What do construction and wakeboarding have in common?
Joy Manning, supervisory project manager for capital construction and renovations in the Virginia Tech Facilities Department, who is also a seven-time world champion wakeboarder.
In October, Manning traveled to Cancun for the World Wake Association Wakeboard World Championships where she won her seventh title. Her wakeboarding travels have taken her all over the globe to destinations like Japan, Portugal, and Toronto.
While the majority of her free time is spent on Smith Mountain Lake, Manning didn’t always have a love for the water. Before trying out her husband’s wakeboard, she was terrified of getting in the water ?— afraid of the unknown creatures beneath the surface.
However, her mindset changed when she was watching a wakeboarding competition and began talking with a female competitor about why there were so few women competing. It was then, around the age of 32, that she decided to put her fears aside and discovered her newfound passion for wakeboarding.
Manning picked up the sport easily and has been mostly self-taught. She credits her deep experiences practicing and teaching gymnastics for her work ethic and coordination skills on the water.
Manning has tried to combat the lack of women in the sport by being an advocate.
For the past seven years, she has hosted a women’s weekend on the lake where she invites friends and women of all ages to practice the sport. She is also actively engaged in Women on the Water, a program that teaches women how to operate boats, hook them up to vehicles, back them up onto docks, and more.
Similar to her advocacy for women in wakeboarding, Manning is also an advocate for women in construction. Less than 10 percent of construction jobs today are held by women, a staggeringly-low percentage.
For close to 22 years, Manning has excelled in an industry dominated by men.
Prior to Virginia Tech, Manning was a project manager at HITT Contracting for 14 years.
Manning started working at Virginia Tech in 2015 with Gilbane Building Company. She joined the Facilities Department leading the renovations team in 2017. She currently manages facilities renovations projects on campus under $3 million. Her responsibilities include oversite of project management by both the renovations and minor modifications teams; working collaboratively with all the departments within facilities to make certain the proper approvals, mean, and methods are followed for project design and construction; working with university stakeholders/end users to ensure the projects fully meet their needs; and much more.
This March, Manning helped lead Virginia Tech’s efforts for national Women in Construction Week. During the week, women in Facilities engaged in networking, professional development activities, construction site tours, and much more.
Women in Construction Week and apprenticeship and internship programs are just some of the ways Facilities strives to engage women in construction and skilled trades careers.
Whether it be starting a new career or new sport, what is Manning’s biggest piece of advice for women who want to try something completely new?
“Don’t let the fear hold you back,” said Manning. “If I hadn’t leaned into my fear of the water earlier, I would never have discovered my passion for wakeboarding. The same can go for trying a new skill or entering into a new job.”
— Christy Myers