Women’s History Month

“I had a job to do and I did it” recalls Marie Beunaiche as she looks back on getting started in the field of Stationary Engineering.

As March is Women’s History Month, GSH’s Cassandra Kalev sat down with Marie Beunaiche, Lead Engineer for GSH at The Oakland Historical Building. The 96-year-old building is a hallmark of Bay-area real estate and a challenge to the engineers who maintain this historic, but heavily retrofitted structure. With a growing number of women joining the commercial real estate and facilities management industries in recent years, Marie is a trailblazer for a new generation of aspiring female engineers and professionals. In sharing her story, Marie (and GSH) look forward to inspiring the next generation of women in the industry to make their mark and put the industry on notice.

Kalev: How long have you been with GSH? And what is your role?

Beunaiche: I have been with GSH since November of 2018. I am Lead Engineer at The Oakland Historical Building in Oakland, California and mange one other engineer as part of our two-person team. We perform operations and maintenance of the building’s HVAC and mechanical systems. I am certified by Trane for Cooling Tower Operations and Maintenance and am a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Licensed Mechanic. I am also currently enrolled in the HVAC Program at Laney Community College through the GSH Academy – a program dedicated to the licensing and continuing education of GSH employees.

Kalev: Who has been influential in pushing you into the Engineering field?

Beunaiche: My younger brother Pierre was instrumental in helping me break into the facility maintenance field about 20 years ago. In addition, it was my European immigrant parents and especially my mother who taught me the importance of hard work, integrity, confidence, compassion and perseverance. These qualities have helped me overcome all manner of obstacles and challenges and it is to them that I owe immense gratitude for my being in the engineering field today. Since joining the industry, Brian Tagg and Joe Annino of GSH, who recruited me, have been instrumental in my personal development and helping me discover my true potential.

Kalev: What challenges have you faced as a woman in engineering?

Beunaiche: Prior to joining GSH I was working in a very toxic environment that was plagued by double standards and a lack of leadership. Frustrated, I had to take a good hard look at what was happening in the workplace and decided the facility and company was more than one woman could combat. I had worked for years in male dominated environments, but never had to deal with such a situation.

Kalev: How have you handled adversity?

Beunaiche: Even though I was occasionally treated differently, I was almost always accepted and admired for having the courage to step into the role. To me there was nothing hard or scary about it. Being adventurous and willing to take non-traditional roles has always suited my nature. When I have to face other types of personal adversity, I found listening and not being reactionary as effective methods of diffusing a situation. I am willing to self-assess and if a change is needed within myself I will make it to improve a work environment or overcome an obstacle. I am responsible for the way I feel.

Kalev: How has the GSH experience been different?

Beunaiche: As a privately held and family-orientated environment GSH has been an inviting and welcoming experience. Management goes above and beyond in assimilating each team member to the company culture and team; it’s a very strong organization.

Kalev: What is your favorite part of your job?

Beunaiche: The feeling of knowing that I am supporting the building’s tenants so that they can safely and comfortably perform their job. I most enjoy helping people and to be able to do that from an engineer’s standpoint is a rewarding and fantastic experience.

Kalev: What suggestions do you have to future women in the industry?

Beunaiche: Just go for it! One day, as more and more of us (women) enter the field, hopefully we will no longer be seen as just ‘Women in the Industry’ but rather People who are equally qualified and skilled with genuine talent to offer. There is an expectation, conscious or not, that women and men must fill certain roles in life. For many women, it is harder to break into a traditional male role. Some believe it is because women do not like the trades, but I have seen its more a matter of exposure. Typically, girls are not invited to play with tools or understand the inner workings of a machine; and when they do take interest, it is seen as being against the grain. For women to make their mark in engineering it takes insight, perseverance and the confidence to overcome traditional roadblocks. None of us ever go it alone, and having the support of family, friends, instructors, trade programs and employers makes all the difference.

Kalev: Thank you Marie, its been a pleasure getting to know you and your role with GSH Group. Thank you for being a part of ‘our history.’

Beunaiche: Thank you Cassandra, the GSH experience is more than I ever could have envisioned.

About the Author:

Cassandra Kalev is a member of GSH’s Marketing Department and specializes in Graphic Design. She joined GSH in 2018 and is an integral member of the corporate marketing team. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design from Roger Williams University.