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Sparky’s Notes April 10, 2017


In this issue:

Real Voices: Wiring Women & Female Executives contribute to Leading the Electrical Construction Field Collins Sacramento Welcomes Justin Stretch to the Sacramento Purchasing Team!
Year-To-Date Safety Performance
Project Feature: South County Detention Facility in Porterville
It’s Collins’ Selfies!

Real Voices: Wiring Women & Female Executives Lead the Electrical Construction Field

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, only 8.9 percent of construction workers are women. In other words, construction is an industry near the top of the “super male-dominated industries” spectrum. As a company who values diversity, Collins Electrical Company, Inc. is proud to have so many women in leadership roles and throughout the company. In March, in celebration of International Women’s Month, we sat down with six of our women leaders and asked them about their unique perspective on the industry.  This week we share two of those profiles: Gail Wardell, CFO and Tammy Tanis, Senior Project Manager. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the remaining profiles.

Gail Wardell, CPA – Chief Financial Officer

As Chief Financial Officer, Gail manages the company’s accounting functions, financial strategy, and Gail Wardell
banking and bonding relationships as well as overseeing the Human Resources and IT operations. She joined the company in 1998 having served prior to that as CFO for a GC residential builder, real estate developer and property management conglomerate after starting her career with one of the Big 4 CPA firms.

How did you get into this line of work?

I was fortunate to secure an internship with a Big 8 accounting firm the summer before my senior year of college and was offered a full time position in Audit upon receiving my BS in Business Administration the following May. After obtaining the appropriate experience for my CPA license, I had the opportunity to transfer to the Tax department. This combined experience enabled me to obtain the position of Controller for a law firm in my home town, whose senior partners were also heavily invested in commercial real estate joint ventures and had a plan to start developing their own. One of the partners brought this plan to fruition and I accepted the position of CFO for the Developer, General Contractor and Property Management companies that were formed.

A few years later, after the real estate market tanked and the companies ceased active operations, I was working part-time after having my second child. I was actually working multiple part-time jobs – one as the accountant for a friend’s jewelry store and another doing the joint venture accounting for my former employer, at home at night after putting the kids to bed. I was also doing some consulting work for a data/cabling contractor. Then I got a call from a former colleague from the general contracting company. He was looking for a reference from me for one of the Controllers I had supervised, but when he heard I was “only” working part-time, he asked if I would be interested in interviewing for the position of Controller for Collins Electrical Company, Inc. I accepted the job offer and started with Collins the following week.

Did you encounter any gender role stereotypes early on in your career? Do you believe they still exist in this present day in the construction industry?

Of course – there were maybe a handful of female partners in the entire international accounting firm when I started with them over 35 years ago. At that time, the new hire ratio of female to male was increasing; however, it has only been within the last 2 years that any of the now Big 4 accounting firms has had a female managing partner. I’m happy to say that it was my former firm that had the first.

In my field, I wouldn’t say that the gender role stereotypes still exist. When attending national meetings of the Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA), females are equally represented in the top financial roles, and I personally have never felt any stereotype issues here at Collins. I cannot attest to equality in other positions in the industry, but from simple observation the lack of female Owners, Presidents, COOs, PMs and Estimators is still significant.

What skills have helped you succeed?

Hard work and the quest for continued growth in my knowledge and skills have helped me to succeed. I am a strong believer in continuing education, both on the job and in the class room. When I was promoted to the Tax department, I pursued and obtained a Master’s degree in Taxation. When a former employer needed a licensee to handle their property management and mortgage services, I studied for and obtained my Real Estate Broker’s license. When the State of California implemented AB1825, which required a professional trainer, I sat for the exam and obtained my Professional of Human Resources (PHR) designation. By the same token, as recently as 2015, when CECI’s COO decided to retire and I assumed some of his tasks, I took an MBA level course in Corporate Finance to enhance my knowledge. All of this was done on my own time, while working full time jobs. My motto has never been “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but rather “let’s see if there’s a better, more efficient way to do it” and that can only be done by learning and trying new things.

Any advice for other women in the industry or women trying to get involved:

My advice to future leaders is to set a goal and a realistic timeline to achieve that goal but recognize that outside influences can sometimes change ones goals. Be open and fluid to change and seize opportunities if they arise. Recognize that no one is going to hand you anything on a silver platter and that it will take hard work and perseverance to get to a position of leadership. Always keep learning and seeking improved ways to do your job – take a class, join an industry group, form a peer group either in person or online.

Most importantly, try to find a healthy work-life balance. All work and no play will make Jane a very dull girl and a lonely old lady!

