School: San Diego State University
Major: Construction Engineering and Management
Company: Pulice Construction Inc.
Internship from March 9, 2015 —
My name is Matthew Sheldon and I am in my final year of Construction Engineering and Management studies at San Diego State University. In my free time, I enjoy surfing, mountain biking, and playing the drums. I have previously interned with Gould Electric (a small electrical subcontractor) and Hunt Construction (on the SDSU Basketball Facility project). Through these experiences, I learned that I ultimately wanted to work for a heavy civil construction company. Fortunately, I found an ad in the local AGC student newsletter and I have been interning with Pulice Construction for over 18 months now. At my current position, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge in the field on various job sites, as well as in the office serving as an estimator.
After graduation, I will likely start full time as an estimator, but also plan to work a couple of years as a project engineer. It is interesting to see where the two positions overlap, and how experience in each of them is helpful with the other. I am also highly considering the pursuit of a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering. I plan to get licensed as a Professional Engineer in order to perform design work and I am very fascinated by SWPPP requirements in the state of CA. Sustainable construction practices is something I hope to dedicate my career to, such that future generations can enjoy the planet the same way we do. I also see the importance of continuously bettering our infrastructure to make life safer and more efficient for everyone.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
I was first hired on as an estimating intern, where I quickly took the lead on all of our outreach to subs and vendors. I perform various quantity take offs, and use HCSS Heavy Bid software to track quotes as they come in, as well as to make selections on bid day. Another one of my tasks is actually to look for upcoming projects and keep up to date with their letting information, so that we know which agencies are releasing what projects for bid, and when.
While our office is actually in San Diego, we have been putting together many of the bids for our up and coming Texas office. I played a large role in securing the Harris County Toll Road Association Project No. 332 and 333, totaling over $180 Million in highway expansion. These were two of our first projects in the state of Texas, so much of the outreach involved locating and networking with a lot of new subs and vendors that we had never dealt with before. This was quite a challenging experience, but very rewarding indeed.
Where I have gone above and beyond my company’s expectations, is by not only fulfilling my estimating duties and continuing to take on new responsibilities all the time, but also by working on job sites whenever an extra hand is needed. I have spent many weeks working as a project/field engineer to assist project managers and superintendents in various roles. We actually had a project engineer quit on one site near the end of a build. I was able to step up and take over, in order to get all of the close out documentation finished on time and ultimately avoid liquidated damages.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
The number one take-away that I gained from this internship, is the strong moral values and ethical ground that it has instilled in me. I was taught well in my Construction Law & Ethics class that bid shopping must be avoided at all costs, in order to preserve the fairness of the competitive bid process. While California has the half of 1% rule for listing subs and vendors that helps prevent this anyways, Texas does not have this policy in effect.
What this inevitably means, is in Texas you are not legally required to use the low bidder from bid day, and many subs and vendors try to ask if they can submit a bid later. Some of them even go so far as to ask who was low and what their unit pricing was. I am a firm believer that doing the right thing always prevails and it is not worth making enemies in the industry by allowing others in their trade to submit late pricing at an intentional undercut. Of course there is money to be made by doing this, but sticking to my moral code will help to build long lasting industry relationships and make me stand out as a trustworthy and reliable person to work with. Acting with integrity and having pride in my job are characteristics whose merits transfer into all other aspects of my life and I am thankful for the opportunities presented to me at this internship.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
I have been through my companies Safety Training program, which was necessary for me to step foot on our job sites. I am also familiar with the need for personal protection equipment (PPE) such as reflective vests, hard hats, steel toe boots, as well as ear and eye protection. My motto has always been “safety first and then teamwork”, but after taking the OSHA 10 class, the true importance of “safety first” really sank in.
I will always remember my OSHA instructor calling the safety manual and worker guidelines book, the “book written in blood.” There is a whole list of fatal scenarios followed by a guideline to avoid each deadly situation. Sometimes it takes mistakes in order for rules to be made, and in the construction industry, many have lost their lives such for others to learn what not to do.
I know that every year, falls account for the largest number of fatalities in the construction industry. This makes tying off properly and using the right harness a high priority. Trenches cause several deaths a year and hundreds of injuries, meaning they must be properly shored, and it is extremely important to have easily accessible ladders for a quick exit. Through my training, I know what to look out for and how to stay safe (and keep others safe) on an always changing job site.
I am very proud to work for a company that takes safety so seriously. Our slogan is “safety always, safety all-ways”. Any moment in which safety is disregarded, could be the last moment you ever witness. Construction usually consists of a fast paced environment, but safety is not something that can be neglected to take short cuts. Also, on an active site there are equipment and obstacles all around, so it is important to keep your eyes wide open and head on a swivel, as well as to document and report any hazardous conditions. Safety truly does come first and is always a priority for me.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
One quote that really stood out to me on the I Build America website was by Justin Dixon of Dixie Construction. He states, “Construction is how we move, it’s how we live, it’s how America happens.” Without the hard work of every individual in this industry, America would not be what it is today. We would not have the highways for transportation of goods and driving around, the buildings and hospitals to work and heal in, the pipelines that bring water to our faucets, or the treatment facilities that sanitize our waste. Each and every project takes a great team effort to complete, and it has taken countless projects over many decades to set in place our current infrastructure.
I Build America describes itself as “a movement dedicated to showing the importance of construction to our modern life so that the people in construction take pride in the value they bring and the general public recognizes that value.” Ultimately, it is important for everyone in the construction industry to take pride in their work, and perform at their maximum ability. It is just as important for the safety of the public that engineers take their due diligence in making calculations, as it is that the field workers install everything correctly. Each individual plays such a vital role and without their hard work, we would not have the many of the modern luxuries which we often take for granted. I am motivated and excited to continue the role of Building America, knowing that my work every day helps cultivate a better and more prosperous country.