Meet Yvette Winter, Seattle's Newest GM
That’s the theme of the 2019 International Women’s Day on March 8. To help celebrate women’s achievements, we sat down with our own Yvette Winter to ask her some rapid-fire questions. She’s a restoration and construction veteran who was recently promoted to GM of Interstate’s northwest region.
What was your first industry project?
My first job in construction was building a large parking garage for a home of a successful business owner near Seattle. I was fresh off from working on a cruise ship when a construction company hired me to be a liaison to the architect. This architect would sit on a hill sipping chardonnay and sketching his plans while truck drivers stood around waiting to find out how much dirt to move. The truckers would wait hours for the architect to make a decision. I remember running between them like a mad woman to give instructions from the architect to the truckers and construction crew. The architect had no idea how to communicate with truckers and vice versa. I learned quickly from truckers how to use four-letter words during that job.
Do you watch home improvement shows on TV?
Never. In fact, I don’t watch TV at all. TV has too much fake drama. I have kids, dogs, a husband, a large yard to take care of…I have plenty of real life drama. I’d rather go downhill skiing.
What do you enjoy most about living in greater Seattle?
I love that it’s green and has clean air. I like the people here. They’re very welcoming and wonderful.
You lead a busy life balancing a career and a family. Have your kids expressed interest in a restoration or construction career?
Yes. My oldest of my three kids is 24. I had a playpen in my office when he was born, and he came to work with me every day. All my kids were raised that way. In high school, he worked in the construction industry during the summers. Then I put him through college to be a paramedic. What’s he doing today? He’s a restoration project manager. He left the paramedic life for a career he thrives in. My other kids are in school studying to be a veterinarian and a lawyer.
What sports do you watch or play?
I watch a lot of rugby, water polo and fast-pitch softball because that’s what my kids play. I also love following college football.
What’s your favorite food?
Cheese. If I was stuck on an island, I’d want any kind of cheese.
What was it like being a woman in the male-dominated construction industry early in your career?
I started in construction in the late ‘80s and it was hard. I am established now and, as you would expect, I still work mostly with men. Early on, I was perceived as either cold-hearted or too demanding. I’m neither of those. To work in a world of men, I soon realized I had to know my stuff, I had to know what I was going to say before I said it, and I had to know 10 times more than anyone else in the room. It wasn’t easy.
Do you prefer email or face-to-face?
Face to face, 1,000 percent. So much is lost in email and text. I prefer face-to-face because it preserves the heart and soul of communicating.
Who is or was the most influential person in your life?
My mother. She held three world records in water skiing. She’s in the hall of fame. She was on the US Olympic Water Ski team. She even holds international titles. Yet she never walked a day in her life; she had polio. In fact, she was the women’s disabled slalom and jumping record holder up until three weeks before she died of cancer two years ago. She was my motivation growing up; I never had an opportunity to complain about anything.
What was your first concert?
I saw Heart in the Tacoma Dome with my mother. I was 16. Man, that was a good show.
You often speak to student groups. What advice do you give?
Believe in yourself. Always, always, always realize you can do anything you want. There are no obstacles you can’t overcome. My mom taught me that. I also advise young women and girls to pursue a career where they have fun every single day. I wake up every day and love my job.
What are the best skills to have in the construction industry?
It’s important to learn how to use tools, handle an industrial air mover or become a certified asbestos inspector. But an even greater skill is to be humble. You think you know everything, even after 20 years in the industry, but I learn something new every day. Also, it’s important to be empathetic, especially with clients who’ve experienced disasters.
If you weren’t in the restoration business, you would be…
When I retire, I want to own a beer and bait shop in Alaska. I love people, but there’s something about taking a break in the wilderness.