Marquette Today sat down with Andrea Bukacek, Bus Ad ’07, as part of our Time to Rise series: Elevating Excellence in Women’s Athletics in honor of the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Bukacek distinguished herself as a team leader on the Women’s Tennis team from 2004-07. Today, she serves as the CEO and first-ever female owner of Bukacek Construction.
Q: Serving as the CEO of Bukacek Construction, how do the values and lessons that you learned as a Marquette student-athlete shape the leadership style and culture that you have built?
A: As a Marquette student-athlete, I learned right away that I was not only representing myself, but my team, the athletic department, and the university both on and off the court. One of the biggest lessons that I was taught was to remember who I am at all times. For example, when I am not at the office, I know that who I am as a mother and who I am as a wife is also representing Bukacek Construction. The experience that I had as a student-athlete prepared me for my current role because I lead by putting relationships and reputation at the forefront — knowing they are intertwined.
Q: Similar to an athletic team, Bukacek Construction has established a culture that prides itself on being part of a family. How does the foundation at Bukacek Construction differ from other companies?
A: Bukacek Construction has been in business for 60 years. We have always been rooted in the values that we carry, especially in our interpersonal office environment. Having personal relationships and mutual respect is so key. I make it a priority to know everybody’s name, what their family-life is like or how they like to spend time on the weekend. Similarly, we bring that into our relationships with our clients, but also with our subcontractors and suppliers. Without them, I know I can’t do my job very well.
Our culture is built on the foundation that is essential to have respect for not only the process, but for the people who make it possible. On any given day, anybody can do anything amazing, so we must be prepared to acknowledge how important that is when maintaining our relationships.
Q: As a mom who is currently raising a daughter, how have you learned that representation is important when opening doors for other women in the industry?
A: Often, women in construction are seen in more administrative roles. Construction is still very much a male-dominated industry and it is important to have more female representation, not only at the C-suite level, but in the field and on the labor side. It is our responsibility to teach young women that even if they don’t take the traditional path, there is a great career ahead of them.
My daughter is nine and I have learned that no matter how you define success, it is so important for young women to see other women doing incredible things. Having a female coach at Marquette, I learned that if you show a young woman that she can do what she is passionate about, she can be really amazing at it. From there, confidence will build over time and this will translate into future generations of the professional world.
Q: Please tell us about your career path. What advice would you give to today’s students to leverage their Marquette education to some day become a trailblazer?
A: My career path in construction was not a traditional one. It was through Marquette connections that I started my career in banking. From there, I took that opportunity to learn and was able to build a great foundation. Once I decided to go into construction, I had an invaluable background when I purchased Bukacek Construction.
The biggest lesson that I learned when going from Marquette to the business world is how important it is to say “Yes!” to opportunities – you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I would advise current students not to underestimate the value of an experience or opportunity. Marquette will set you up so that you meet the right people, develop a unique skillset and learn your respective marketplace. Marquette does a great job of providing a well-rounded education giving you the tools you need to set you up for success.
Q: You know firsthand that Marquette is deeply rooted in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition of leadership through service to others. What about these values has appealed to you throughout your career?
A: The values of leadership and excellence that I learned at Marquette are major components of how we hire and how we carry ourselves at my company. I also learned the importance of cura personalis — to be men and women in service to others — by caring for the whole person. I believe that although everyone might not be a natural born leader, everybody has leadership qualities and it is important to appreciate what an entire team has to offer in each individual role.
As a student-athlete, I was taught to receive feedback not as a criticism, but as a way for me to get better. This really led me to understand that to be the best I can be, I have to be willing to continually gain knowledge and grow. It is critical to appreciate leadership styles of everybody on the team and become willing to learn from them.
Q: As you know, we are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX through our Time to Rise: Elevating Excellence in Women’s Athletics Although we have come a long way over the last 50 years in creating opportunities not only in athletics, but in business, what do you believe is the next step to advance in women’s athletics?
A: Great question! For me, the next step in advancing the roles of women in both business and athletics, is providing equal pay so that we are sending the message to young women – who are truly paying attention — that equity matters in recognizing comparable work of men and women alike.
In athletics, I think hiring more women coaches at the collegiate level and professional levels, whether it is a male or female sport, will allow us to move forward, fostering a more inclusive and fair culture.