Skip to main content

Women in Construction

A conversation with Jessica Hanson

HansonTo celebrate Women in Construction Week and Women's History Month, Glass Magazine sat down with a few women in the industry to discuss their experiences. Assistant Editor Rachel Vitello spoke with Jessica Hanson, sales manager with Heartland Glass, a division of Brin Glass Company, formerly known as Brin Northwestern Glass Co.

Jessica Hanson

Heartland Glass, Sales Manager

Q: How did you get started in the glass industry? What drew you to the industry?

A: I was a high school junior when a class I was taking matched you with an office to work at. I started at Star Quality Glass. I was basically there to help with ordering and other general office duties. This became more and more the longer I was there. I graduated from high school and wanted more of the glass industry.

I applied to Brin Northwestern Glass as they were a vendor of Star Quality Glass. I had experience with their customer service department when I would order glass. I started there as a customer service rep. Within a couple of years, I was promoted to Distribution Estimating where I handled bids going out to our dealers for commercial aluminum projects. I ended up leaving for a couple of years.

Doug Nelson heard that I was looking for something after I had my son. He offered me some options. I could go to St. Germains Glass and be a drafter, or they would take me back to help customer service on a part time basis. During that time, my old estimating job opened again, and I was quick to apply. Everything fell in place, and I remained the distribution estimator for the next ten years. In January of 2015, I accepted a contract sales/estimator position with our Heartland Glass division. This was a little closer to home and a new opportunity. I’ve loved every position I have held within the Brin organization and look forward to more.

Q: How long have you been in the industry?

A: As of last fall, I have a total combined 20 years of service to Brin. I could not think of a better Glazing Contractor to work for. In total, I have been working in the industry for around 25 years. I’m not that old!

Q: How have working conditions changed since you've been in the industry (specifically, at your company)?

A: We don’t have the old Okie Data printers to deal with. When I had started at Brin in 1999, they had just moved to a computerized system. Occasionally we had to revert to writing orders manually. Technology has been the largest change! Everything is so much faster and much more economical now. We are not completely paperless yet, but I think we’ll get there in the next couple of years.

Hanson at a NAWIC event
Hanson (third from left) at a NAWIC event 

Q: How has the number of women in the industry changed since you've been working (specifically, at your company)?

A: When I started, most of the women had customer service rolls or administrative rolls within Brin. I think there was one female sales rep at the time. That has changed. We have several women that hold Sales, Estimating, Drafting and even shop fabrication and field roles now.

Q: What does the glass/construction industries have to offer women?

A: The sky is the limit! Especially nowadays! I have not dealt with any discrimination in a very long time because I am a woman. I had one customer a long time ago try to tell me I could not do my job because I was a woman. We had a nice conversation, and from then on had a very good working relationship! Sometimes you must prove yourself a little more. With time, I think that will go away.

Q: What are the benefits of being in the glass industry as a woman?

A: Women tend to be organized and focus on attention to detail. We bring diversity as well. Women can do anything a man can do and I think we like to prove that sometimes, so we are always striving to be the best.

Q: How have conditions changed since the pandemic for women in the industry?

A: During the pandemic, if you were part of the office, you probably worked from home. For some of us, this was amazing! We were able to multi-task. At lunch you could prep dinner or put a load of clothes in the laundry. I know my house was always clean. I was also able to focus on work more.

The difficult part of that for me was “shutting off” work mode. I would still be checking emails at bedtime. I was one of the employees that working from home was much more productive. Moving back to the office was a transition as well. I think we are just able to acclimate to our surroundings.

Q: Overall, how has your experience been in the industry?

I love this industry! We are a close-knit bunch of people. I have always felt welcomed no matter what. Our president/CEO, Bill Sullivan is one of the best! He pushes us to be our best and encourages development.

Q: Is there anything else about this topic you would like to add?

A: As a huge supporter of NAWIC (National Association of Women in Construction) in the last few years I have seen more opportunities for growth in our industry as well as a spotlight on the women of the glass industry. This is amazing to be a part of!


Rachel Vitello

Rachel Vitello

Rachel Vitello is the Assistant Editor & Researcher for Glass Magazine and Window + Door.