By Tia Endres, Project Engineer
I joined Vogel Bros. Building Co. as a Project Engineer this summer right after I finished school and walked across that stage. I was eager to begin my career, and excited at this new opportunity. It’s been a crazy month and a half, but I have enjoyed every part of it. There are so many things I have observed and learned already. Being fresh to this profession, there are some key lessons I’ve learned that I’d like to share as advice to any student considering this industry.
- Ask lots of questions. Working in the construction industry, I have found that “scope” covers much more than I expected. The amount of detail project managers get into is amazing, and they have an immense knowledge of what they are working on. Their knowledge and proficiency results in them often times using acronyms or discussing topics that are unfamiliar to a new project engineer. I have learned that it is important to ask them to clarify and explain “why” in addition to “how.” Failure to do so just makes it harder for me to learn and more confusing. So always ask a lot of questions.
- Expect change. When I started with Vogel Bros., I expected to be working full time on a large lab project. Due to changes with that project, I was reassigned and am now working on many different projects. I also expected to be serving in a general contractor capacity on the project. Instead, I am serving as an owner’s representative for one of the projects I’m involved in. While these day-to-day tasks are different then I imagined, these changes are not negative. Rather, they have proved to be a great opportunity for me to learn a much more diverse set of skills. I encourage you to accept, expect and appreciate change.
- Track as much as you can. Taking notes is key for helping myself learn. With so many new concepts, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Lists have become a large part of my work. I can follow my to-do lists, track action items on projects, record lessons learned, manage cost changes, assess risks taken, etc. These lists and notes are allowing myself to go back and look at what was promised and what has changed. In the future, they will also allow me to go back and apply my past lessons learned on new projects. Definitely track what you can.
- Pay attention to how others interact. Construction management is a very interactive field. For a project to be successfully completed, many different entities have to come together. It has been quite interesting to listen and watch how communication changes between internal employees, owners, architects, engineering, and subcontractors both in context and style. Observing the different conversation styles has helped me and guided my interaction with others.
I know there will be much more to learn throughout my career, and I look forward to each opportunity.