My internship at PulteGroup challenged me in ways that I couldn’t fully describe in a few, short paragraphs. The entire experience was like drinking out of a fire hose! Nonetheless, I have lured it down to three projects that I think stand above the rest. I will try my best to illustrate my experience with consideration for the number of applications you have to read.
On the first day of work my boss handed me a book, a binder, and emailed me a link. This was my first project. He told me, “Your job is to complete as much of the curriculum as possible”. The book was titled, Breaking Ground, it had fourteen chapters full of questions relating to the company and its departments. The binder was labeled, Construction Internship Program, and it had twelve tabs with an endless (and I mean endless) amount of things to ask, see, and do. The link was for a guided learning program that had material of its own. No one had ever completed all the learning material. Most interns were construction science majors and were required to work for an entire semester. I was a finance major who only had ten weeks for a summer internship. Did I mention that my boss wrote most of the material and would be testing my knowledge of all three programs?
These are the areas of the company that I worked in, learned about, and was given the privilege of asking questions: Company History, Vision, Branding Dynamics, Strategic Marketing, Product Development, Land Acquisition, Land Development, Operational Marketing, Sales, Construction, Purchasing, Finance, Pulte Mortgage, PGP Title, PCIC Insurance, Human Resources, Customer Service, Resource Planning, and Warranty. I spoke with employees, customers, and vendors to get as much knowledge in these areas as possible. I tapped into the intricacies of each department in order to understand how they all work and work together. By the end of my internship I got a raving review from my boss and other figures in the company! I gained a reputation for asking good questions and picking things up quickly. I was told that I did a great job of extracting the most out of the internship, and that I completed far more curriculum than they imagined. This was by far the most rewarding and time consuming project I undertook. However, it was not the most challenging.
You may have an impression that I spent most of my time taking notes and asking questions, however, I did more than just that. The purpose of the learning material was to prepare me to do work. While I was shadowing a seasoned Field Manager, I was informed that I was being trained to take over his workload while he went on vacation. I was trained for two weeks and for the following two weeks I took on the responsibility of ten homes under construction. Talk about a trial by fire experience! Keep in mind I am I finance major and I didn’t know the first thing about construction. The first day of training I asked if drywall was the same thing as sheet rock! Once I became a Field Manager I ceased all intern activities, and I worked my tail off. I built an intricate to do list for each house. I managed workers who didn’t respect me because of my age. I withheld payment for jobs that weren’t complete because workers thought they could get away with it. I fixed things for homeowners under warranty and made sure houses met the standards of customers before they closed. I put my foot down on phone calls to make sure things got done on schedule. I failed inspections and scrambled to fix the items on the red tag. I worked overtime and did not make excuses even though I wanted to crumble under the pressure of it all. I did a great job, and I did more than was expected of me.
For my third project I stepped into another full time position. I worked as an Expeditor for two days. There had been three weeks of consistent rain that caused our resource planning department to spiral into a crisis. Our vendors didn’t have the capacity to meet the piling demands. The resource planning department had to reconfigure around 380 home building schedules. We had 48 hours to fix schedules in a way that maximized efficiency and didn’t overload our vendors. Our boss worked until 11:30pm one night building a model that would provide the framework for us to change the schedules in a coordinated way. I was part of a team of five people responding to this issue and with long hours we solved that great dilemma. It was tedious work, but it was of the utmost importance to the health of the company.
What results did you achieve on the project(s), and what impact did they have on the company?
The first project that I mentioned (the book, the binder, and the link) had several outcomes. I achieved an extensive level of knowledge about the company. I capitalized on a rare opportunity to have an inside look at each department. The questions that I asked seemed to have an effect on the culture of the company. People felt valued when I asked them about their work. I offered insight to certain individuals about the perspective of other departments. This project equipped me to better understand the flow of a business and create cohesion. Lastly, The things that I learned enabled me to handle hundreds of tasks that added value to Pulte. Based on the evaluation I was given by my employer, I believe that his hopes for the project were completed.
When I stepped into the role as a Field Manager for two weeks I brought considerable value to the company. They pay generous salaries to home builders because they ensure quality, customer satisfaction, enforce company standards, and help with asset turnover. I had all of those effects on the company! I made sure that jobs were done right and went to great lengths to ensure quality. I personally ensured customer satisfaction after meeting the homeowners’’ requests and preparing for walk-throughs. I enforced safety standards and construction standards that protected the company from liability. I oversaw the production schedule of ten homes, and I solved problems that could have harmed the production schedule. I had a positive effect on the reputation of the company, handled their investment well, and ensured quality. I achieved a work ethic that I didn’t know I was capable of.
