1960s-era photo from the Reliable archives.

Celebrating Women in Construction

Reliable Shares insights

Since its founding in 1920, women have played integral roles at Reliable in supplying USA-produced fire protection products to the construction industry. In March, Reliable celebrated Women in Construction Week by sharing profiles of several employees who represent some of the best and brightest of our workforce. Here is a more in-depth look into their careers, advice, and insights.

Sonya Cauthen, Senior Industrial Engineer 

Sonya Cauthen’s goal is to make the manufacturing floor more efficient, including developing and deploying training, conducting and analyzing time studies, and creating production KPI (key performance indicator) dashboards. 

Cauthen reflected on her work at Reliable. “There’s always some new challenge to tackle. I enjoy the process improvement aspect of it, finding ways to make things better, easier, or more efficient. It’s also cool to see things go from a concept on paper to being implemented and come to life with real people and equipment.”

When asked about college, Cauthen noted, “It was tough at times. Many long nights of studying or writing papers, summer school, some tears, and lots of prayers.” To help manage the rigors of Clemson’s Industrial Engineering program, she tapped into a support network. ”I was in college at a time when there were quite a few women pursuing degrees in engineering. The support system was there to stay encouraged and not give up when things got hard.”

Cauthen’s advice for other aspiring professionals? “I would tell girls interested in a STEM or construction career not to let the fact that it may be a male-dominated industry deter them from pursuing this field. It’s ok to be the only girl in the room. Connect with mentors or find ways to investigate the STEM/construction area that’s a good fit for you and your interests or skills. Females can bring a new and distinct perspective that will only elevate the field in the future.”

Victoria LaCoste, Sales Operations Coordinator

Victoria LaCoste is not one to mince words. “I love my job. Training and career development are passions of mine, so to have a job that allows me to help support the growth of hundreds of individuals within our company… it’s a dream come true.” LaCoste supports distribution centers throughout North America with process improvement, systems support, and training.

Despite being early in her career, LaCoste’s experience in fire protection is lifelong. “Growing up, my father owned a fire sprinkler contracting and fabrication business, so I guess you can say fire protection was in my blood.” Her dad was a considerable influence on her values, too, “My father taught me to never compare myself and my work to anyone else’s. Comparison can be a slippery slope that can lead to complacency or burnout. Staying focused on you, your goals, your attitude, and your efforts alone will always lead you to become the best version of yourself.”

LaCoste gives this career advice regardless of gender or industry: “Take every opportunity that comes your way; each provides you value and exposure to distinct roles, jobs, companies, sales volumes, people, resources, markets, and processes. You’d be surprised at what you are capable of and how well-rounded you can become when you say yes.”

Stephanie Assouline, Regional Sales Manager 

Stephanie Assouline supports customers throughout Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. “Our team takes our customers and employer to heart.” Although Assouline’s role at Reliable is new, she has an extensive steel pipe and fire protection background. 

Assouline credits her parents for shaping her professional work ethic. “My mother and father worked hard, took pride in, and excelled at their jobs. By observing them, I learned to care for and perform any task at hand to the best of my ability. They were honest and ethical in their work and in all aspects of life. We had little growing up, so we were grateful for anything and everything.”

Assouline entered the fire sprinkler industry working with steel pipe. “At first, the core business was steel pipe, which we then developed into fire protection. Before starting, I just couldn’t get around how I could be excited about steel pipe. But as it turned out, I loved it. Everything is interesting once you learn enough about it.”

When asked if women are treated equally in the construction industries, Assouline observed, “More and more so. When I first began working in the construction industry, that wasn’t the case. I did not resent it, though—I just worked extra hard to prove myself. I understood the perception and made sure to educate myself in the industry and offer the best service I could to my customers.”

Sarah H. Bekibele, BIM Specialist 

Sarah Bekibele’s interests in fine art, architecture, product design, and creating 3D models of her ideas led her to study BIM. Additionally, the challenge offered by a high school class, Transportation Technology/Small Engines, inspired her confidence in impacting the world around her. “I got a taste of hands-on engineering. We made rockets from scratch with shop tools and took engines apart. I never stopped wanting to figure things out and improve the world around me.”

Bekibele is glad to be a part of the evolution of drafting at Reliable, converting legacy product designs into digital assets for contractors and designers around the world to use in their construction documents. “It is notable to me how well Reliable is able to adapt to the changing landscape of the fire protection industry over time. I think that’s partly why we have maintained a successful company for over 100 years. To take part in the data translation process is exciting to me because I get to help turn physical products into beautiful and functional digital resources.” 

She is a member of the technical services department, and she works closely with product development engineering and the CAD team as well. “I am grateful to be able to access great minds around me that can answer the tough questions. The depth of experience available within this company is invaluable.” 

Bekibele’s advice for women in technology fields? “Do not underestimate the utility of imagination, never stop learning and never give up.”

Rebecca McIntyre, Regional Sales Manager

A chance meeting with Kevin Fee in 2007 opened a crack in the door that led to Rebecca McIntyre’s career in the fire protection industry. Just 13 years later, McIntyre had risen through the ranks to become regional sales manager for Florida, the Caribbean, and South America. 

McIntyre’s professional philosophy is simple: “As a salesperson, honesty will not always get you the sale, but it will earn you respect.” Simple words, but not always so easy to put into practice in a highly competitive world. McIntyre’s parents planted the seeds of her success and the foundation of her business ethics. “My parents both had a big influence on my work ethic. I grew up in a farming community where hard work was an expectation. Early on, they instilled in me the importance of responsibility, accountability, and integrity.”

McIntyre’s commitment to continued learning, growth, and development of others positioned her for her recent promotion into management. “Over my time at Reliable, I have learned so many more aspects of the company than I expected to when I joined the sales team 14-plus years ago. I have learned not only sales, but also about manufacturing, operations, products, design, leadership, and much more.” When asked what her future holds, McIntyre’s response was succinct: “I look forward to being able to help others grow in the same way.”

Serving the Industry

Without exception, each of the women profiled in Reliable’s 2021 Women in Construction Week brings dedication, skill, and a passion to their work in providing life and property-saving products to the construction industry. This passion and dedication serve as an inspiration and elevates all of us.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Jennifer Kouyoumjian is a technical visual communicator. Her passion is communicating about engineered products and the people who create and manufacture them in STEM industries since 1992. She has been with Reliable for two years. John Corcoran is the digital marketing manager at Reliable Automatic Fire Sprinkler Co., Inc. He has worked in marketing and commercial operations roles in the fire sprinkler industry since 1993.

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