School: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors
Internship from June 13, 2016 — September 16, 2016
My name is Nahum Rivera and I am an incoming junior pursuing a civil engineering degree in the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Throughout the early stages of my life, I lived in South Central Los Angeles. When people usually hear South Central, they begin to think of drugs, murder, and violence. Sadly, many view the people living there as if they do not have a future nor have hope for a better tomorrow. I have seen and heard these type of negative comments often in my life. However, the benefit I found from living in this area was that I lived near U.S.C., which led me to being exposed at a young age to various construction jobs going on in the university. By living in that region, I often saw projects from the very beginning until the work was complete, which I was sure the engineers felt a great sense of satisfaction seeing their hard work finally complete. By seeing this, I always wanted to feel that sense of accomplishment.
The reason I chose an internship in construction comes from the fact that many of my relatives and people of my heritage seek work in the construction industry. However, I do not want to be like many of my friends and family killing themselves in the hot sun for minimum wage. By living near many projects, my father would often take both my brother and I to walk around these projects and instill in us that our goal should not be to simply be a worker, but instead, seek to be the boss or someone with authority. Due to this, I feel a sense of passion; almost an obligation; to be in a managerial position or be an engineer on a construction firm working on large construction projects.
When I think of construction, I think of a field that never ends, but instead, thrives toward greater achievements. By choosing construction, I get the best of engineering by observing how the design, structural components, and transportation blend together and come to life.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
As a student who had just ended his second year, the simple fact of having the opportunity to have an internship in a great project was rewarding enough. When I began my internship, I had just finished my second year and still had not gained a great deal of experience, so it was a bit difficult understanding the magnitude of the project in itself. The project included a broad range of specialties such as bridges, tunnels, electrical, civil, utilities, and much more. However, by being placed in the Change Management team, I gained a great deal of knowledge of various fields in engineering. Through working in the Change Department, I was able to achieve a better view of what it takes for a scope of work to be done. Whether it is as simple as sending the correct amount of workers to a job or renting pieces of equipment, I learned the tools necessary to complete a successful job.
The way I exceeded my expectations was by taking an active role in the department I belonged to. Being part of the Change Management team, I worked in various spectrums of the project, such as; excavation, underground, tunneling, civil, stations, rail, electrical systems, and much more. I was able to participate I the Change process from the first impact through to the final negotiations, including Time and Materials and Forward Priced Estimates through HeavyBid. I was able to take responsibility in my work and self-prioritize which changes were more critical than others.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
As I stated before, the LAX/Crenshaw Transit Project included a broad range of work, therefore, I was able to gain knowledge in various spectrums of the project, such as: excavation, underground, tunneling, civil, stations, rail, electrical systems, and much more. By gaining this knowledge, I am now able to apply it to my courses I am still required to take in school. For example, though I have not taken courses for strength of materials, I have already learned the impact of different types of concrete and how important it is to remain consistent to the specifications required.
Another great lesson I learned from this internship is that I was not treated as an intern, I was treated as an engineer and was given a great sum of responsibility. Even though I was an intern, I gained real knowledge of the importance of correct documentation and the importance of staying on schedule. In construction, there are many processes that are not clear, therefore, I learned to take initiative and find the best way to continue the work without negatively affecting our time and cost.
Another great benefit I received from my internship is by increasing my communication skills. As part of the Change Management team, I was required to often speak with project managers, project engineers, superintendents and foreman to resolve conflicts or issues that arose from change orders. By doing this, learned to speak with more confidence and I took a more active role in problem solving.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Though I was not in the field as much, I was still required to take an active role in safety and quality. Before I even began work, I was tasked with doing my safety orientation and learn about the different safety hazards. By doing this, I learned of safety risks that I had not even imagined would be a risk. An example is simply leaving water bottles in the field without either recycling it or crushing it. By leaving it laying around, it becomes a danger to another worker because it causes a slipping/tripping hazard, which can cause a safety incident. Another way I was involved with safety is by taking the initiative to enroll in the OSHA 30 Hour training. Though I am still in the process of finishing, I am learning the various aspects of safety and how something that may not seem dangerous can cause a tragedy.
I was involved in quality by doing a presentation to the Project Managers, Project Engineers, and the Superintendents. My topic was on “The Financial Risks of Changes”. By doing this presentation, I learned importance of performing good quality documentation and how that can mean the difference between getting paid for additional work to work not being merited by the owner
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
To me, “I build America” represents much more than a project in itself. I believe it represents a sense of pride and love to the construction industry. Before my internship, I did not think much about the different processes in the construction industry or the complex problems construction presents. However, after working in construction, I feel a sense of pride for both the managerial staff as well as the workers. By solving various problems that arise, I contribute to America being a better place to live in.
In my opinion, I believe that I Build America’s goal is to bring recognition to both the managerial staff and laborers to the community. Before my internship, I would often get mad or annoyed at the work being done because it cause inconveniences to our daily routines. However, after understanding the complexity of the project I was located in, I learned the true goal of construction: To make life better for all of us.
To me, I Build America means showing residents of a community that construction is an investment to our future. By bringing recognition to laborers and managerial staff, we encourage many others to pursue these fields. In return, we produce better communities to the citizens and make life more efficient.