IIBEC Member Profile – Jennifer Keegan

Back To News
April 30, 2021
By Rick Gardner
Keegan presenting on stage
Keegan presenting at the Siplast Sales Conference.

Jennifer Keegan is the GAF director of building and roofing science. Keegan started her career at Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates working on failure investigations, repair design, and construction litigation for 10 years in Northern California. She then transitioned to working for Western Construction Group, a restoration contractor covering the entire West Coast region. When she moved back home to the East Coast, Keegan focused on construction defect litigation at Navigant Consulting, and new construction design as the Northeast regional manager for Intertek. After 20 years of consulting, her career took a turn in 2018 when she joined GAF.

With IIBEC, Keegan started as a learner. Her mentors told her, “This is the place you need to go. Attend these conferences, listen, and learn.” Since that time, her involvement has come full circle from being a student in the audience to being a frequent presenter, and from networking with her peers to this year being the Education Committee chair for IIBEC.

Can you tell me more about your background, your education, and what brought you to the building enclosure field?

Growing up, I wanted to be architect. I loved designing buildings. I was good in math and science, so my teachers kept telling me that I should be an engineer.

I went to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. I definitely had an engineering mindset, but I couldn’t let go of my dream of being an architect. Engineering was black and white, while architecture makes you think outside the box. When I graduated, I had the choice of any job I wanted. I went on several interviews in New York City, but none of the positions felt right for me. During the same timeframe, my teaching assistant from Lehigh finished her masters and interviewed with WJE. I decided to follow her recommendation. They took me to job sites, up on the roof, and showed me hands-on work in the building enclosure field. That was it. I said “YES! This is It!” I had no idea this was a career. I fell into it. I feel extremely fortunate.

What kind of projects are you working on right now? Is there a particular project you have worked on in the past that made an impact on you?

Keegan (right) with building and roofing science colleagues James Kirby (left) and Ben Meyer (center).

My role at GAF is very outward facing. We have had to reinvent our approach to education to make it more interactive and engaging. We have been teaching a wind design workshop and launched a weekly technical trivia challenge. We are progressing our research through the RCI-IIBEC Foundation on the thermal bridging of roof fasteners in collaboration with Virginia Tech and Simpson, Gumpertz and Heger. Additionally, we are continuing our research on retrofitting single-ply roof systems in collaboration with Missouri University of Science and Technology.

As far as projects from the past that made an impact on me, one of my favorites was during my time at Navigant Consulting. I was working with one of my favorite clients, So Others Might Eat (SOME), on pre-litigation issues we helped resolve. Given the success of that project, they hired us to oversee the design and construction of their flagship building in DC. It was a corporate office that featured a combination of low-income housing, recovery support, job training, and everything else under one roof. It was amazing being hired at the conception of the project.

It was the first project I worked on where I was able to help select the architect, influence the design, and  perform the quality assurance and testing. It was everything from soup to nuts. The best part was that it was for an organization I believe in. It was really special. The organization set the tone. To this day, it was the most collaborative project I have ever worked on. It was a once-in-a-lifetime project.

keegan hanging from a building
Keegan hanging from a building.

Keegan just hanging around.

Keegan on the roof of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA.

How did you get involved with IIBEC?

Initially as a learner, then over the past few years as a presenter. I have been actively working on the relationship between IIBEC and National Women in Roofing (NWiR), and creating an alliance between the two organizations. This past year, I was asked to serve on the IIBEC Education Committee. I keep getting in deeper and deeper.

What is your favorite part of work?

I love the people. This industry has given me some of the most amazing mentors in my career. They have provided me with a strong foundation and continue to help me grow. I especially love the informal networking at events where you hear others’ stories, creative solutions, and perspectives. IIBEC members are so generous. This year, though, you had to be very intentional and creative about networking.

What advice would you give today to someone starting out in the industry?

