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Crew Connection—Kilian Ruggiero

a woman on a barge
Kilian aboard the derrick barge VALHALLA in Hawaii.

Kilian Ruggiero decided the best way to advance her marine construction and dredging career was to get a job at Manson Construction Co.  

“I wanted to join Manson because I wanted to see how other companies do the work,” Kilian says. “My old crew cautioned me because they told me that once I join Manson, I would love it and never want to leave.” 

A native of Washington state, Kilian grew up in South Seattle with a house full of brothers, which she says helped toughen her up.  

She attended Ingraham High School in the Haller Lake neighborhood of North Seattle, catching the early morning bus to make it in time for First Period.  

“Getting to school was a journey,” Kilian says. "The ride took more than an hour, and I had to hop on a bus that specifically took kids South to North every day.”  

As a freshman, Kilian elected to take an automotive course and instantly fell in love with the work. On a teacher's suggestion, she enrolled in Running Start, a dual college program that allows high school students to take college-level courses. The program allowed Kilian to attend Renton Technical College’s Automotive Technology course (formerly ITEC) to learn about automotive repair.  

“ITEC was great because they require you to work for an auto shop in order to take the course,” Kilian says. "You get real work experience while learning the material.”  

After receiving an Automotive Service Excellence certificate, she quickly found work at a local shop. 

Five years into working as a mechanic, Kilian left the shop to start her own automotive repair business, renting a mechanic’s bay in a nearby garage.  

“After leaving the shop that I was working at, I worked for myself for a couple years,” Kilian says. “I had to move a couple times because shops would close, but it got difficult toward the end because of the rent prices.” 

In search of something more financially stable, Kilian saw an advertisement on Craigslist for a pre-apprenticeship program through ANEW, an organization that accelerates the path toward construction and manufacturing roles for underserved communities.  

Seeing that it would be a good opportunity to try something new and make a decent living, Kilian entered the program and joined the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 302 chapter in 2017.  

“I got a job with a local marine contractor as a deck engineer on a 90-ton derrick barge,” Kilian remembers. “I also ran excavators, forklifts, and other equipment on several projects.” 

Realizing that a career in marine construction can provide financial stability, Kilian continued to build her skill set and earn the respect of management and crews.  

“I was making more money in marine construction than I had in the past, and I knew this was the career for me,” she says. "While working with the crews, I learned two important things: Having a good attitude and putting in the work when things get challenging are keys to success when you are out on a job.” 

In September 2023, Kilian received a call from a former coworker who had gone on to work at Manson.  

“My friend called and told me there were job opportunities with Manson,” Kilian explains. “Not long after, I made the move and joined as a deckhand on a dredging job in Hawaii with the derrick barge crew VALHALLA.” 

two people on a barge
Kilian Ruggiero (left) and Matt Moldenhauer (right) after load testing the VALHALLA at Manson's Seattle Yard.

An important project for Manson, the P-209 Dry Dock 3 Replacement Joint Base Pearl Harbor Dredging project involved dredging an entrance channel and dry dock site, with Kilian contributing to the crew’s success. 

“Working in Hawaii with the crew was a new experience for me as it was my first time there,” Kilian says. “It took a lot of work to maintain the VALHALLA and make sure the rest of the crew had things in place to dig and get the job done.” 

Several months into her role at Manson, Kilian is preparing to join the crew on the derrick barge VIKING to work Season 2 of the North Extension Stabilization project in Anchorage, Alaska, and she looks forward to what should be a busy work season. 

“The nice thing about working here is that you get the chance to travel to different places and work on projects,” Kilian says. “Manson treats their people well and spends the money to keep crews comfortable on the barge while they work. That is something that I have never experienced before.” 

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