The two days that I took on the role of an Expeditor were pertinent to the company. I rebuilt the schedules of over forty homes which helped maximize efficiency for the region. I expedited the solution of problem that was causing a production nightmare. My hours of overtime provided support to the Resource Planning Department as they juggled an overwhelming workload.
What real-life technical or business skills did you learn during the internship?
I developed a wide spectrum of business skills at PulteGroup. I acquired some powerful negotiation tactics for the director of purchasing. I was given a picture of the art of sales from the VP of Sales, Sales Manager, and several top Sales Associates. I was trained on how to build strong relationships with vendors. I was given an in depth look at a Fortune 500 business model. I learned about product development and the power of consumer feedback. I saw how a successful company compiles customer feedback. I was able to witness the Warranty and Customer Service departments enhance the reputation of the company. I learned how to deal with a wide range of customers while working as a Field Manager. The Director of Finance coached me on what it takes to perform well in the financial industry. Employees demonstrated the importance of establishing a niche in the market and becoming calculated in the pursuit of a target market. I gained perspective on the nature of competition and ways to adapt to forces in the market. I began to manage data in a productive, organized way. I was given an example of respectable management that drives the success of the company.
I gained technical knowledge and skills throughout my internship as well. My skill with Microsoft Excel increased dramatically. I now know the chronological steps that need to be taken in order to build a home. I obtained technical skills pertaining to foundation quality, framing, reading blueprints, brick/stone work, inspection standards, safety standards, grading/drainage, plumbing, electrical work, fireplaces, air conditioning, flooring, paint, roofing, flashing, irrigation, and minor repair work. In fact, all of my construction knowledge came from my experience in the field. My time in the office also increased my business skills. I know how to prepare competitive comparisons, marketing analysis and research, models that process data, legal research, negotiation tactics, sales strategy, and learned about how leverage the internet in new ways.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
I discovered a company that I will probably end up working for! My experience at the internship provided me with an unparalleled amount of job satisfaction. I thought that I would be a business analyst after college, but this internship really changed my perspective. I think I want to work as a Field Manger and build homes after college. PulteGroup offered perspective on what I want to do for a career.
This internship challenged me in ways that I had never been challenged before. There were times that I was tempted to slow down, give up, and make excuses. It would have been so easy to say, “They have given me something I’m not qualified to do”. I learned how to fight through those thoughts and achieve things I didn’t know I could do! I have more confidence in myself and what I can accomplish with hard work and perseverance. When I am faced with various challenges down the road I know this experience has given me a mentality that will help me succeed.
The business skills and technical knowledge that I picked up will carry over into my career. When I return to work for PulteGroup, I will be able to stand out because I have a perspective that only comes from participating in the internship. I got to ask a crazy amount of questions and interview members from each department. Many employees said that they wish they could have had such an experience before they were placed on a career path. This valuable perspective will help me to excel in the work environment and open doors to new opportunities.
Where do you think technology will make the biggest impact in construction in the next few years, and how will it do that?
Within the nature of production there is always a bottleneck. The bottleneck is like the weakest link in a chain. It determines the maximum amount of production that can occur in a given amount of time. Technology pinpoints weakness in existing methods. The cotton gin, computers, engines, and airplanes all have a similar function. They overcame obstacles and provided an easier way. Where do I think technology will make the biggest impact in construction? Right at where you find the bottleneck: labor.
Construction companies want their projects to be done as quickly as possible. Why wouldn’t they? Asset turnover is an invaluable financial metric within this industry. There often isn’t enough labor to meet needs. Not to mention, it’s difficult to create an ideal schedule when the completion time for each task is uncertain. Within the near future, I see technology increasing the speed and efficiency of the construction worker. Such technology could include: methods that dry concrete quicker, power tools that increase efficiency, robots that can carry and lift heavy material, brick and mortar stacking technology, creative methods for bracing while framing, and anything else that empowers a laborer.
A case could be made for sustainability and green production as well, but I don’t see this movement reaping a substantial profit in the immediate future or increasing the efficiency of construction. Hence, I think technology is going to make the biggest impact on the efficiency of labor.