Photo courtesy of Misty Blue Media
Cherylynn “Liberty” Rauls began her career in Atlanta, GA, as a quality assurance coordinator for non-profit utilities protection organization, where she oversaw a team charged with maintaining quality service standards. From there, she served in executive administrative roles of increasing responsibility before becoming a project manager at Repro Products, Inc., a firm specializing in CAD software, imaging solutions and document management. Her latest role is that of Business Development Manager at Construction Diversity Group (CDG), a Houston-based, self-performing general contracting firm with projects in Texas and Louisiana. Rauls is also on the board of Protect Your Area Code Foundation and a member of the Women’s Contractor’s Association. In the interview, she speaks with Beautifully Said about working in a male-dominated field and how she overcame tragedy shortly after her move to Houston.
You are a Business Development Manager for a fairly new, black-owned firm— Construction Diversity Group (CDG) in Houston. What led you to enter into a predominately male industry?
Before Houston, I worked for a company in Atlanta that basically did the blueprinting for construction and I got into that field doing laser scanning which is actually 3D documentation. From there, my brother who owns CDG graduated from U of H and started his own construction company. Since I had experience in the field as well as business development in prior companies he asked me to join him. I moved here a little over a year ago.
Were you interested in construction growing up?
No, I was not. When I was a child I thought sales and dealing with people is what I would do because I have such an outgoing nature. Construction was definitely not at the top of my list [Laughter].
Describe your day in construction for those who may not know exactly what it is that you do.
As a Business Development manager, my job is to seek and nurture relationships, give great customer service and to follow up. I am in charge of pursuing projects and to bring the projects to the company. So I basically start off with all production meetings that target clients like owners, general contractors or subcontractors to get us contracts.
What advice do you have for other women who want to get into the construction field?
I believe in this industry most people have in their minds this is what they want to pursue. So, for instance, I have an intern now who is with the company and eventually, she would like to become a project manager. I say get an internship with a company you would like to work for and if not, do it for the exposure or experience to get your feet wet. As a woman, my advice to give in a male driven industry is to make sure you carry yourself in a respectful and professional manner because we know at times things can be perceived in a different way. Stand your ground and don’t be afraid to speak up because people will try to walk over you and not let your voice be heard. Overall, make sure you keep those boundaries in line.
CDG is very much a part of the community. How important is it for you to be involved in that aspect?
Community involvement is one of the most important things because we’re all people and we need support. Every company needs support so start in your community. That’s how you give back. If you want to receive you have to give! The community is huge for CDG because it stems from President Steven Hadley II background where he grew up in hardship and has a passion to give back. We do a lot with children where we have different companies speak and allow the kids to tell us their dreams. We do food and toy drives around the holidays. Also in each district, where we have a project—we give something back to that community. In construction there is a lot going on with trucks and traffic on the roads so we explain to those in the community what we are doing and how we plan to make things better. It eases people’s minds to let them know why we are there and that we care.
How do you reinvent yourself?
I feel like I reinvent myself every single day [Laughter]. I’m a very positive person so it’s kind of like a day to day thing. If someone stresses me out I get on my knees and pray and I talk to the Lord. I also have a good support system around me. Anytime something is out of line I call my support system and talk it out, but I get up every day and try to make it a new day, new hustle, and a new thing to do to get things done. I just try to stay connected.
Are you working on other projects aside from what you do at CDG?
We opened another family owned business, a club called PLAE here in Houston. My role, like CDG, is also as a Business Development Manager.
If you were not working in construction what else could you see yourself doing?
It would be business development but in another area like sales. I’m always going to have the need and desire to deal with people, speak to people and be around people.
You suffered a tremendous loss when your young son was hit by a truck and killed just three days after you moved to Houston. How important is your faith to carry you through?
If I didn’t have my faith I would be non-existent. Through this huge tragedy that happened in my life— I will say if I didn’t have God I wouldn’t be able to get up the next day. It’s literally life or death for me and I pray that someone gets closer to God reading my story.
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