School: Georgia Institute of Technology
Major: Civil Engineering
Company: Ryan Incorporated Southern
Internship from May 16, 2016 — August 12, 2016
Hello! I’m Robby Bell, and I have been interning at Ryan Incorporated Southern in Deerfield Beach, Florida, for the past three summers. Ryan Inc. Southern is a construction company that specializes in earthwork and underground utilities on residential, commercial, and industrial sites all over South Florida. For the first two years, I trained under a head estimator, learning how to create take-offs and proposals from sets of plans. This past summer, however, my role changed and I began reporting to a project manager. My responsibilities included working alongside clients and employees to make sure projects were completed in a timely fashion and that field workers were happy. This new role was a significant change from what I was used to, but it broadened my understanding of the fields of engineering and construction, while also pushing me to develop the business and social skills necessary for interacting with both clients and colleagues.
Since childhood, I have had a love for engineering, design, and construction. Whether I was playing Legos or crafting a city for my Hot Wheels to populate, building felt integral to my personality. Since then, my interest in engineering and construction has only grown. By middle school, I was designing floorplans of “dream houses,” and in high school I was taking as many math and science courses as I could to prepare myself for an eventual major in Engineering. After my freshman year of college, I began interning at Ryan Southern to gain experience and determine if I would actually enjoy the career I had hoped for since I was little. Not surprisingly, I loved it. I had no idea what I was doing at first, but I quickly caught on and began to look at two-dimensional plans as three-dimensional sites. I learned how to create 3-D models of the plans using computer programs like AutoCAD and AGTEK. These first two summers helped assure me that civil engineering and site development were my passions and that I had to pursue them.
However, when Ryan asked me to return this past summer, they had new plans for me. They wanted me to work under a project manager in order to gain a fuller understanding of the construction process from start to finish. Naturally, at first I was unsure about this. Estimating was something I had enjoyed the past two years and felt comfortable doing. Suddenly, though, I was thrust into a situation where knowledge wasn’t enough; I also needed advanced communication skills. Though I knew the new position would be challenging, I was confident it would give me a better understanding of my field, allow me to shadow and learn from a project engineer who had achieved the goals I one-day hope to achieve, and inform me of my future career choice. I gladly accepted, and have not once regretted my decision.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
Though I was only involved in my internship for three short months, I felt like we were able to accomplish a significant amount. Ryan’s mission is “to ensure a national presence by providing professional, cost efficient workmanship to the client through the combined effort of each employee while preserving the corporate business tradition.” During my time interning under a project manager, I feel this mission was achieved. I contacted hundreds of clients while at Ryan—owners, general contractors, project managers, subcontractors, even our own employees—and learned quickly how to provide professional, cost-efficient workmanship. It seemed impossible to balance all these clients while maintaining good professional relationships, but as time went on, I learned to better manage my time and better communicate with my clients.
Though I worked on many projects over the summer, three in particular stand out as both the most time-consuming and interesting. First, I met several times with the owner’s representative of a site called Plantation Pointe, an outdated 850,000 square-foot Motorola Office Park that is being renovated and bringing in new tenants in the technology and innovation sectors. It was exciting to be part of the rebirth of an old site that would now bring back local jobs and grow the local economy. I attended weekly meetings, obtained permits from the city, and reviewed plan changes. We were able to get the job almost completely finished during my time there.
Another exciting site I got to work on was Gables Aventura, a 400-unit apartment project in one of the few undeveloped prime locations in Miami-Dade County. Gables Aventura had substantial plan changes based on review from the engineer and the city, and I was tasked with quantifying and pricing these changes. This took several days of work, multiple meetings with the owner, and trips to the project and the Florida Department of Health for permits. We completed the change order before the deadline, allowing our company to move forward with more efficient construction.
Finally, perhaps my favorite project to work on was Metropica, a planned site in Sunrise, Florida, that includes eight 28-story towers, with an expected 1,250 residential units, a hotel, 485,000 square feet of retail space, and 650,000 square feet of office space. Metropica is an incredible project, evidenced by the sheer size of the drainage structures we were installing onsite. The pipes themselves were over five feet in diameter, and the structures were bigger than small houses. I again worked closely with the project manager to create a change order based on revisions from the city and county. Even on a tight deadline, we were able to come to an agreement with the owner to keep the project running smoothly. It was exciting to be a part of a groundbreaking project like Metropica.
