Following Your Curiosity, Lessons from Distance Running and the Impact of Getting DBIA Certified as a Young Professional: An Interview with Mortenson’s Laura Wake-Ramos

Continuing our series profiling DBIA professionals, DBIA Digital Communications Specialist Kara Brown talked to Laura Wake-Ramos, AIA, NCARB, EDAC, DBIA, of Mortenson about her career and the impact design-build has had on her work so far.

Getting to Know Laura Wake-Ramos

professional headshot of Laura Wake-Ramos
Laura Wake-Ramos

Wake-Ramos first learned about DBIA as an architecture major at Penn State University when she joined a student chapter. Going into it, she didn’t know anything about design-build specifically, but the words “design” and “build” intrigued her. Joining the Penn State University student chapter of DBIA sparked her curiosity for construction and helped her find the path she’s on today. Wake-Ramos is a Business Development Manager and has been with Mortenson for eight years. Outside of work, Wake-Ramos loves spending quality time with friends and family, traveling and running marathons. 

Wake-Ramos will be one of the panelists for the opening keynote and will present on managing risk and innovation at the DBIA Federal Design-Build Symposium on Aug. 22 and 23. Say hello to Laura Wake-Ramos when you see her at Federal!

Brown: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Wake-Ramos: I live in the Washington, D.C., area in Northern Virginia. I’ve been in the area for six years now. Before that, I lived and worked in Chicago for two years, and before that, I was at school in Pennsylvania at Penn State University. I grew up in Connecticut, so I did a boomerang by starting in New England, going out West and then going more south. 

But overall, I love what I do. I align my work and life by bringing my personal values into my work and incorporating things I learn from work into my personal life.

Brown: Who is Laura outside of work?

Wake-Ramos: I like to think my friends and family would say I’m the same person inside or outside of work. And it’s funny because we do these personality profiles at work – Insights Discovery – and you have your conscious and less conscious personalities. Some people are different, but mine are the same. So science has confirmed I’m the same person inside and outside of work. 

I value high-quality relationships. With my coworkers, there’s that friendship with them through similar goals and personalities, and you find commonalities. A few of us started a running club, and then all of a sudden, out of the woodwork, there are all these other people who also enjoy running – and not just running but marathon running. I could have a whole one-hour conversation on the life lessons that come from running. 

Plus, having hobbies outside of work helps you be your best person at work. I’m the type of person who, if I put my time in, I will figure it out. And so that’s what endurance training is about. You’ve just got to get there and start running, and you’ll see the results on race day if you stick to it.

A group of young people, including Laura Wake-Ramos, at a running event in Washington, D.C.

Brown: What have been the career advantages of having a DBIA certification as a young professional?

Wake-Ramos: Our profession is very focused on years of experience – the number of years or the number of projects completed – but having these professional credentials early on in your career, you can show you have quality of experience, even if it’s not as much quantity. With the credential, you are more likely to be involved in these high-profile or cutting-edge design-build projects, so getting those credentials early on helps pay off right away.

That technical certification adds some credibility since I’m still a young professional. It tells people I know my stuff about design-build. I’ve taken the tests and studied the same thing others have. So I do think having those professional certifications after your name as a young professional gives you that additional boost to your resume.

Brown: You’re a member of the Mid-Atlantic Region Board as the Young Professional/Student Chapter Liaison. What do you do in that role?

Wake-Ramos: I work to rebuild our student chapters at Mid-Atlantic region universities (Virginia, Maryland and D.C.). We’re also rebuilding our Young Professionals Chapter. I’m learning from other regions that there’s this really cool synergy of young professionals helping to lead student engagement, so we can leverage young professionals who are alumni from specific schools who can be champions of their school.

Right now, we’re in this rebuilding stage; making connections to universities and students is important. In those universities, we are trying to get some excitement and momentum. We are explaining stuff like, “This is what DBIA is,” and, “These are opportunities that could be presented to you.” We are trying to start at least one student chapter this year in the Mid-Atlantic, which would be the perfect opportunity because we have the DBIA Design-Build Conference & Expo in the D.C. region this year. It would be cool to send some students from our region.

I love to give back to the students and share about design-build and opportunities in the field. There were people who did that for me, and now I get to be in those shoes and be that person. 

Brown: What is one piece of advice you would give someone studying architecture, engineering or construction that you wish someone had given you?

Wake-Ramos: You don’t need to have everything figured out early on. Follow what your curiosity is. What led me to leap from design to construction was thinking, “What am I curious about right now?” I’m curious about how work happens in the field. That’s been a theme over the years. I’m really interested in learning about business and real estate. There’s no bad education. Life is continuous education; when you stop learning, you stop growing. Just keep learning, and you’re going to figure it out. Continue to follow your curiosity, and it will eventually make sense.

Brown: What are you looking forward to the most at the Federal Symposium in a couple weeks?

Wake-Ramos: I’m looking forward to making connections on the federal side. There’s a lot of exciting conversation around design-build in the federal sector, so I’m looking to connect with those pushing for alternative delivery. That’s where I learn the most by talking and engaging with people.

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