As part of our series, CRE Future Leaders, we caught up with Aleisha Jaeger, senior engineering project manager for the Kerry Group, an Ireland-based taste and nutrition company. She is responsible for the implementation of large capital projects, assisting with the growth and development of the central engineering/real estate team for North America.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I’m the oldest of three in a family of five and grew up mostly in the Midwest (Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota). We moved quite a bit and spent much of our time on road trips and outdoors skiing, hiking, camping and tubing. I come from a family with deep roots in education and am the first to graduate with an engineering degree. I graduated high school in a tiny town of 6,000 in Minnesota and after high school I found a home at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. From there a civil engineering degree resulted in various roles in construction management and development opportunities in real estate. Marquette became the foundation of my personal and professional relationships today and I stay heavily involved in mentor programs, alumni chapters, CIRCLES events, and I am on the Young Alumni Leadership Council. I’m often encouraging young engineers to help expand their connections through professional development, offering myself as a resource for them as well.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
For the majority of my life I wanted to become a doctor. Once in high school, though, I realized that biology and chemistry weren’t my strong suits nor the sight of blood so alternatives had to be considered. My uncle told me that since I was good at math and physics I should consider engineering.
How did you get your start in the industry?
In the freshman engineering class at Marquette they had speakers from industry that shared what they do with their education. A developer spoke about building construction and I decided then and there I would work for them and that construction was what I wanted to do. A few months later I was working for them via the cooperative education program and spent the next four years learning more about construction, design, engineering, real estate, development, financing, contracting and many other aspects than I ever could have imagined. I highly encourage students to participate in co-op programs if they have the opportunity. It’s a great way to get hands-on work experience and knowledge while still completing your education.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have the support and guidance of many great mentors over the years with some maybe having more impact or influence specifically in my career than others. From executive leaders to site managers and field foreman and laborers, I’m a firm believer that people cross your path for a reason and you can learn something from every single one of them. Advice I often give to those newer in their career is never be afraid to ask questions and learn from those around you. We often think because of our roles, we have to know everything and it couldn’t be further from the truth.
What does a day in the life of Aleisha Jaeger look like?
My day typically starts with breakfast with the kids usually with the small one demanding I sit next to her while she eats her pancakes simultaneously giving sticky syrup hugs. After coffee and sending the kids off to school, I’m usually in some form of constant motion the rest of the day. Currently I’m in charge of the engineering and construction portion of Kerry’s largest capital investment in North America. At any given time I have nearly 200 people onsite among nearly 30 contractors and a whole crew of my own team members which I consider my direct clients. At this stage of the project there are regular discussions to find solutions to challenges whether that be build-ahead inventory needs because refurbished equipment had an issue or finding additional temporary power sources because a utility has a delay due to weather or inspecting a field condition due to a quality or safety need. I’m constantly on-the-go problem-solving one thing or another, so ending the day with my family is key to maintaining balance. I prefer to end the day with dinner with my two lovely little girls, learn about their day and get some snuggles before we all head early to bed.
What do you like most about your job?
In construction/engineering management there is never a dull day. I’m constantly learning and challenged. There is nothing quite like the humming of a jobsite full of people working together to solve problems. Best of all though, I get to have a small role in what is a hugely collaborative effort by hundreds of people that will leave a long lasting impact on the business, the community, our customers and the lives of people who not only use our products but work in our facility.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
I hope to further build my career internally and externally as an example for other young women in the engineering and construction aspect of the industry. I hope that my experience and unique background will be valuable in growing our central engineering structure and help develop other project managers, share knowledge and establish best practices globally. I also want to continue with mentoring and volunteer efforts internally and externally like participation in leadership with CREW Chicago where I’m the co-chair of the CREW Careers committee and my participation it the Marquette University Engineering Mentor/Mentee program for the fourth year in a row.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
My older daughter has recently joined the ranks of competitive swimming so if we’re not spending our Saturdays at a swim meet we are usually trying to be outside at the park, at museums (Museum of Science and Industry is one of our favorites) or trying to catch up with some of our friends. The girls and I love to entertain, play games and host epic dance parties of the nine- and six-year-old variety.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do hope to go next?
Being a global company, I’ve had the opportunity to travel with Kerry to Europe as well as squeeze in some of my own personal travel. The most amazingly adorable place I’ve visited recently was Ribeauvillé located in the Alsace-Lorriane region of France. It was one of the most charming villages right from Grimm’s Fairy tales. I can’t wait to go again and take the kids. Australia and New Zealand are on my bucket list as well but that will be a month-long adventure when that one occurs.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Lesley Netzer, engineering consultant with Kimley-Horn because in addition to her leadership role in the national retail sector of Kimley-Horn, she’s an amazing role model and manager to her entire team.