Benjie Hayek was working for Walsh Construction when Rosalind Roberson met her for the first time in 2011. Hayek quickly made quite an impression.
Hayek was representing Walsh at Strategy Stakeholder meetings for a project on Interstate 94. The company had a $64 million contract for the project and a 10% Disadvantaged Business Enterprise goal.
Thanks to Hayek’s attentiveness, Walsh exceeded its 10% goal for small businesses — minority and women-owned firms certified by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation — on the project.
“I applaud Benjie for her work ethic, compassion for people and dedication to the WisDOT DBE Supportive Services Program,” said Roberson, who is Civil Rights Urban Outreach Strategist at WisDOT.
Hayek is now a transportation-construction engineer at Oneida Engineering Solutions in the greater Milwaukee area. She got her start in the industry thanks to her sister, who in 1988 was working as an operator and foreman at Payne & Dolan and called Hayek one day to ask if she would be interested in working on the road as an operator.
“The project that I would be assigned to was in need of a minority or female operator to meet the DBE requirement and, at that time, although still not politically correct, I was the token female,” Hayek said.
“The hours were long — 14 hours a day — the days were extremely hot, and this was a new experience — so why not? This is where it all began.”
Hayek has been with OES for a little over a year. In her current role, she works as a consultant in construction and project management.
“What I like most about my job is seeking out projects, preparing (notice of intents), winning the project and then overseeing the project,” she said. “This process gives me a sense of accomplishment and being able to work effectively with contractors to provide a quality and successful project to the owner and the surrounding community.”
In addition to her job at OES, Hayek — along with her husband, Neil Hayek — is a volunteer at Engineers Without Borders, a group that works with places around the world to find answers for their infrastructure needs. The Hayeks travel to undeveloped countries, live among locals and offer training on building bridges and other structures.
“(Our) passion lies in looking at the world in all its light and dark and finding ways to help others,” Hayek said.