Nicki Upright

Getting a Seat at the Table as a Woman in Construction



Nicki Upright

President, Women of Asphalt Colorado

Nicki is the President of Women of Asphalt Colorado and a founding member of the branch. Having started in a time when there were very few women in the field, she finds it rewarding to be able to support the ladies that are now and upcoming in the industry. She now sees how important it is to have that support. When she came up through the system, she just had to grind her way through it. She recently retired from CDOT after working there for 33 years as a Project Manager.

The Highlights

When Nicki Upright’s father told her to take a summer job at the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), she didn’t expect it to turn into her lifelong career or pave the way to becoming the President of Women of Asphalt’s Colorado chapter. Number one, construction wasn’t something thought of as a career at the time. And number two, nothing existed to support women in construction. In short, she had to make it on her own.

Confidence to Earn Respect

The industry looked very different when Nicki started as a temporary field worker for CDOT 33 years ago.

“The guys had to clean their vans out of the Playboy Bunny Magazines,” jokes Nicki.

In an office of 20-something people, the only women were herself and an administrator.

Nicki had to work extra hard in a male-dominated industry to gain respect. Although she says this is changing with the younger generations coming in, who see females more as counterparts, as Nicki worked her way up the ranks, she had to earn it.

She attributes her ability to do that to her confidence in herself.

“I always knew what I needed. I knew the specs, I knew the job,” Nicki explains, “And I might be scared to death on the inside, but don’t ever let them think that.”

It took Nicki about five years to gain that respect, but once she had, her team would do anything to help her. Even so, there would always be contractors that “tested the waters.” She would still have to give 110%, while her male counterparts could give 70-80%.

Her confidence and willingness to ask questions and put in the work would bring Nicki from field worker to designer, tester to an inspector, and finally project manager, where she would stay for the next 16 years.

What Women Bring

Although having a female superintendent was rare throughout Nick’s career, having one taught her a lot. The ease of communication was eye-opening, particularly in a world where not everyone wants to listen to you.

The willingness to listen and natural camaraderie that females tend to form more easily was a nice change.

As Nicki retires from CDOT and begins consulting with Rock Salt Consulting, it’s clear what strengths women bring – and how women and men need each other’s strengths.

[Women and men] compliment each other,” says Nicki, “Women are more organized. They can multitask a little easier than guys. Guys will go out and get the job done, but the females can see all the pieces that need to be done. They’re thinking ahead.”

Knowing the valuable strengths and skill sets that women can bring creates the confidence to move up the ranks. However, it often requires practice and a network that they can turn to help bolster those skills and believe in themselves.

You Don’t Need to Do it Alone

Until 2019, nothing existed to support women in the asphalt industry. Nicki herself was skeptical, even as she was ‘voluntold’ to be the President of Women of Asphalt’s Colorado chapter.

After all, she had to “put her head down and get the job done” to work her way up.

But today, she’s 100% on board with the organization’s mission: to lead and inspire women in the asphalt industry. They do this by bringing members together regularly and providing training. Over time, Nicki’s seen women become more confident and get out of their shells.

The right mindset for Nicki is critical. In an industry where no two days are the same, confidence that you can overcome anything makes all the difference. Nicki says that having a good group of people around you that you can trust helps you get through anything.

For her, that group of people is Women of Asphalt.


The Host

Kendyl Campbell

Strategic Partnerships, Assignar

Kendyl spent many years in and around the construction industry before joining Assignar in 2020 as a Customer Success Manager. After implementing dozens of strategic enterprise accounts over the years, she quickly rose through the ranks to lead the Customer Success Team for a period in 2022. Currently, Kendyl works with Strategic Partners, helping sell value across complex software ecosystems, ultimately solving the information gap between companies’ field operations and financials-- selling some of our largest deals globally. Kendyl was awarded the 2022 Customer Custodian Award in North America, and she can now be heard as one of our hosts on Assignar’s The Dirty Boots Show. Kendyl enjoys staying active in Colorado outdoors with her pup in her free time.