Woman's Work

From Homebuilder To Mechanic to Genome Research, She Can Too

Breggin Lioce

Design Professional, Matheny Goldmon

“I’ve known I wanted to be an architect since the fourth grade,” Breggin Lioce shares. While other children were 'playing video games', Breggin was drawing interiors. Currently, she’s a Design Professional with the acclaimed architecture firm, Matheny Goldmon. Breggin is one of two women in the architecture department. “In our office, everyone listens to each other, no one talks over or discounts anyone’s thoughts,” says Breggin emphatically. While she’s struggled as a female in a traditionally male role, it’s been in dealings with consultants and contractors, not her coworkers. A 2020 graduate of Auburn University, Breggin spent the majority of her time in college at the architecture studios. “My life was in the studio, work or gym and home. I didn’t go out or join a sorority. I had no time for it.” There are currently more female students enrolled in Auburn’s Architecture school than male students. Breggin was thrilled to hear the statistic, replying “Go Girls!” When asked what that says about the future, she says, "I think it goes back to trailblazing women, that it’s now becoming more commonplace.” Breggin enjoys residential architecture. “You get to be a part of these people’s lives which is so exciting.”

Lacey Kahana

Service Manager, TAG Auto

Lacey Kahana is TAG Auto’s service manager, or in her words ‘Girl Friday.’  TAG owned by Shirley McCormick, has been operating since 1988. “Shirley knew I needed a job and asked me to come work for two weeks, it's been nine years,” Lacey chuckles. Lacey’s grandfather was a mechanic and being the youngest of all brothers has taught her to ‘not give up easily.’ Lacey credits Martin, the head mechanic for teaching her everything she now knows, “Our shop is a family, Martin took me under his wing.” Her struggles as a female mechanic lie in some of the old-school customers who ‘still prefer to talk to a guy.’ “Women are very capable and I’m thankful that Shirley pushes me.” Lacey brings customers through the shop and walks them through their vehicle needs, “If you don’t need it, I’m not putting it on your car.” Lacey feels that being a female in this industry is an advantage, “Our customers range from single moms, elderly women, college women, and men, “Lacey continues, “It impresses people when they find out TAG is female owned.” 

Chef Narvell Patton

Owner, Catering by Narvell

"I'm a country girl. I know real, fresh food. My mom used to say cooking was one of the best ways to express your love and appreciation." If you've lived in Huntsville for even a short period of time, it's likely you've been to a wedding or event catered by Narvell Patton. With natural ability and a servant's heart, being a woman in a world of mostly male-owned culinary businesses hasn't deterred her. In fact, it's given her an invaluable gift - the chance to show her love of people.

"I always knew I was different. I cooked my first meal when I was 7 and a half years old," Narvell muses. "I guess I can be placed in the 'chef' category, but I didn't go to culinary school. I've never been intimidated by other chefs cause I had the best teachers. Hands-on experience and my mom. And I think I've proven to local chefs here in Huntsville that I'm capable."

When asked if it's been difficult to be a female business owner, Narvell shrugs. "I just do what God directs me to do and do a good job at that. I know that there are greater chefs that I can ever be, but I know that I can cook pinto beans. I love people and it's a ministry to me. A lot of love goes on in the kitchen and the table. I just try to stay me."

Rachel Brown

Owner, Rachel Brown Homes

When Rachel Brown walks into a room her energy is palpable. Rachel has owned her own business for 20 years. Her career journey began with a degree in psychology, but construction was in her blood. “My father was a land developer and a home builder. I grew up working in his company. Watching him purchase land, design communities and build homes for clients to make memories in was magical for me. It still is today.” As far as being a trailblazer in a man’s world? Rachel believes female home builders offer a different level of service and that “women are very detail-oriented.”

Rachel has spent much of her career feeling isolated. She credits the National Association of Home Builders and the Professional Women in Building Council for helping her connect to other female home builders across the country. “I attended a Women in Residential Construction conference about six years ago and met a group of NAHB women in construction. They immediately encouraged me to get involved. It’s taken years to spearhead a local PWB chapter, but we did it. The network of friends I have made has transformed not only my career but my sanity as well. Knowing that I can call a PWB member and vent or ask for help is huge.” In addition to being a female home builder, Rachel is also a wife and mom. “I no longer feel guilty about bringing my child to a meeting, sometimes working on the weekend, canceling an important business meeting because my son is sick, or having a virtual meeting while on vacation.” Rachel says that being upfront and setting expectations with your family and clients is most important. “My husband and son know what to expect, same with my clients.”

LaTonya Moore 

Genome Sequencing Center / Clinical Services Lab, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology 

With a strong interest in the sciences which only intensified after taking her first biology class, LaTonya W. Moore feels at home in any lab. “My first job after obtaining my degree was at a biotech company called Research Genetics, Inc. located in Huntsville. Purifying and sequencing DNA was my specialty,” LaTonya explains. LaTonya also worked as a Senior Manufacturing Chemist IV at a local pharmaceutical company for a few years. While supervising a team of 8-10 men at any given time, she experienced challenges. “They would oftentimes question my knowledge and capabilities, mainly because they did not like taking orders from a female.” LaTonya continues, “It was a very stressful environment. As a leader, I had to become more assertive. Once my staff realized that we were all working to accomplish the same goal, and that I was not easily intimidated, a mutual respect ensued.” To those thinking of going into the field of research, she advises, “A scientific background, a strong work ethic, and being open to learn new things will provide a smooth transition into any field of science.”

LaTonya currently works as a Research Associate III at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. She has been with the institute for over 13 years. “What I love most about my job is being able to apply all of the scientific knowledge that I have acquired over the years to perform and troubleshoot specific protocols. Performing a protocol is a step-by-step technical process, and obtaining a positive outcome is very rewarding.” When asked how her job impacts the world, LaTonya quickly asserts the importance of HudsonAlpha. “Whether it is developing a particular treatment for cancer, discovering the cause of a genetic disorder, or improving crop sustainability, the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is at the forefront of innovative technological advances which continue to benefit all.”

Most of LaTonya’s family and friends are here in Huntsville. “I love Huntsville because I love spending time with all my family and friends.” She states, “Huntsville is growing so quickly. I cannot wait to see what else it has in store!”

I have never been intimidated by chefs that went to culinary school. I had the best teachers, hands-on experience and my mom. - Chef Narvell 

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