The Women of Connico – Pivotal to the Company’s Past, Present and Future Success

Photo above – Some of the women from Connico include, from left, Janet Terry, Senior Marketing Specialist;  Tere Ayers, Specialist;  Lisa Heckendorn-Blake, Director of Scheduling; Christy Shadowens, Administrative Director; and Deane Gardner; Experience Specialist.  

As we focus on Women’s History Month, the State Aviation Journal takes a look at a company established in 1990 by the late Connie S. Gowder, who grew Connico into a leading national construction consultancy known for its extraordinary team and commitment to superior client service.

“Women’s History Month is an opportunity to reflect on what we all need to contribute to move progress forward and how we can leverage our status as experts in our fields to make lasting change,” said Connico’s President and CEO, Sri Kumar. “At Connico, the women on our team are pivotal to our past, present and future success. As a woman-founded company, it is because of thoughtful and innovate women that we have established ourselves as a leader in the aviation industry, and the women currently on our team are vital assets to ensuring our work and team create the most well-rounded service for our clients now and into the future.”

Three of the Connico women are Veronica Takacs, Christy Shadowens and Janet Terry.

Veronica Takacs, EIT, Analyst I

Veronica Takacs

Veronica Takacs is a certified engineer-in-training and serves as an analyst I at Connico. With more than 3 years of experience, she officially joined the Connico team full-time in 2023 after completing two internships with them. “I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer since the fifth grade, but working in the aviation industry was never on my radar. I started my degree with the intention of becoming a structural engineer but quickly realized I had minimal interest in buildings,” said Veronica. “Shortly after, I met some of Connico’s representatives at a career fair, and that was my first exposure to the aviation industry and the incredibly vast amount of opportunities it contains.”

In her role, Veronica assists on many aviation projects, focusing on cost estimating, value integration and system analyses. A few of her recent projects include, Passenger Terminal Area Facilities and Financial Planning for Austin–Bergstrom International Airport (AUS); an Airfield Pavement Condition Index (PCI) and Study, a Runway 2L-20R Joint Seal Replacement, and a Master Plan Update for Nashville International Airport (BNA); and a Deicing Pad and South Cross-field Taxiway for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT).

“One large challenge for engineers in this field is the breadth of knowledge needed to fully understand an airport’s inner workings. Most engineers focus on one discipline, like storm drainage or pavement design; however, working in aviation, we need to know how all of the disciplines work together to form the mini city that is an airport,” said Veronica. “This challenge, though, is precisely what I find interesting in aviation. I have the opportunity to learn about fuel systems, airfield lighting and rental car facilities even though they don’t necessarily fall within the civil engineering discipline. The nuances of airport infrastructure are what keep me engaged!”

When asked about her advice for women entering the workforce in her area of expertise, Veronica said she couldn’t think of anything she’d say to women curious about aviation that she wouldn’t say to men. “We’ve come a long way in this industry, and I think most women are already empowered to choose whatever field excites them most, no questions asked. However, I do think the aviation industry is widely unknown among adolescents and aspiring engineers; a hidden gem if you will. Outreach to both young girls and college students is near and dear to me, as I’ve had the opportunity to participate in both. I’ve found that simply presenting how an airport is designed and built, especially for student organizations and youth outreach programs, is extremely effective in peaking interest. After all, nearly everyone has been through an airport, but they may not have thought about who created it.”

Vernonica is a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a degree in civil engineering and works at Connico’s office in Hebron, KY.

Christy Shadowens, MBA, Administrative Director

Christy Shadowens

Christy Shadowens has more than 15 years of experience in administration and accounting for various industries, including aviation, and has been at Connico for nearly 4 years. Serving as the administrative director, she leads process management and development for the team and manages vendor/client relations for numerous aviation projects.

One interesting thing that stands out for Christy is how difficult it’s been to recruit employees who have aviation experience. “The industry is quite small, so there aren’t a ton of people with specific aviation design/construction experience, and that creates a very competitive market for those who have a background within the space.”

Some of Christy’s additional responsibilities include payroll administration, insurance and benefits administration, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certification maintenance and corporate filings and taxes. She has played an integral role in helping Connico achieve DBE status in 29 states and counting across the country.

“It’s definitely been a more unique and customized experience,” said Christy. “Each airport authority and client has its own preferred method of when and how invoicing should look. Additionally, because we are a DBE firm, we often have to meet added compliance requirements in terms of contract dollars spent for our services.”

Christy’s advice for women entering the workforce applies to any industry, and that is to do whatever it is you’re responsible for to the absolute best of your ability, without excuse. “On top of that, I believe you really can do it all; having a healthy work/life balance is a real thing and is something everyone should work to make attainable.”

Christy is local to the Middle Tennessee area and works at Connico’s Mt. Juliet office. She holds a Bachelor of Science in social work from Austin Peay State University and a Master of Business Administration from the Keller Graduate School of Management.

Janet Terry, Senior Marketing Specialist

Janet Terry

Janet Terry is an established marketing professional with more than 20 years of progressive experience in the aviation industry. Serving as Connico’s senior marketing specialist for 6 years, she provides marketing and business development services to the firm’s clients and has had an immeasurable impact on hundreds of aviation projects across the country.

“I was first introduced to the aviation industry when I began my role at Connico in 2017. However, I have been involved in marketing for the architecture/engineering/construction industry for nearly 20 years! Aviation is such a fascinating industry to me because the projects that we touch aid the daily lives of so many people across the world,” said Janet.

One of the most interesting things that Janet has found from working in aviation is the many different elements and boundaries that cross over one another. “Since Connico is often involved in projects from the initial planning to the design and through construction, these different stages make marketing and project steps so much more fascinating,” said Janet. “The needs and requirements usually grow as the project progresses through the different stages.”

Some of Janet’s additional responsibilities include proposal preparation, database maintenance and various other marketing duties, including website management, advertising, social media and collateral development. “Marketing for larger projects that allow me to work with multiple teams and partners is my favorite. The qualifications presented, approaches written, and interviews are always more intense and gratifying on these large-scale projects. The Pittsburgh International Airport Terminal Modernization Project is one of my favorites as it has now progressed from the planning and design stage into construction, and seeing the different pieces come together is so amazing.”

Reflecting on one of the more challenging times in the industry, Janet says that COVID-19 was a “real eye-opener for the aviation industry,” with everyone involved having to take a step back to consider their business’s day-to-day operations and how they received and communicated information with current and potential clients. “Interviews and meetings were all made virtual, and the overall outlook for airports changed,” said Janet. “Fast forward a bit, the FAA funding has come through, and airports are now chasing their dreams for building, redoing, and planning their next aviation projects.”

Advice for others – Janet says a key aspect of marketing is building relationships, so her best advice is to consistently seek out new connections and look for ways to deepen the connections you already have. “A great start is to get involved in aviation organizations, like the American Association of Airport Executives or the Airport Consultants Council,” said Janet. “These organizations have countless opportunities for members to connect, and relationships with key firms in the aviation industry are priceless.”

Janet holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Creighton University and is located at Connico’s Mt. Juliet office.

Connico’s purpose is to successfully deliver clients’ visions for projects. We embrace the challenges presented to us through a variety of projects in which we are involved. The excitement of construction and the ability to see projects through from concept to completion drives us to excellence.