Tammy Tanis, Senior Project Manager

Tammy has worked for Collins Electrical for 25 years. She went through a 5-year apprenticeship, became a jTammy Tanisourneyman electrician and then a foreman. Tammy is currently a project manager for Collins Electrical Co., Inc. She has spent several years as a corporate estimator, estimating large projects. Her current responsibilities as project manager range from attending project meetings; overseeing preconstruction management meetings to ensure successful handoff from estimating to field; negotiating and resolving all customer concerns; estimating change orders for assigned projects; material procurements and managing all jobs closeout procedures.

How did you get into this line of work?
I married an abusive man when I was 19 and we had a son together. I divorced him when my son was 1 ½ years old. I attended a Business College to become an Office Manager and I ended up working as an office manager for Suprema Cheese. I used to try everything, even working on my own car and I was doing wood work. I decided that I needed to get into a career that would comfortably take care of me and my son. That is when I asked my dad, who owned an engineering and surveying company, if I could go to work for him. He told me in so many words that “you are not a man” and “you are not working for me.” I wanted to show him that I was worthy and able to do what it takes to support me and my son.

My uncle was a teacher at the Stockton JATC and he had asked me if I would like to try to get into the electrical apprenticeship. I decided this would be a career that would support me and my son. First, I took a written exam; in those days they also had a hands on portion to test one’s motor skills. I passed both parts and then went on to the interview and made it to the list. You were on the list for (3) years at that time. It wasn’t terribly busy in the construction industry, so my time on the list was almost up when I received a call telling me that I could go to work for either an out of town company or a local company, “Collins”. I went to work for Collins. I went through the (5) year apprenticeship while working for Collins. I became a journeyman and then a foreman. Being a foreman in the field was very difficult being a woman.

I learned to overcome many fears like heights, electricity, etc… I also learned how to deal with the most difficult people, which were the older men that were like my dad and did not believe women belonged in the field. Most of all I learned how to earn their respect by doing my job well.

Did you encounter any gender role stereotypes early on in your career? Do you believe they still exist in this present day in the construction industry?

I experienced many gender role stereotypes. I got into the industry when very few women were in the field. The older men did not feel women could do the work of the men, which I was able to prove them wrong about.
Today the gender role stereotypes are not as prevalent as when I started my career as an electrician 25 years ago. The older generation is retiring and the younger generation is more prevalent in the field with more openness to women in the construction field.

What skills have helped you succeed?

The greatest skill I have learned was how to manage different personalities in the field. It has helped me manage with the different personalities I deal with on a day to day basis as a project manager. It taught me how to manage the job and the men in the field. I learned the many skills needed to get the project done on time and done well.
Being an electrician has given me skills that have helped me excel as corporate estimator and currently as a project manager.

Any advice for other women in the industry or women trying to get involved:

Don’t give up even though times can be very hard. Push yourself to go further. I learned back in the day that I was in a “mans” field and if I didn’t like the lunch conversations, I would remove myself from the conversations. You have to learn how to fit in the field socially. You need to put yourself in their shoes and fit in with them as much as possible. You cannot take anything to heart; if you do you will be miserable in your career. It takes hard work and you need to push through it. Don’t ever give up even if times get hard, it is worth it in the end.


Collins Sacramento Welcomes Justin Stretch to the Sacramento Purchasing Team!


Justin comes to us with over 3 years of purchasing experience and enjoys racing in his spare time.

Passing the torch.2.0

He will take the helm of the purchasing department when Jennifer Hartpence passes the torch in the upcoming weeks. Welcome Justin!


Year-To-Date Safety Performance

Year-To-Date Safety Performance

Safety Overall Board   Collins Total Safety Board

Our last lost time injury was on August 26, 2016
Our last Recordable Injury was on August 26, 2016

# of Incidences by Branch from October 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017

· Sacramento Branch No incidences
· Metro, Fresno and Dublin Branch 1 incident each
· Marina Branch 5 incidences

*37% of the injuries were reported late.

Sacramento Safety Board Metro Safety Board

Marina Safety Board Fresno Safety Board Dublin Safety Board

Project Feature: South County Detention Facility in Porterville

Sharing the progress on one of our Fresno Branch’s projects, the South County Detention Facility in Porterville.


It’s Collins’ Selfies!

Even though we work hard, we play hard too. Every week we’ll show off a selfie of our most important resource: the Collins Electrical staff.
Sacramento Team. Front. Taylar, Jennifer Back. Craig,Kevin,Marc,Angela,Maria  Solar Dept. Jeremy, Craig, Ed, Back. Steve H., Joe Ory

Check out all the Collins’ Selfies by seaching for the hashtag #collinsselfie on Facebook.

Do you have a #collinsselfie to share? Post them to our page using the hashtag #collinsselfie or email Elaine at

Make sure to incorporate the Collins Electrical Logo in a creative and fun way!