School: Clemson University
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Crowder Construction Company
Internship from 1/5/15 — 4/30/15
For a period of four months in the spring of 2015, Crowder Construction took me on as a project engineer on the Civil & Environmental team carrying out the improvement project for the North & South Durham Water Reclamation Facilities. Designed and contracted by Hazen & Sawyer to satisfy nutrient-reduction requirements recently imposed by the Environmental Management Commission (EMC), the $13.5 million lump-sum contract involved enhancing the facilities’ aeration basins and introducing new, innovative Aluminum, Carbon, and Caustic Storage and Feed facilities, Bulk Reuse Fill stations, a Tablet Chlorination facility, and a Sidestream Treatment facility (AnitaMOX®).
In addition to being short-staffed and strictly budgeted, this municipal project for the City of Durham was carried out on two independent sites – North and South. Because of this, our team – led by PM Steve Worsham – was presented with numerous challenges while mobilizing labor and equipment, procuring materials, streamlining schedules, and communicating and meeting with facility directors and H&S engineers from both sites. As much as these difficulties made for a tough job, our team was positively pressed to perform at a high level as we managed time and money in order to construct quality facilities for Durham – a situation far more teaching than an over-staffed, high-margin construction project.
What results did you achieve on the project(s), and what impact did they have on the company?
Working with Steve and two other project engineers – Andrew Calvert and Jeff Gellenbeck (as well as Spero Katsanos, originally) – I handled the majority of mid-project purchasing and equipment rental for both WRF sites. By daily building relationships with suppliers and negotiating purchases, I was able to minimize our material and equipment costs and maximize production and the quality of our end result. Also, in the few months that I was on the team, I was able to secure the approval of 90% of all Operation & Maintenance manuals for the project. Through daily interaction with vendors, multiple reviews of manuals, and detailed discussions about the warranties to be provided to Durham, I was able to largely complete this meticulous, but necessary, portion of the project. Similarly, I saw to it that spare parts from 90% of our vendors were turned over to Durham before the end of my time on the project. Completion of these two particular tasks meant reaching vital milestones necessary for receiving payment from Durham.
Even in small aspects of the project such as O&M manuals and spare parts turnover, I was able to personally develop positive relationships with the Durham directors and Hazen engineers on a weekly basis and, in doing so, represent Crowder Construction well through diligence and amiability.
In addition to these responsibilities, I handled progress documentation for both sites of the project by recording weekly pictures of key areas of construction. Doing so allowed our team to review past site layouts and resolve any potential issues of damage caused or tasks neglected during the course of the project.
What real-life technical or business skills did you learn during the internship?
Through hours of time spent in conversation on the phone each day, I steadily developed phone etiquette characterized by clarity of thought, succinct communication of needed information or action required, and courteous demeanor in conversation. Despite a few instances of frustrated or angry vendors, I learned to interact with patience no matter the situation.
Similarly, as I was gradually taught to communicate with vendors, I progressively learned to skillfully negotiate in purchasing materials and procuring equipment. Knowing how to professionally, but firmly assert the needs of our team and secure a reasonable, valuable product became a very useful tool.
Out of dire necessity, I was also able to gain some very practical skills in organization and note taking. As my level of responsibility on the team immediately rose, I was led to quickly develop personal strategies for organizing information, prioritizing tasks, and summarizing principles learned. Such a valuable personal skill will certainly serve me well in the years to come.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
By simply joining this group of professional managers and engineers and teaming up with them to accomplish real, valuable results, I have developed in numerous ways. Through several tense situations with superintendents and vendors, I have gained confidence to handle confrontational events with clarity and composure. Since the months of this internship with Crowder have passed, I have noticed in myself less hesitance in asserting myself in situations of conflict and a greater confidence and calmness in making necessary confrontations in everyday life.
Through interacting with many different people on this project, I have learned to better appreciate the work of others. Learning to treat all people – from business owners and managers to manual laborers – with genuine respect has been an enjoyable experience.
I have been trained through work on this project to live more proactively, to take initiative in getting information and accomplishing tasks. Lastly, my time with Crowder has given me the enjoyable opportunity of building relationships with professionals from a wide spectrum of backgrounds – one that, having learned the pleasure of it, I will value from here on out.
Where do you think technology will make the biggest impact in construction in the next few years, and how will it do that?
The development and availability of smartphones in recent years seems to have had a definite, positive affect on the construction industry. The personal availability and efficiency made possible by smartphones and mobile hardware – and the innovative software that they bring – has and will only continue to shrink the gap between contractors and suppliers, among personnel within companies, and especially between field personnel and project management. For example, as superintendents inevitably grow in use of smartphones and their applications, the documentation of projects and the transfer of information between field and office will only be enhanced. Project scheduling and project completion will steadily become more fluid as submittals are approved more efficiently, subcontractors are signed up with less delays, and materials and equipment are obtained more immediately.
As a whole, smartphones and the like are bound to make the construction world smaller – just as they have the rest of our lives.