Get involved…with your company, organizations like IIBEC, NRCA, or NWiR. Volunteer to help; that is the way to learn a lot.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you. Those small things that make us uncomfortable help us build courage to do the work we do.” I believe you should get uncomfortable and learn from your mistakes and then give back; that is how you grow your knowledge, your network, and your value.

What is one thing our readers would not know about you?

I have a new house. I moved in the middle of the pandemic in July and it has a rain garden. I love being outside, so I have enjoyed learning the difference between plants and weeds. There is something satisfying about clearing out the overgrowth. I’m finding that tending my garden is therapeutic.

How do you spend your free time? Do you have any hobbies or interests?

I love doing anything outdoors. Fall is my favorite time of the year for hiking, camping, and riding. I have been enjoying the memoir Untamed by Glennon Doyle on audiobook. She says, “Being human is not about feeling happy. It’s about feeling everything.” Yet, we’ve been taught to seek happy and shove down the rest. To bury it and not talk about it. To say, “I’m fine!” But especially now, it’s even more important to talk about it. All of it.

This has led me to my current professional hobby—Mental Health Matters. I’ve had more honest conversations in the past six months than in my 20-something years combined in the industry. This social isolation is really difficult, and we need to be more mindful about changing the narrative. When you ask a friend how they are doing and they say, “fine,” I truly believe it’s important to follow up and ask, “How are you really doing?” We all need to stop masking ourselves and start having honest conversations and talk about the tough things too.

NRCA just hosted a program on suicide prevention. NWiR hosted a monthly series on mental health matters that ran through April. These are tools we can use to help ourselves and others through this pandemic. I’m excited to raise my voice on this issue in our industry.

What do you wish you knew more about?

With the weather changing, I love getting far enough out of town to see the stars. I love the stories and legends behind the constellations. I think it would be really cool to learn more about astronomy. But I am vested in the stories, so I think I may want to linger in the mystery of it all.

What is the luckiest thing that has ever happened to you?

Professionally, it was falling into that interview with WJE. If it were not for the conversation I had with my teaching assistant and not being excited by the other offers in New York City, I’m not sure where my career would have ended up. And I love my job, and I’m so thankful that I ended up here.

I am so glad to see more programs out there that educate students about building science, roofing, and construction. I absolutely love this industry and the career that I have had. I still remember that moment when I was graduating and asking myself, “What am I going to do with my life?” I am so grateful that things fell into place like they did.

Who inspires you?

My two daughters. My daughter Peyton teaches me about strength and perseverance, while my daughter Ari has taught me about patience and empathy. They have inspired me to be the best version of myself. They have taught me to patient with myself (and them, as best as a mother can be). Hopefully, I can get it right before they go off to college.

Keegan and daughter Peyton

Keegan with her daughters Peyton (left) and Ari.

Is there anything else you wish to share with IIBEC members?

I do see more diversity in our industry than when I first started…and we still have a long way to go. Inclusion and diversity have been such an elevated conversation this year—both in society and in our industry. Clearly, IIBEC sees the importance of this conversation. The keynote speaker for the IIBEC Awards Ceremony shared a great message with us on unconscious biases and challenged us to acknowledge them and become more mindful.

IIBEC has had a collaborative relationship with NWiR for the past three years. With this relationship, I would love to see more IIBEC members become more involved and create more programs and content for consultants. NWiR exists to recruit and empower women, so they grow in their careers, within their organizations, earn a seat at the table and, most importantly, we keep them in the industry! NWiR is for women and men. Men need to be part of this conversation. Let’s challenge our conventional thinking and approaches, and together we can better our industry by leveraging the strengths of our diversity of thought. If you are interested too, please reach out to me at Jennifer.keegan@gaf.com and let us do this together.


Rick GarnderIIBEC Foundation Development Officer Rick Gardner

Gardner has advocated for IIBEC’s foundations via fundraising, networking, and innumerable phone calls since 2014. You can reach him via email at rgardner@iibec.org.