The List: Merit Construction Northwest’s Tammy Birklid

Tammy Birklid can vividly recall the day in 2012 that she first stepped onto one of Merit Construction Northwest’s sites to manage her first project. She said it was the first time she ever felt out of place in the construction industry.

The Edgewood resident had been an office worker throughout her 25-year career in various aspects of the construction business — including human resources, business management, and finance. But, on that day in 2012, Birklid needed to thrust herself into unfamiliar terrain and learn every aspect of Merit’s operations. It was a move that eventually culminated in her becoming the principal of Merit earlier this year.

Despite helpful guidance from her mentors — to whom Birklid said she owes her career — Birklid said the greatest business lesson she has learned had been born out of her own experiences as a woman in a male-dominated industry. “Once you get to where you’re going as a woman, it’s so important to stay authentic to yourself and be OK with the fact that you are a woman,” she said, citing a recent on-site speech she gave to her workers surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and their commitment to the mission. It was a speech, she admits, that made her emotional.

“It’s OK to show vulnerability; it doesn’t take away from your strength.”

Favorite Places

TO RELAX Tacoma waterfront

FOR DINNER Farm 12 in Puyallup

TO BE INSPIRED Hiking on any awesome PNW trail.

Inspiration Board

CURRENTLY READING Rising Strong by Brené Brown

CURRENTLY LISTENING TO Gaslighter, the new album from The Chicks (formerly known as the Dixie Chicks)

MANTRA YOU LIVE BY BEST PROFESSIONAL ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED Don’t limit yourself to what you think you can do. Be who you say you are.

HOBBIES Cooking, hot yoga, barre, camping, and hanging out with my friends and family

Q&A

YOU’VE WORKED IN SO MANY DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS. WHAT DREW YOU TO IT INITIALLY, AND WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO STAY?

I began my construction career in accounting because I already had experience there. Job cost accounting is different, and it was exciting learning something new about accounting (I know that makes me sound like a nerd!). I stayed because the skills I learned gave me value within the industry, and I enjoyed the environment — very unpretentious.

WHAT IS MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE WITH MERIT?

Being an employer is a privilege. I love helping my team grow as employees and as people. There’s not much better than seeing someone achieve something as you encourage them.

HOW HAS THE COMPANY BROUGHT YOU JOY LATELY?

Every single time I talk to my staff, they tell me they are grateful. That really affirms to me that we are on the right path.

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is an assistant editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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