Project executive Kirstin Harper-Smith was honored as one of five Mentor of the Year finalists out of 150 submissions in the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Women’s Leadership Awards, recognized for her commitment to building the future leaders of Los Angeles both within and outside of the construction industry. Read about Kirstin’s mentorship highlights below and in her Los Angeles Business Journal profile here.
Kirstin is building the skyline, community, and future leaders of Los Angeles. While her project portfolio is extremely impressive—from her current work on the full renovation of UCLA’s historic Nimoy Theater to projects credited with initiating the revitalization of DTLA—just as notable and impressive are her leadership and mentorship.
Kirstin’s favorite part of the job is working with people in the industry—across all levels—fostering each other’s growth and shared passion for construction. Throughout her career, she has acted as a mentor, including leading a group of new engineers in discussions about their careers and the industry. Kirstin has also participated in WiOPS, learning from and supporting women in the industry. Kirstin learns just as much from her mentees as they do from her, and she’s found this is integral for building strong support systems and leaders within the industry.
Kirstin has been mentoring a Thrive Scholar for more than three years, starting when the mentee was in her freshman year—a first generation college student—through her graduation from UCLA with a B.A. in microbiology, immunology, and molecular genetics. The Thrive Scholars program provides high-achieving students of color from low-income communities the opportunities they need to thrive at top colleges and in meaningful careers. Throughout the mentorship relationship, Kirstin provided ideas on how her mentee could expand her network and get involved in her school and local community. Even with the challenges of the pandemic, her mentee was able to maximize all opportunities and graduated with a 3.4 GPA from UCLA, with multiple offers to do research work.
Being a mentor is truly inherent to who Kirstin is as a person. Outside of the construction and academic worlds, Kirstin has been a yoga teacher for the nonprofit Heal One World, dedicated to providing the types of holistic preventative healthcare generally not covered by insurance, for the past three years. She’s taught hundreds of people, but has had one student throughout the entire time who she’s helped with her practice and provided an outlet to help balance and support her mental health and wellness.
Kirstin is co-lead of Shawmut’s Regional Diversity Leadership Council (RDLC) for the West region, which supports the firm’s Diversity Leadership Council in its work toward diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The RDLC brings Shawmut’s DEI work to a local level, and Kirstin acts as a resource and proponent in the Los Angeles office and construction community, planning and hosting panels and events, including quarterly learnings and discussions to drive actionable outcomes. During this year’s Women in Construction Week, Kirstin was a panelist on how to navigate a career as a woman in construction and become a leader.
Kirstin is also actively involved with Boundless Brilliance, Chrysalis, Reading to Kids, The Building Community, Heart2Heart Teens, and The Posse Foundation.