School: Pennsylvania State University
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Mascaro Construction Company, L.P.
Internship from May 16, 2016 — August 12, 2016
My name is Casey Mrazik, and I’ve had the exciting opportunity of interning at Mascaro Construction Company this past summer. Starting in high school, I developed a passion for construction during three separate mission trips through Project HOPE which involved traveling to the rural areas of eastern Kentucky to renovate, build, and repair the homes of those in need. Our construction teams worked on homes required to withstand the conditions of a flood zone. I worked on various aspects of the construction projects from installing drywall to repairing wooden decks. I even participated on a special project that included building a home from start to finish within a week, from digging for the foundation to shingling the roof.
My affinity for the construction of large scale infrastructure further developed after spending two weeks in Southeastern China; there I witnessed the construction of major skyscrapers and learned of China’s new building completions of 1 every 5 days. In Guangzhou, city officials presented models outlining their development plans in 10 year increments. The Canton Tower, bamboo scaffolding, and open screenless windows gave me a new perspective of building codes in other countries. These experiences peaked my interest in construction and led me to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering at Penn State University.
During my freshman year, I joined Penn State’s Concrete Canoe Team which provided me with more hands-on construction experience and exposure to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Friday afternoon construction became my favorite time of the week. My teammates selected me to be our canoe paddling captain after last year’s competition at Drexel University where I presented our team’s project. I also appreciated watching the renovation of the Steidle Building directly outside of my dorm with Mascaro Construction as the Construction Manager. I observed progress as the construction team replaced inadequate building systems, established research clusters, and created 25,750 SF of state-of-the-art science labs. I was inspired by the transformation of this 87-year-old building on a daily basis which led me to apply to Mascaro Construction for an internship.
Not knowing exactly what role I’d have as an intern, I accepted the position because of the reputation of Mascaro and the well-structured internship program they had established. On day one, I was introduced to the buildings estimating department. With no previous experience in estimating, I was excited to learn of the bidding process and how to determine quantities and necessary crews for a job. By the end of the summer, I worked on estimates for projects ranging from a wastewater treatment plant to a medical office building while also modifying Mascaro’s self-performed concrete pricing matrix. Through my exposure to estimating and estimating software, I gained a deeper understanding of the front-end of any construction project.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
In May, I came in cold. I had some construction experience through Project HOPE and Concrete Canoe, but I was new in the industry. Before my first day, I had never looked at a set of architectural drawings, and by the end of the second day, I obtained dimensions and quantities for bidding the drywall portion of a dental school renovation and obtained flagpole and concrete planter quotes for a medical building. As part of my experience in estimating, I interfaced with architects, engineers, and subcontractors throughout the bidding process. More specifically, I submitted requests for information and collaborated with the owners and architects to determine areas of cost savings. I worked on a team to develop estimates for several divisions: concrete, sitework, masonry, openings, finishes, and specialties for both design-build and hard bid projects. A month into my internship, I led a sitework estimate for an athletic complex valued at $1.4M.
For my job, I was responsible for learning different software programs including Oncenter Takeoff and BlueBeam. I surprised my mentors with how quickly I learned how to operate each program and organize my takeoffs; they later asked me to improve the concrete pricing matrix for Mascaro’s self-performed work. Between bids, I restructured the format of the Excel file and updated the cost codes to make the project managers’ lives easier. The new matrix included the cost of winter concrete work, the cost of the tradesmen, as well as the total man-days required for the job. I learned a lot in twelve weeks, and I’m grateful that Mascaro took a chance on me as a freshman, making me the youngest intern they’ve ever had.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
For the amount of technical skills I gained from this internship, I gained even more life skills. I came into the summer knowing I’d learn a lot, but I didn’t realize the impact my co-workers and mentors would have on my life. Reflecting back, one aspect of my job that I really appreciated was the company culture. After my interview, I kept hearing from people that Mascaro Construction is a great place to work; I now know what they meant. Everyone genuinely cared about my growth as a person, a student, and a young professional. I received advice ranging from how to estimate a job to how to transition from the academic to the professional world. I still have a quote written on an index card that one of my co-workers didn’t want me to forget: “The only constant in life is change.”
Throughout my internship, I continued to improve upon my time management abilities. I often found myself working on multiple estimates at a time. I’d have to prioritize according to importance and deadlines while working with more than one co-worker at a time. There were days that we had two bids due within an hour of each other. Over time, I found myself becoming more efficient at reading drawings, submitting RFI’s, and coordinating with subs. I will be able to use these time management skills throughout my entire life.
Mascaro also instilled in me the importance of communication. Construction projects are enormous coordination efforts from the conceptual designs to the turnover. Unless each company and individual involved with the project are aware of expectations, safety concerns, and changes, the potential of making mistakes increases. During my experience, I worked on a team with engineers and estimators who were much older—the youngest was almost 20 years older than me. While most my age would see the generation gap as an obstacle, I thrived off of their knowledge of the industry and their life experiences.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Safety is one aspect of construction that all projects have in common; its importance ranks above finishing ahead of schedule or making more money. Prioritizing safety enables workers to be productive and feel confident while assuring that projects are top-quality. When onsite at the Shell cracker plant, the largest construction project in Pennsylvania’s history, I learned the importance of safety procedures. As part of the site preparation, huge pavilions were constructed for the sole purpose of holding daily safety briefs for all of the workers. Every visitor to the site is required to watch a short safety video as well as wear high visibility clothing, boots, hard hats, and safety glasses. In talking with a safety supervisor, she explained that one of her biggest challenges is getting all of the subcontractors to wear the glasses. While in the office, I reviewed the incident reports to understand the causes of the injuries and how they could have been prevented.
Working for a company that embedded safety into the culture reinforced how important it is; nobody should experience an injury on the job and not have the capability to provide for his or her family. I realized that safety is not just for those in the field—it’s everyone’s responsibility. Even during the early bidding process, potential hazards are outlined and accounted for in the estimates. At Mascaro Construction, there is a policy that enables anyone to stop work at any time if he or she witnesses unsafe practices. Awards are also given to teams that have zero incidents on a project. In 2015, Mascaro received the Certificate of Commendation for Excellent Safety Record from the AGC. The success of a company means nothing until all of the workers are safe and no man-days are lost because of injuries.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
To continue advancing in the 21st century, the “I Build America” initiative inspires, educates, and expands awareness of the construction needs of our county. From the rural back country roads to the urban 6 lane highways, America depends on individuals such as you and me to work together and use our resources to create. It’s about constructing better roads to allow a new mother to reach the hospital in time for the arrival of her new baby, constructing power plants and wastewater treatment plants to improve our country’s sustainability, or constructing large skyscrapers to provide additional office space for growing companies in the America. This initiative excites me and speaks to the importance of construction and the value of my civil engineering degree.
The world population is increasing more rapidly than ever before. According to Pew Research, the U.S. population is projected to grow by 89 million residents from 2010 to 2050. In building America, these people are going to require affordable housing options and sufficient infrastructure. The construction industry continues to improve the use of materials, build more eco-friendly buildings, and boost economic growth; but, the industry overall still lacks in recruiting young and talented workers. We need more people to recognize the value that the men and women of construction bring to the world while suppressing the misconceptions and inconsistencies that stagnate growth. “I Build America” evokes the sense of accomplishment that comes from this industry through being awarded a job, completing a project, or seeing the gratitude in the faces of those whose lives we directly impact.