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Posted: April 01, 2014

Executive Edge: Maja Rosenquist

Mortenson Construction VP toughened by fishing experience

Lynn Bronikowski

Maja Rosenquist, 39, joined Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction in 1994 as an intern in the Seattle office’s estimating department.  In 2012 she was named vice president and general manager of Denver operations – the highest ranking woman on the operational side.

Today she oversees a Colorado team of 500 and has been involved in the construction of the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Justice Complex, Exempla St. Joseph’s new hospital, Exempla Good Samaritan Hospital in Lafayette and several other projects.

How did you get interested in the construction industry?

My dad’s a builder and was in the construction industry when I was very young, so I think there was always a strong appreciation for the craft. What could be created by people was impressive.

What was your first job?

My dad started commercial fishing in 1979.  I started fishing with him when I was 11 and worked all through high school and college – that’s how I paid for college. It was the experience of a lifetime – fishing in the Bering Sea out on the Aleutian chain.  That definitely has formed a lot of my experience in terms of being in a very male-dominated industry very early in my life. I was raised in conditions that were a lot more extreme both in physical and gender proportions. When I went into construction, it was just second nature.

What do you like most about being in construction?

I love the people aspect of our business. It’s the people who build these projects. And I love being in Denver because it is such a small community. You’re doing work based on your values as a person, which is pretty cool.

How did Mortenson fare through the recession?

We’ve always been strategic about having counter-cyclical businesses, so when our geographic groups were getting hit hard by the recession, there were other businesses that we were involved in – wind, solar and the federal government – that were actually doing well. So we had 30-35 team members who were traveling during the recession. We’ve brought them all back and in 2013 we did about $425 million worth of work, which was up substantially from 2012.

How do you find balance between career and family life?

I’m very proud of the fact that I’m a working mom. It’s harder to find working moms in our business at high levels because it’s hard to find balance. It’s a constant challenge and takes constant discipline. Obviously it takes a strong partnership with my husband to make sure we’re in good communication about who’s going to be home when and sharing responsibilities. With any dual working couple with kids, the husband takes a more active role, which I think is good.

Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.

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