Shreela McFaddan first picked up a hammer when she was 3 years old. Her family was helping to build a cabin for her grandparents. The little girl just went for it and started hammering away on whatever she could find.
“When I was little, I always had the cars to take apart or put together, all those little kits that you get for little boys,” she remembers. “I always had that. I never had girl toys.”
McFaddan graduated from Rocky Mountain High School in Meridian, Idaho, in June and is now a construction management student at Boise State University.
She completed two years in the residential construction program at the Ada Professional-Technical Center, formerly Renaissance Professional-Technical Center, in Meridian.
McFaddan’s accomplishments include the student council, National Honor Society, Key Club and German Club, to name a few. While her aptitude for academics is strong, her passion for construction is stronger.
“I get my work done, for sure,” she says. “I do what needs to be done. I do it on time, but it’s not like I spend hours upon hours studying. Academics is something I enjoy while I’m learning, but from a young age, nothing like writing or reading or being a doctor has ever fascinated me. But construction — that whole building a building or a house — it just fascinates me. I love it.”
McFaddan seriously considered becoming an architect. But it was with some apprehension that she took one of the architecture program’s prerequisite classes, Residential Construction 1. Surprisingly, she loved it.
“I signed up for architectural drafting the next year,” the student adds, “but I lasted about a week in that class. I dropped it and ended up switching into the Residential Construction 2 class.
“I was out there on the job site working every other day with school, and I loved the hands-on part, and I loved being able to work with a group of people putting up a house.”
At 4 feet 11 inches tall, McFaddan says she quickly realized that construction management might be a better match.
“I am a small lady, and stuff does get tough sometimes. I knew that the construction trade would probably be tough for me … working on a job site. So I decided on construction management, because you still get to be on site, but you’re not having to do all the building.”
In that side of the business, she explains, “you plan the project, and you build it on paper, and you subcontract. But you’re still on the site, you’re managing everything, making sure everything is getting done.”
‘I’ve always stuck out’
McFaddan says being a petite female on the job has had its moments. “I know I’m little, but I can get the job done. I might need help with lifting something or getting wood off of a truck.
“My very first semester in residential construction was a little difficult because I was the only girl, and I was always asked, ‘Why are you not in the kitchen?’ I’d respond, ‘That is so offensive.’ I’d say, ‘I have an interest in construction, and that’s why I’m here.’ ”
On the job sites for the technical center program, SkillsUSA members are building homes for Habitat for Humanity, which is the focus of the tech center’s Community Service contest team.
SkillsUSA taught McFaddan a lot about herself and her capabilities, she says. Being a competitor on the team improved her public speaking skills. It also helped the student better understand her strengths and weaknesses when it comes to teamwork.
“In the construction management business, building and creating a project is a collaborative effort,” she explains. “You can’t do it by yourself, so you need to be able to work well with a team and group of other people.”
While building homes, students at the tech center are learning about Energy Star standards. Training in green construction is imperative, McFaddan says.
“I personally believe that it is a very important skill and knowledge base to have due to the current economy, as well as the current push for energy efficiency. We, as high school students going onto higher education and into careers, need to know how to build according to and work with these standards, because that is what the world today is doing.”
Born in Kolkata, India, McFaddan was adopted by her American single mother when she was 5 months old. While not a blood relative, her younger sister was also adopted from Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).
“Sometimes people think it’s weird, I guess,” she says of her unusual background. “They’re like, ‘You’re adopted from India?’ ‘Yes, I’m adopted from India.’
“It’s also different because I don’t have a dad. I haven’t really had any problems with getting any grief about it. Sometimes people try to be funny about it, but I just don’t take things like that to heart.”
McFaddan’s experience thus far should help on future construction sites where she doesn’t look like the typical manager.
“I’ve always stuck out,” she says. “I’d wear my construction pants, sweatshirts and jackets and boots through the hallway at school, with my hot-pink hard hat that I’d carry. I’m proud of who I am, and I have confidence in myself and my dreams. And, I know that if I go full forth with my best effort, that I’m going to be able to succeed with what I want, regardless of what anyone else says.”