School: University of South Florida Major: Civil Engineering/ Structures Company: Skanska USA Civil Southeast Internship Dates: May 16, 2016 — August 5, 2016
My name is Rey Diaz and I am currently studying Civil Engineering at the University of South Florida. I was born in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico and ever since then I’ve had a fascination with engineering and construction in general. My father was already a P.E. civil engineer so I was slowly getting more accustomed to seeing plans and worksites while I was growing up. Construction has a sort of harmony to it that only people who work there understand. It’s a project that is completed by the various contributions of different minds and trades. Construction is only possible because of the diversity of people who mold it and shape it. Whether it is the crews laying hundreds of feet of pipe or the excavators loading dirt into trucks again and again, you get to see this synchronized harmony that is only present when all of these come in unison and work together to finish a project for a client. To me construction is just too interesting to ignore. Through construction we have literally laid the foundation for civilized life. While some might see a new expansion for a highway as an inconvenience, I see it as a chance to experience something new. My first job was at CH2M Hill in document controls and I loved it. Even though the job entailed mostly an office setting, I made sure I would get the most I could from it. I learned about work orders and submittals and how essential they are in making sure the project runs smoothly. I also made sure I could tour the waste water treatment plants they had in their vicinity so I could get a bit of field experience under my belt while I was there. Later on I ended up working as a laborer because I wanted to be in the field full time. I got to see how crews work in unison in order to accomplish a task and get the job done. From here I was completely hooked. Skanska came into my life when they invited USF’s American Society of Civil Engineer chapter to tour their I-275 project. They showed me a whole new way to visualize the construction setting with their zero injury work environment. I had never pictured the amount of effort companies, like Skanska, had put into making sure that not only the projects were finished on time, but that their workers had gotten back to their families safely. This, in addition to my construction background, made me want to pursue an estimating internship with Skanska this summer. Skanska is one of the leading construction firms in the country when it comes to safety, and I really wanted to make sure I could learn as much as I could from this experience and possibly see how I could apply the things I learned in my career as a civil engineer.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
My internship with Skanska USA gave me the opportunity to learn a lot and to work on a lot of different assignments. As an estimator, my main jobs involved performing take offs with “Blue Beam”, a pdf editing software, and calling subcontractors and vendors in order to take quotes for up-and-coming bids. My office was in charge of handling the estimate of the drainage for a major highway joint venture in Virginia. From measuring lengths of pipe to counting structures, I was able to help my colleagues gather the required information needed in order to prepare a list for our subcontractors and vendors to use. This was necessary to move the bidding process forward, but also important because we had to collaborate with our partners in our joint venture in order to provide the most accurate quantities for the final quote of the bid. This process was repeated until both parties were satisfied with both the price and drainage quantities. I was also in charge of pitching our joint venture to companies in the vicinity of the project in order to get quotes for certain products and services. It really was a great opportunity for me to utilize my communication and marketing skills, but it was also a fun way to meet a lot of different people from the construction industry. One of the vendors was very interested in touring our office in Orlando, so I made sure to schedule and tour him around myself. Large companies like Skanska utilize many subcontractors for their projects, so I really felt like I was making an impact for every company that agreed to pursue the bid with us. Besides these two jobs, I was able to work on a few other assignments and also tour the I-4. I used the lengths of pipes we had gathered and estimated how many crews were necessary to finish the project in a certain time frame. I also provided different analytics of the quantities we had gathered, like showcasing the pipe by size and showing if bigger crews would be required to get the project accomplished. I was also given the opportunity to present what I learned from my experience in Skanska to executives in the main Virginia office. Overall I think I really utilized my time in Skanska to not only learn, but to help the company win the bid they were pursing. Through my dedication to my work and my commitment to the company’s success, I was able to utilize my internship to its fullest potential and exceed Skanska’s expectations.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
The Skanska estimating office was a great opportunity to learn a lot about the bidding process, the construction on the field, safety and some new programs, but I think the lesson I will be carrying with me the most is the ability to listen. Construction is unique in the sense that it brings hundreds of people together to accomplish a project. In these projects numerous ideas are brought together, whether they be for the initial bid, the design, or the actual construction for the client. In every office I visited, in every work site that I was a part of, I was able to gain a very different perspective on a certain aspect of the project. I really had never experienced something so enlightening so quickly. I realized that there are many ways to solve a problem, and by paying attention to what people have to say, you can really learn a thing or two. In construction it’s never about how you are going to come up with the next best idea, but instead how you can utilize the ideas set forth by everyone