Editorial: 10.02.2019

Dawn Mencin is Always on the Move

dawn mencin

In her job as operating engineer at Castle Contracting, Dawn Mencin covers a whole lot of ground.

On any given day, she might be operating a scraper pan to level a site, digging trenches with a backhoe to prep for a utility installation, or helping to maintain a landscape.

The variety of work activities appeals to Mencin, who’s skilled in operating at least eight different types of heavy equipment.

“I enjoy working on various jobsites and running different pieces of equipment,” she says. “It keeps you on your toes.”

Mencin didn’t anticipate this career path when she pursued a civil engineering degree at Washington University. As a single mother of three, however, it wasn’t feasible for her to gain the hands-on internship experience required to launch a civil engineering career.

“I didn’t have the criteria that everyone was looking for, so there weren’t a lot of job opportunities,” she says.

Instead, Mencin discovered a new vocation when someone confused “civil engineer” with “operating engineer” and suggested she apply for a construction apprenticeship.

She took that advice and earned a spot in the three-year apprenticeship program, which taught her about construction procedures and equipped her with hands-on experience in oiling and running heavy equipment.

That opened the door to a steady stream of project opportunities—from modest infrastructure improvements to major commercial developments. She even met her husband when both of them were working on an expansion project at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in 2004. He’s a geological engineer who works on aviation projects throughout North America.

Since joining the Castle team, Mencin has contributed to a diverse range of projects. “Castle is a really great place to work,” she says. “There’s no negativity, and everyone looks out for each other. I even got a Mother’s Day card from Castle, which meant a lot.”

Being one of a few women operators in the construction industry doesn’t faze Mencin, a self-described tomboy and the first female to compete on her high school wrestling team.

“I enjoy my job and I think I’m good at it,” she says.

Though she doesn’t necessarily consider herself a role model to other women in construction, Mencin does like to pass along important lessons she learned as an apprentice. “Back in the day, if you didn’t have a key to a piece of equipment, they assumed that you couldn’t run it, so I try to make sure women always have a set of keys,” she says.

And Mencin definitely doesn’t slow down when she’s off the clock. “According to my husband, I collect hobbies,” she laughs. “I ski, I surf, I sail, I box, I play the bagpipes.” She’s also a licensed helicopter pilot and previously boxed in the annual Guns ‘N Hoses charity event to support The BackStoppers.

Each winter, she serves as a member of the ski patrol at Hidden Valley Ski Resort, and she helps disabled athletes participate in adaptive snow sports as a volunteer for the Disabled Athletic Sports Association. She also likes to hang out with her three young grandchildren whenever possible.

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