
“It was where I started estimating under my greatest mentor to date. He pushed me out of my quiet and reserved nature to be more outgoing. I started implementing more and more processes as I became the lead estimator. I ran that department and brought on a few people to support and built a really great team. Eventually one of our clients, Burt Group, recruited me.”
Claudia joined Sabre Commercial five years ago, building her reputation until she became a key contact for many of our top clients. Two of her favorite completed projects are the Aristocrat Technologies corporate finish out and Treehouse Pediatrics, a ground up medical clinic designed with kids in mind.
“I would say on Aristocrat we really showed great craftsmanship and worked well with the architects, landlord and client to achieve a beautiful result. My favorite ground up project has been Treehouse Pediatrics, which was fantastic. The finishes were amazing, the client was easy to interface with and they worked with a great design team and contractor. In order to get that project off the ground, we did a massive value engineering exercise to find savings for the client.
“I like the aspect of thinking outside the box to get the same or similar results. This is where our partnerships with our subcontractors really come into play – reaching out to them and collaborating on finding options. Being able to provide quality choices to the client makes me feel more intertwined with the design element of the project.”
Since we just celebrated Women in Construction Week, BUILD! asked Claudia her advice to young women who are joining what is still a predominantly male-focused industry.
“Be yourself. I think that sometimes it’s really easy to quiet your voice in a room full of men or a room full of people that are older or more seasoned than you. I voice my opinion based on the material provided and my experience. But I continue to open myself up for correction or mentorship.
“You have to pay it forward. Find a good mentor, but when you can, be a good mentor to somebody else. Here at Sabre, having Nicole and Allyssa as PMs is a positive sign. When I started, there were no women in those kind of leadership positions. I do definitely think it’s changing and that even the way that we are empowered is changing because industry ideals are being modernized to offer a more inclusive table. There is still work to be done, obviously.”
When asked about industry trends Claudia called out interior design sensibility and burgeoning technology.
“I really care about the human experience inside of a building and think that that’s been of interest more and more. The 9-5 work week as we know it doesn’t exist anymore, so I think we are creating spaces that are more comfortable and have softer touches–upholstered spaces, really beautiful lounges and break rooms can really enhance collaboration and the quality of the office experience.
“We can run a project now off of an iPad. The days of lugging around enormous plans are in the past. Technology is making us more effective and agile. Austin is bringing us so much technology and tech companies to the area and I’m excited to see how that innovates our industry.”
Claudia comes from a closeknit family who immigrated to Arizona from Mexico when she was seven-years-old.
“I come from a pretty small family. My brother Cesar and sister Dina—they’re younger than me. They live in Phoenix. My mom also lives in Arizona and my dad lives in Mexico. We are really close and were really close growing up. Being an immigrant family made us fight for each other—especially me, being the oldest. Dina and Cesar were one and two, but it was different for me being seven and I think that made me alert and more vigilant on their behalf.”
Claudia is in a very happy stage of her life, and is hitting a big personal milestone this year. She’s getting married this summer to the love of her life, Tory Lindsay.
“I’m really excited about getting married. It’s in the planning stage. We’re getting married on the 4th of July. Hopefully that way we won’t forget our anniversary. I thought, this is going to be so fun! And then I realize it’s just collecting quotes, qualifying them and bidding a project for the next three months. The project of my life.”