Gail White: Onward + Upward

insight

Gail White: Onward + Upward

Dec 30, 2020

The DAVIS logo was created with the onward + upward ethos in mind. It is both our legacy and our vision for the future. We interviewed 20 people in '20 to find out what onward + upward means to them (along with some other interesting details you might not pick up on at the jobsite). Keep up with this series to get more insight into the DAVIS team!

Meet Gail White, Estimating Executive

Gail White helps DAVIS land the most high-profile construction projects in the DC area. We sat down with her (over a phone call) to talk about her organization tips, her thrill-seeking tendencies, and more. Keep reading to learn more about Gail!

LIFE AT DAVIS

So how long have you been working at DAVIS?
Seventeen years as of October!

What's been the biggest factor in getting to where you are now as Estimating Executive?
Dedication to my job, my team, and DAVIS as a whole has been instrumental.

Take us through what you do day-to-day.
I mostly oversee a lot of our very complicated Core and Shell office buildings from an estimating standpoint, and handle the structural trades - Divisions 03(Concrete) and 05(Miscellaneous Metals). There's a lot of  coordination among team members and subcontractors to understand each step of the project, and that complexity drives me to do the best I can.

I also maintain and manage our bid processes. I used to work in the government, so I have a very organized and structured work style, and I created a manual and Standard Operating Procedure for these processes. 

I didn't know you worked for the government.
I put myself through college working for the Department of Agriculture! Organization is definitely one of my best strengths, and that's where I built that skill.

What's your best tip for staying organized?
Well, you might laugh, but I'm old-school. I like to put everything in binders! I like to see everything in a nice, neat fashion—so I print out every step of the bid, from the RFP to emails. My drawings have Post-It Notes all over them, and any update goes in the front of my binder.

What's been key in you building a long career at DAVIS?
The team and people that I work with are great, and we have a real camaraderie in the office. Also, I've never felt like I wasn't being acknowledged or recognized for hard work. It feels good to know that my work is appreciated, because I'm very passionate about my job, and it's been a great seventeen years. At DAVIS, I feel like I'm forever learning and growing. I take something away from every project.

You've been involved in DAVIS' Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) efforts. What has that been like?
I was on the DEI selection committee, choosing a partner to build our strategy with, and it was a great experience. We had a broad range of individuals with diverse personal experiences, which I think was really helpful. It's an area where we can definitely improve, and it means a lot that our leadership and company sees it as something important. 
 

LET'S GET PERSONAL

What's the best advice you've gotten in your life?
I've built a great relationship with Jim Dugan over the years, and he's taught me a lot. He told me, "Always be forthcoming with information. Don’t answer the question if you don’t know – just say you don’t know." I think that's a valuable lesson, because there's always more to learn. 

You mentioned putting yourself through college earlier. What was that like?
I graduated with my B.S in Construction Technology from The University of the District of Columbia--an HBCU! Working to put myself through school was difficult, but it taught me a lot about perseverance. I knew I had to hustle and go after what I wanted, so that's what I did.

Did you have any other jobs before that?
I actually worked at a McDonald's off of Georgia Avenue in DC, and I also worked in Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program. I was always busy!

Is there anything people don't know about you?
I love roller coasters, and I've also always wanted to go bungee jumping! I might be a little too scared to go skydiving, but I think I'm interested in that, too.

Wow, so you're really a thrill seeker.
I've been waiting for one of our project teams to invite me to climb one of our tower cranes! 

One last question – what does Onward + Upward mean to you?
To me, it means we need to work to do our best no matter what, and never give up. Even if we fall down, we've got to just get back up. We keep trying and trying until we get there.