Meet Michelle Porter
March is National Women’s History Month. As part of this celebration, we want to recognize women making history in the building safety industry.
Meet Michelle Porter, Director of the Assessment Center at the International Code Council.
Michelle has worn several hats in her 12 years with ICC, beginning as the department’s first publication editor. As the director of the Assessment Center, Michelle had demonstrated remarkable leadership and vision, disrupting the “way things have always been done” in exciting and positive directions. And she’s not nearly done yet.
This is the third in our series of profiles of faces behind the codes. We asked Michelle a few questions on her choice of career path and her passion for building safety.
AC: What is your role as it relates to building safety? How do you and the Assessment Center play a critical part?
Michelle: I play what I think is a small but crucial role in helping our Members hire the most qualified individuals to perform inspection, plan review, and code enforcement in our communities. Through following standards for testing and using subject matter experts, we believe that our credentials provide a level of confidence for hiring managers when looking for new people. Our credentials also help people start or grow in their careers.
AC: What kind of paths led you to where you are now?
Michelle: My background is in construction – from picking up “slugs” on my contractor grandfather’s jobsites to project management and estimating. I’ve had the great opportunity to work on some really iconic Birmingham projects – from the McWane Center to previously-named VisionLand to multiple University of Alabama at Birmingham buildings.
AC: What drives your passion to stay in building safety? What do you see as potential challenges?
Michelle: I love the construction and inspection industry, and believe so strongly that what I now do every day plays a part in maintaining the safety of our environment. We live, work, and play in buildings the majority of our lives, so doing what I can to ramp up safety (since I’m not actually on the jobsite any longer) makes me proud of the work I do.
I believe our challenges lie in keeping our industry on top of technology – while realizing technology won’t help us if we don’t have the bodies onsite to use the tech. We desperately need to get the word out to not just younger but different audiences that there are really great jobs in all aspects of the industry – this is definitely not a dead-end career.
AC: From your perspective, are there special challenges or distinctions in being a woman in Construction?
Michelle: It’s funny to consider, as being a PM and estimator meant I was almost always the only woman onsite; in testing, the majority of those in the industry are female! I remember not too many years ago being asked by a sub on a jobsite when my (male) boss was going to show up so he could answer the sub’s questions. Luckily, that doesn’t happen so much now, as more women are in all aspects of the industry. I think we have advantages and disadvantages in this job, just like men do – and that’s all I ever wanted my male counterparts to realize.
AC: What do you think needs to happen to entice more women in the building industry?
Michelle: We need to continue to show that women are becoming less of a minority in the trades and in code enforcement – not every one wants to be the first or only person of their kind in their field. Women can use newer technology just as well as men, and are perhaps better multi-taskers (my opinion only), so the new face of construction may well become female as we continue to evolve in the way we construct and analyze the built environment.
AC: Where do you see this department in five years?
Michelle: In five years, we’ll be offering credentials in ways we’re only now starting to learn about – from the use of blockchain to ensure authenticity to testing simulations where you virtually point out code violations. We want to continue to stay on the leading edge of how best to extract true knowledge from our candidates’ brains, and my mission is to push us in those new, and perhaps scary, directions.