Interview: Carolyn Ellison

Go to content

Interview: Carolyn Ellison

Published by Edith Yanez in Interview · 31 October 2021
Interview: Carolyn Ellison
This week we interviewed Carolyn Ellison. Carolyn is the connection between our community and large corporations. She worked for Turner Construction for many years, today she is at Clark Construction. Carolyn deals with Corporate Social Responsibility, Economic Impact Strategies, Social Justice Advocate and is also an Assistant Professor at Morgan State, Rutgers, Touro, and Pace Universities.

1. What are, in your opinion, the biggest challenges for Hispanics (men and women) in construction?

A few of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, are:
   a.  Language Barriers -- the reality is that more often than not, GC management staff and leaders do not speak Spanish and while the expectation is that business will be conducted in English, quite often nuances and details get lost in translation.  When this happens, situations and challenges unfortunately often escalate in a negative direction.

   b. Education -- contractors (and their teams) while demonstrating excellence in execution on job sites, many times they are missing critical skills like proficiency in reading plans.  Challenging economic times so often translates to people working more to make ends meet and not having the luxury of taking the time and opportunity to invest in themselves and their skill sets.

   c. Financing, financing, financing

   2. What do you think would be the impact of President Biden's infrastructure plan on the Hispanic community working in construction, if approved?  

I am hoping that the infrastructure plan will result in more work, more economic development, and solid prosperous growth in both the individual subcontractor and small business market

   3. What should Hispanic entrepreneurs do to prepare for this infrastructure plan?

Hoping that firms will focus on partnering - figure out firms that they can enter into formal teaming, JVs and other legal partnerships to bring together and share complimentary skill sets, resources, etc. to pursue and execute on more work. Certainly, it's tremendous when interests in the same communities are able to team up and work together but there are also significant advantages to teaming with a majority firms to pursue government work. Government contracts will always have utilization requirements and teaming agreements allow for shared risks, resources (including bonding) to win work. These agreements ultimately serve to build the portfolio and credibility of smaller firms.

   4. How do you see the future of construction? Is Artificial Intelligence (robots) something we should worry about, or should we see it as business opportunities?

Innovation and technological investment would be welcome infusions into construction.  The industry is certainly not known as being at the forefront of technical leadership.  Given the much-needed infrastructure attention, I think we are a long way off from having the need for labor and construction expertise being replaced or threatened.

   5. What would be your recommendation to a Hispanic woman, who is trying to break through in construction? Just do it!  Seek out mentors and supporter who are able to commit and support your journey.

About Carolyn Ellison:

Carolyn Ellison spearheads the Citizen and Community Engagement Initiative for the Mid-Atlantic region in the construction industry. Her responsibilities include UBE involvement, workforce and youth development, and corporate social responsibility.

In her job, Ellison serves as the director of communications for strategic clients, political interests and advocacy organizations in the region, including the Board of Directors of the Washington Metropolitan Airport Authority (MWAA) and the Washington DC Department of General Services [ DC DGS].
Carolyn is recognized as a community leader who gets things done, developed and ran the first Turner Construction School of Construction Management en Espanol, and has created several collaborative relationships to drive economic growth and serve those in need at DMV.

Recognition from those you have worked with include:

• 2020 Washington Business Journal: Homenajeado a líder empresarial de minorías, premio a la filantropía corporativa
  • 2020 Maryland and Metro Washington Minority Contractors Association: Líder de construcción principal más inclusivo
  • Corporación de Desarrollo Económico Anacostia 2019: Premio Impacto Económico
  • Programa de mentores de ACE DC 2019: Premio Impact
• Casa del Pacto 2018: Premio Virginia Williams
  • Asociación Nacional Hispana de la Construcción 2018: Premio Vanguard
  • 2018 AGC of DC: Mejor empresa sostenible
  • 2017 NAF Academy of Engineering: Premio a la próxima generación

Before working in the construction industry, Ellison spent more than 30 years building brands for for-profit and non-profit institutions. As a corporate branding and strategic consultant, she has managed various Nabisco brands and LVMH interests, Diageo Premium Distilled Liquors, a series of entertainment properties and the Scholastic book fairs.

With a strong commitment to serving others and supporting the development of the next generation, Carolyn also works and volunteers as an assistant professor at various institutions of higher education including Morgan State, Rutgers, Touro and Pace. His volunteer work for college students also includes co-founding B.E.S.T. tutoring program.

Before moving to DMV, she worked for the National Urban League and administered the mentor program of the African-American Executive Exchange Program (BEEP), that matched HBCU students with executives from the public, private, and government sectors.

Carolyn has a BA in telecommunications from Michigan State University (MSU) and an MBA from the University of Michigan. She is a member of the boards of directors of the Urban League of Greater Washington, the Hispanic Contractors Association, the National Association of Minority Contractors, the Washington Improv Theater, and his alma mater's Master of Science in Market Research Advisory Board.

(571) 332-0083 -
1050 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 500. Washington DC 20036
Designed by InTown Connection
Back to content