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From ballet slippers to steel toe shoes

Cara Grant - EllisDon

Cara Grant was a professional ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada until a terrible fractured pelvis injury ended her career.  

“I was saved, in a way, by my curiosity of exploring what else life the world had to offer me,” says Grant. “I’d always been passionate about history and architecture, and following my curiosity, I pursued the first step in my post-secondary education studying interior design and architecture.” 

“My path, between what many people see as two very opposing worlds, was probably single-handedly the result of my curiosity and a testament to how powerful curiosity has been in my life.” 

Cara wanted to learn how to work on a construction site, but the feedback she was given was what she describes as “almost a warning.” 

She was questioned if she was sure and warned that she was going to “lose her feminity” or that she was “too female” to do that.  

“And I thought, ‘No!’” says Grant. 

One day after she had finished her education, Cara was walking down the street in Toronto and saw that EllisDon was building the Ritz Carlton Hotel

“I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, looked up at the building and I said, ‘How did they do that?’ and that question was the very thing that drove me to join an engineering firm and start my career in construction. I had to know how buildings were built.” 

After about 10 years of working in an engineering firm, in project management, other questions arose. She needed to know the answer!  

  • How did the day-to-day life of construction projects work on site?  
  • How do they take drawings and get trades to build from them?
  • How do you coordinate all the trades on site every day?  
  • How do you meet schedules?  
  • How do you meet budgets? 

“So, I approached EllisDon and applied for a job. I had to find the answers to my questions.” 

Four years since she’s been working at EllisDon, her days are filled with stimulating, challenging complex puzzles of building hospitals, retail complexes, community centres, and other exciting projects. Cara says that the experiences she had as a dancer translate into her career now in terms of dedication, focus, and determination.

“I love the pressure. I’m driven by the complexity and the constant strategic problem-solving. And mostly that every day I learn something new.” 

“Curiosity is the desire to acquire knowledge and experience. It creates an active mind rather than a passive mind, which is why I think using curiosity when deciding your education path, your career choices is so important and powerful.” 

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