Carnegie Mellon University

Michelle Couste

October 18, 2019

Cousté Steps Into Role as Site Superintendent for DC Metro Extension

Michelle Cousté (BS '15) is a site superintendent for Clark Construction on the Silver Line project, a 6-station, 11-mile extension to the DC metro. It’s a position she literally stepped into after one of the project’s field superintendents broke his foot and could not wear the required safety boots. “The general superintendent asked me to step up and be his ‘boots on the ground’ for a couple of weeks—and within three days, I was asked to stay on and finish out the station,” Cousté says.

couste2.jpgHer ability to work easily with quality inspectors and subcontractors led to Cousté being named site superintendent for Innovation Center Station until March 2019, when the station was in final inspection. She was then reassigned to the last station in the sequence, Ashburn Station, to “bring it up from the rear to the finish line.”

Cousté has worked for Clark for four years. As a site superintendent, she manages the site’s day to day, short term, and long term schedules. “I work with every person from every trade to make sure they’re doing the work safely, efficiently, and up to the necessary quality standards. I also manage the resources of the site to make sure that everyone is able to keep their work moving forward and not get into each other's ways.”

Cousté adds that she’s proud to be one of the few women working at in the industry at the level of site superintendent. “It’s crucial to find your allies in the workplace—that can be other women in the field, other people who are a minority in the field, or even people who are in the majority but are understanding of the challenges. The harder you push, the easier it is for the person behind you.”

She admits that it takes time to develop relationships but says it’s key to success. “Focus on finding a workplace where you'll thrive. Choosing a company that already focuses on hiring and supporting a diverse workforce is a totally valid decision,” she says.

Cousté’s time at CEE prepared her for her career by emphasizing strong communication and teamwork skills. “Learning how to work with different types of people and in different roles within a group is the basis for all of the work I've done since graduation,” she states.

She stays close to her CEE roots through networking and building relationships with fellow alums. “We’ve developed a group of CMU graduates at Clark who meet up regularly to visit each other's jobsites and share advice and stories. We are our own support system for one another.”

Michelle Cousté (BS '15), was recently featured in Washingtonian​'s "150 Most Powerful Women in Washington" issue.