As children, most of us think we know what we want to be when we grow up. And a few actually stick with their original plan. For Jwan Shawkat, site visits with her mom exposed her to the construction industry early. Yet her career path didn’t necessary start there.
Jwan is Director of Corporate Controls at E2 Optics, and a 20-year construction industry veteran. As the daughter of a structural engineer, Jwan sometimes traveled with her mother to constructions sites and learned early on the value of perseverance and adhering to deadlines.
We recently sat down with Jwan to discuss her path and the importance of finding a work/life balance.
E2 Insider: Jwan, what led you to a career in the construction industry?
Jwan Shawkat: I spent my childhood on construction sites a lot with my mom. I also saw my mom away a lot for work and this initially caused me to not like construction and not want to have anything to do with it. As a child, you want all your mom’s attention. And with a structural engineer as a mom, I wasn’t able to have her 24/7. So when I grew up and went off to college, I pursued a degree in computer engineering. As I started to find my path, I found I was gravitating back to construction. I started to build cost and scheduling reports and taught myself how to build metric reports. The more I built, the more I found I really loved what I was doing. I loved being a part of something big, something that would have a true impact on the world.
E2 Insider: What led you to want to work here at E2 Optics?
Jwan Shawkat: I was drawn to E2 Optics because of Kristi Alford-Haarberg. When I met her, I was impressed by her ability to lead a company in such a male driven industry. As I spoke with her, I loved that she was building a leadership team which is balanced between men and women. It wasn’t a company with just a female CEO, but females were in leadership positions. I find this to be rare in the construction industry. I also was impressed with how employees are encouraged to be their authentic selves. There’s no judging here and everyone is allowed to have a voice and that voice is heard.
E2 Insider: How would you describe the culture here at E2?
Jwan Shawkat: E2’s culture is unlike any other I’ve experienced. We operate on trust and transparency. Career development is so important. We don’t just look to fill a position; we look to find E2 Lifers. Those who want to grow within E2 to help us succeed today and build upon tomorrow. Many companies say they have career pathing, but few invest in it. Here at E2 we walk the walk. Our owners have invested in training for employees and that truly helps build camaraderie among our team. The longer you work with someone, the more trust you develop and the easier the tasks become as you understand each other and how you work. The friendships which have developed outside of work are a shining example of what we mean when we say Family First. Coworkers know each other and their families, they are excited for each other’s successes and are empathetic for each other’s losses. E2 Optics really is unlike any other company I’ve ever worked for.
E2 Insider: As a mother of two young girls, how do you show them how to balance work and life?
Jwan Shawkat: For me, I want my girls to know the importance of having a work ethic and understanding the need to meet deadlines, to be accountable. I try to show them this by my work style. I have respect for E2 Optics and my role within this company. That role involves from time to time the need to travel or work late. My girls see me working hard. Through this, they are learning that work isn’t the 9 to 5 so many movies and TV shows make it out to be. Rather, work ebbs and flows. I try to show my girls the importance of taking time for oneself to focus on your mental and physical health. I also am a present figure in their lives. When I can, I’m cheering them on from the sidelines of a lacrosse match or helping them with their homework. I ensure that the weekends are family time. And that its not about the amount of time together but the quality of time together. To be present and not distracted. My hope is that as they grow into women, they understand it’s important to respect themselves and to be accountable for their responsibilities.
E2 Insider: Looking back on your career thus far, what advice would you give younger Jwan?
Jwan Shawkat: Don’t underestimate your capabilities, use your voice more often and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. I would also like to tell her, that I’m proud of her with all her accomplishments over the last 20 years.
E2 Insider: What advice do you have for anyone looking to build a career in our industry?
Jwan Shawkat: Be courageous and step outside your comfort box. Know you have a voice and do not be afraid to use it. Ask questions and remain true to yourself. Take courses to advance your skill set, learn from your coworkers and trust your gut. And most importantly, always be your authentic self!
For more information about current career opportunities at E2 Optics, click here.