International Women’s Day profile: Barbara Waldron
March 8th is International Women’s Day and this year, we are featuring Barbara Waldron, a Director on the OBOA Board of Directors and former Editor of The Journal.
Name: Barbara Waldron
Title and designation: Chief Building Official
Place of work: Municipality of Trent Lakes
Role at the OBOA: Director at Large
Why did you become a building official?
Becoming a building official was a second career choice for me. I actually just happened to be at the right place at the right time in my career. In addition to being a building official, I am also an architectural designer, which is my first passion. After working for a design company for 11 years, I decided to leave the company to start my own design business. I was hired by the Chief Building Official for the Township of Asphodel Norwood to complete some design work for interior office renovations and at the same time, the CBO was leaving the township. After working with him for a few weeks he asked if I had ever given any thought to becoming a building official. After this conversation I gave some serious thought to his question and did some research on the position and education requirements. I was pleased to learn that with some solid experience and Building Code knowledge in the construction industry qualified me to get my foot in the door.
The fact that I was a woman did not enter my mind when I considered diving into this new career. I realized it was an exciting opportunity to expand my love of architecture through code enforcement, and I could not pass this amazing opportunity up…best decision of my career!
Have you faced any challenges as a woman in this profession? If yes, can you explain.
Through my 21-year career as a building official I have not really experienced many challenges because I am a woman. Like in most situations, there are always a few people that you will have to deal with throughout your career but not too many. I believe if you treat people well, they will treat you well in return. I don’t want to be viewed or treated differently because I am a woman; but simply treated as an educated professional equal. Once that is established that is half the battle. There have been some challenges, but I just kept going, applying the code and the law. When you face challenges, it’s best to keep the end goal in mind, and eventually you will get compliance.
Why do you volunteer with the OBOA?
I took an active interest in the Liftlock Chapter by joining the executive and working with the other members to make positive changes to improve our Chapter. This became very personal and another passion for me. We rebuilt our chapter and became an all-inclusive chapter for building officials and associate members, a goal that I was pleased to achieve as part of the executive. I felt that I was ready to move onto a higher level of involvement with the association, so I joined the board with the ambition to make a difference for our members by working with other board members. This experience has been far more rewarding than I could have imagined, and I have enjoyed every moment.
Working as the editor of the OBOA Journal has been such a rewarding experience and my growth through this process has pushed me into challenging but very fulfilling territory. As I move out of the Journal portfolio and take on new tasks, I look forward to continuing making contributions to the OBOA for the benefit of all members. I will say that being on the board has made me find my voice, express my opinions and has built up my self confidence.
How do you balance career and family life?
My kids are adults now, so I don’t have the daily activities of looking after my family at this point in my life, so it is more about achieving a healthy work life balance. I will be the first to admit that I tend to work most hours of the day. Some would call me a workaholic, so my challenge at this juncture of my life is to put the tools down to ensure I am practicing self care for myself. My building official job, my design work and my OBOA work keep me pretty busy but my family is very important to me so I still work hard to ensure we have family time, it is all about time management and ensuring your priorities are set for each day. I consider myself so lucky to be able to have two careers at the same time and passionate about both.
How would you encourage women who want to get into the building industry?
I have been so fortunate to work with so many amazing women throughout my career as a building official. Many have influenced me and have taught me lessons along the way. What I can say about this career is that it is a hidden gem, not a typical career that is discussed often but very rewarding. It can be a little overwhelming at times but that can be said for any type of career. I have been a rural building official for my entire career so I have reaped the rewards of having to be educated in many different areas and I am involved throughout the entire project from the permit application to the final inspection. Seeing a building come to life through this process and being a significant player in the process to ensure it is safe for the occupants is very satisfying. There is such a magical feeling when you hand that occupancy certification to a new home over to a very excited owner that just makes me smile.
Since entering this career there are certainly many more women building officials, which is wonderful to see. Regardless of gender, if you are a goal orientated person with good problem-solving skills, enjoy learning and have an interest in the construction industry, I can tell you with certainty, this is an amazing career. This career choice will lead you to an incredible networking group of professional individuals with so much knowledge to share, and we are more than happy to share the knowledge, you just need to ask.
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