in the project. Listening, while very simple, could honestly be underestimated. People in the field, like laborers and field engineers, showed me more about the infrastructure of the I-4 than I would have ever learned by reading a plan. Even the stories that people shared were interesting. A few of my bosses talked to me about their previous projects, what they were proud of, and where they needed more improvements. I remember how, while touring the I-4, one of the foremen talked to us about his experience in Lane Construction. He mentioned that in Dubai the language barrier really was a challenge to overcome. All these small bits of information that these executives, foremen and superintendents have learned over the years are pretty much being given to you for free. People in construction take pride in the work they do and they will gladly talk to you about what they helped make a reality. During this internship I was always looking to come up with a bright way to solve something or promote an idea of my own, but I realized that construction is really something a group of people make possible. Instead of trying to be the first person to talk, I would instead listen to what my other interns had to say about a situation and I would put my input as well. I really looked forward to learning about the people I was working with, in and off the field, and I really think It paid off. I’ve learned that construction is not only about the project you complete, but about the people you meet along the way.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Since I started my internship at Skanska I knew that safety would be a very important thing to learn. Skanska had always branded itself as a “zero injury work environment”, but I didn’t know what that meant. The first time I got to experience this motto was during one of their safety orientations. The estimating team at Skanska made sure we would all be able to attend the weekly safety meetings. Here I learned about “work plans”. Skanska requires all their employees in the field to fill out a “work plan” and discuss it with their crew before going forward with their tasks. This can pretty much be summarized as a 10-minute talk with their crew regarding what risks are present in the work site and what they will be doing in order to prevent any incidents. I toured a few of their I-4 work sites and saw how all of the superintendents and foremen were really into making sure we knew about their work plan, even though we were only there for a few minutes! I learned how something as simple as talking to your crew in the morning before starting a job could prevent any unnecessary risks. These meetings are also useful in showcasing the state of mind of the laborers. If someone has been thinking about some issue back home, then they would not be concentrated on the work that lies ahead and that could be dangerous.
Even though Skanska is a “zero injury work environment”, they have had their fair share of injuries on the field. They showcase these incidents weekly through “flash reports”. Instead of trying to bury these incidents, they analyze how it happened and how to prevent it from happening in any other worksite. The Skanska estimating team took these a step further by making a team meeting to discuss these flash reports thoroughly. We talked about how to spot these scenarios later on for when we are in the field. These really had an impact on me because they detailed everything that happened in those incidents and helped me realize that the construction industry is one of the most dangerous in the country. Any incident, like that of a truck backing out or a loose piece of plywood, could mean a potential injury if we were not prepared to handle those situations. Even though construction can be very dangerous, it does not mean it has to be. Skanska has taught me that by taking precautions, by learning from mistakes, and by being aware of our surroundings we can make sure everyone gets home safely back to their family. My internship showed me how the health and wellbeing of those in the project always come first. It is important to care about the people you work with as much as the project you are completing.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
The construction industry has had a very important impact on the United States. Whether it be through the “New Deal”, which used construction in order to end a recession, or through the hundreds of different companies trying to improve our crumbling infrastructure, construction has literally set the foundation for a civilized way of life. My family has always been involved with the construction industry so It really had an impact on the decision for me to become involved in it as well. When I see what I Build America is trying to accomplish by promoting everyone who is involved in those sites, I can’t help but feel happy. Construction is a trade that is essential for the progress of humanity itself. If we were to let construction fade away, to become a crumbling industry, there would be no way to move forward. Who would build the offices where we work? Who would construct the homes were we live in? Who would connect different people through the vast network of bridges and roads we know today? “I Build America” shows us that construction is more than just another job-giving business. It is essential for our day-to-day life. Construction workers are the ones who lay the pipe to deal with both our waste and our drinking water. They are the ones who build the schools where we study, the places where we worship and the homes where we rest. This site shows you the people who wear those hard hats. It teaches the public the dangers that the industry faces every day and how prideful the workers are of their accomplishments. “I Build America” highlights the men and women who have built our society and gives them a platform from where to speak about their industry. “I Build America” can really become a powerful tool to promote a positive image of the trade. The public only thinks of the inconveniencies road work creates or the noise that construction entails, but they never see the bigger picture. If more companies could use this platform to promote the industry, we could see a more positive outlook from the public and a better influx of people joining the construction world.