School: Iowa State University
Major: Construction Engineering
Company: Miron Construction Co. Inc.
Internship from May 16, 2016 — August 12, 2016
My name is Brett Poulsen and I am a sophomore in the Construction Engineering program at Iowa State University. I chose to pursue an internship in construction in order to learn more about the industry and gain experience working in it also. I had only taken a couple construction classes in college and really wanted to get a feel for what goes on in the field. I received an offer from a general contractor company that happened to be near my hometown and I so I enthusiastically accepted it. It is a family owned company, and I immediately met many people and continued to work with them, even if I was not always in the headquarters building. I enjoyed meeting many people in the industry and being able to learn how each person affects the construction process. The company eventually put me on a project at Lambeau Field, which I really enjoyed. Being from Wisconsin, everyone around cheers for the Packers, which is different from Iowa State. I enjoyed being back at home and surrounded by people that shared the culture that I grew up in: family businesses and Sundays cheering for the Packers.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
Because it was my first internship with the general contractor company, they paired me with a construction manager and I shadowed him for most of the summer. Within my first couple weeks I already accomplished personal goals: I had learned a lot about construction in general, management organization, how a GC and project managers interact with their subcontractors, and had experienced what bid day was like for a project! I did my best to continue to learn how the company operated so I could help as much as I could. I exceeded my company’s expectations on how quickly I picked up on a project manager’s duties and I was praised for a presentation I delivered by myself in front of the company’s executives. I eventually was put charge of a warranty repair project for a school and made monthly reports on a project that were given to the project’s owners. For the warranty repair project, I was the sole contact with the repair company representative. I organized a time for the representative to come to the site and walked him around the project, showing the work that was to be done. I later returned to the site to check on the job he had done and make sure the owner was happy with the completed work. Because I worked hard early to learn how the company operated and how my superior interacted with others, I had the abilities to complete these projects and was entrusted with them.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
I learned about the communication in this industry. My only prior experience with collaborative work was group projects in college. At my internship, I learned how project managers interact with their subcontractors and the owners of the projects and how they work together to achieve common goals, such as finishing a building quickly and safely. This included multiple meetings and making sure everyone is on the same page by sending out meeting minutes. Often being surrounded with other companies also lead me to learn how much personal relationships affect this industry. Any company can deliver a building or renovate a middle school, but what makes companies different is the people working. Establishing a personal relationship with the owner of the project and making sure they are happy is incredibly important.
I also learned how important safety is. My company stressed that every injury is preventable and that it is always worth taking extra precautionary measures. As I grow in this field and find careers, I will remember that safety always comes first in this industry and that everyone should go home safe at the end of the day.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
At my company, we are taught from day one the philosophy of “Safety, Quality, Production.” I kept SQP in the back of my mind as my project manager and I would make at least one weekly trip to our projects to walk through them and make sure quality work was being produced and all safety regulations were being followed. Another saying at my company is, “If you see a problem, you inherit a problem.” This means that no problem should go ignored, and if anyone sees something that is unsafe, they should say something because safety is everyone’s priority. I am proud to say I worked on the Lambeau Field project, not only because I enjoyed it so much, but because by the time I left in the fall, my company recorded over two million man hours without a lost time incident.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
To me, I Build America entails not only how impressive construction projects can be, but also how much work each construction worker puts in to every project. Much of the construction industry requires a human element and cannot be done with machines. I Build America is about recognizing the hard work that everyone involved with a construction project puts in. I Build America also shows how impressive and rewarding the industry is. Over the past couple years, I have heard many construction companies explain that they need more workers. During my internship, I sat in on a school meeting discussing how the high school could incorporate more skilled trades in their school. After reading through I Build America, it is obvious that the message is to both recognize the hard work of every worker and give them a sense of pride, and bring in more people to continue building America.