School: The College of New Jersey
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: The Whiting Turner Contracting Company
Internship from May 23, 2016 — August 5, 2016
I’m a rising senior at The College of New Jersey and worked at The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company as engineering intern this summer. I’m a highly motivated worker and student and remain active on my campus despite the busy workload of being an engineer. I am a natural leader serving on the executive board of three different organizations on campus including the American Society of Civil engineers and earned my Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. I’m also the President of my fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi, and the Vice President and founder of Students Supporting Israel, an organization whose goal is to promote peace in the Middle East. I chose to do construction because I think my experience in all the organizations I’m involved with tailored me ideally for the industry. My experience in being a leader has taught me how to plan events, manage people, and work as a team which are all necessary skills in the field. As a general contracting firm, Whiting-Turner is responsible for all stages of a construction project, from bidding the work, managing the construction process, and closing out contracts once the job is completed. Every aspect of the work requires strong communication skills to ensure that the product that’s being delivered is exactly what the owner wants and that the sub-contractors are completing the work correctly. Even though I had never been exposed to this type of work prior to this summer, I learned to adapt my skill set to apply to my internship.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
Construction differs from other professions in the way that every day there are new problems that will arise. It is inevitable that something will go wrong on a project and it’s the contractors responsibility to fix those problems in the most efficient manner, or ideally catch them before they happen. When there was a lull in work, I didn’t just wait for the project manager or superintendent to assign me something to do. I would spend time analyzing the full set of drawings for the project I was working on and conduct Quality Checks to detect any potential issues. What I was doing would get frustrating at times because understanding mechanical, electrical, and plumbing drawings with no previous exposure to those fields is no small feat, but after asking questions and research, I finally could see how all the divisions of labor fit together. When the engineers and architect design the building on paper, it was obvious that different teams designed each aspect because of the lack of communication and planning between each aspect of the project. The quality checks I was doing weren’t complicated after seeing how everything connected, but simple things like not coordinating the elevations of the HVAC, Plumbing, and Sprinkler equipment would have cost time in the field to figure out on the spot. Ideally, there are no issues in the drawings, but it was rewarding when I found mistakes in the design because I knew I just save the company money. Instead of scrambling to get out a Request for Information from the engineers immediately prior to the work being done, the problem was solved before it even occurred.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
Working in general contracting exposes you to a large spectrum of people with different personalities. I split time between the office and the field, so I was exposed to the business side of the job, interacting with the Vice President’s of the office and the owners of the projects, ” the suits”, and the construction workers themselves. Learning how to interact and connect with all of them was a valuable skill because the success of the job is dependent on both of them being happy. The internship taught me that there are rarely jobs that require independent work and that your success is dependent on networking and relying on other people. If you learn how to relate to the people in your work environment, communication increases which will increase the overall quality of the whatever is being done.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Whiting-Turner has one of the lowest injuries on job site in the industry because of the strict rules in enforcing safety precautions. Part of my job while on site was to ensure that everyone had proper safety equipment on (hard hat, reflective vest, and safety glasses) and to reinforce the idea of working safely on site by not neglecting simple things like closing the gate door on a scissor lift. Most of my day on site was spent conducting quality checks by comparing what was in the drawings to what was actually built. Making sure that non-structural walls and underground conduits and plumbing that were exposed to the floor were in the correct position is important to do in the early stages of construction before it becomes a more expensive mistake to fix. I never realized how much detail goes into constructing a building before being on site conducting quality checks. Simple things like making sure that fire exit doors have the correct type of entry/exit mechanism to creating a lift plan for refrigeration equipment being lifted on the roof all have to be thought and planned out with detail because every mistake in the planning process is an additional cost.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America wants to recognize how important the construction industry is in our modern society. Construction is one of the oldest professions playing a key part in the progression of civilization. It is important that we keep renovating all the infrastructure that we have and building new things to keep our country moving in the right direction. The key to that is to get young enthusiastic students excited about construction and for them to realize how much potential there is in it and how rewarding of a field it can be. What initially draw me to construction is the idea of going past a building or structure and being able to take credit for that, knowing that I’m the person that built that. I’ve always wanted to see an empty plot of land and watch it develop into something larger than life, like a stadium or a hotel resort. I want to take credit for a structure that makes little kids stand there in awe like I did when I went over the golden gate bridge for the first time or went to my first Yankees game in the Bronx.