Through these projects, I feel I was able to advance past just learning about my company. I put what I had learned into action, exceeded my own and others’ expectations, and achieved the goals laid out for me.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
Even though this was my third year interning at Ryan, I felt like I learned exponentially more as a veteran. When the summer began, my knowledge of construction was purely theoretical and two-dimensional. I knew what everything was supposed to do, and the only time I worked with construction materials is when I saw it on a set of plans. Spending my first two summers in the office estimating set a good groundwork for understanding construction, but this summer gave me both a better understanding of what I had worked with previously, and a new comprehension of the real, three-dimensional world of construction. Working at Ryan Southern has helped me to understand what type of a worker I want to be, what type of work I want to do, and who I want to be as a person.
Ryan Southern gave me an idea of what goes into being a successful engineer. Simply knowing all the facts isn’t enough to guarantee success. Project management and other civil engineering careers require skills that can’t necessarily be taught in school, such as communication, negotiation, task management, and teamwork. I’ve learned that no engineer can be successful on his or her own, and that having good people around to help carry the load is vital. Construction management is a chaotic job that presents different daunting challenges every day, but I’ve learned how to manage these tasks from my superiors during my time at Ryan.
Ryan also taught me what I wanted to do with my career. I have confirmed my passion for engineering, and hope to continue on a path of site development in Civil Engineering. I have learned what kind of company I hope to work for after college: one that values its employees, exceeds its clients’ expectations, and maintains an honest, professional, friendly relationship with its patrons. This has positively affected my life as I transfer to Georgia Tech, knowing I am working in a field about which I am intensely passionate.
Finally, Ryan has taught me things that extend beyond the classroom and office and into everyday life. The most positive experience of this internship was witnessing the kind of person I hope to be. My bosses at Ryan showed me the importance of loving your work and being enthusiastic about it. They showed me that work isn’t about making the most money, but about doing what you enjoy and helping others in the process. They showed me that while shortcuts can get you temporary accolades, doing things the right way will reap long-term success. Finally, they showed me that there is more to life than work. I was heavily influenced by their values of family, faith, and friendships just by working with them. These are things that I never expected to learn going into the internship, but things I will cherish for and apply to the rest of my life.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Safety, Quality, Efficiency: These are the three goals in construction. Can you do something well, quickly, and safely? If you can, there’s a good chance you’re a success in the construction business. Safety, quality, and efficiency have become a part of my everyday life during my internship, and have changed my perspective on construction.
Entering my internship, I knew being a successful construction company involved doing the job and finishing it on time, but I didn’t know what else went into success. I quickly discovered how important safety and quality were to the job. As I went on site and saw the sheer size of the machines and materials I worked with, I realized that even slight mismanagement of these behemoths could result in serious injury. All the safety precautions I had heard about in the office instantly made sense. You can get a good idea for what is required to build these huge developments in the office, but until you get out into the field, you cannot get a full understanding of how dangerous these tools can be. As a project management intern, I was involved with safety often during my normal day. Much of my job had to do with getting permits to do the work we were contracted to do safely. Safety became part of my job.
Quality was also an integral part of my internship, as our company in particular prioritizes doing a quality job that will last many years. I quickly learned that Ryan won’t cut corners in order to save a few bucks. They want the job to look good and work well, and this has proven to be a successful strategy for them. They have gained a reputation in the area as an honest contractor that will do quality work. While we can’t always compete with the cheapest bidders, we usually come close, and our excellent work, as well as our honest communication with clients more than makes up the difference in price. I have seen this quality of work firsthand during my internship. When mistakes are made on the job by either side, we don’t hide it, but proactively address the issue and resolve it with the client. Our estimating, project management, and accounting departments all work closely together to make sure nothing slips through the cracks, and I have been in constant communication with different departments to make sure we do a thorough, efficient, quality job.
At Ryan, not only did I learn all the different aspects of construction and the importance of safety, quality, and efficiency; I learned what constitutes a successful civil engineer and project manager.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America is an initiative to recognize the value that the men and women in construction bring. I completely agree that people in construction bring immense value to our country—one that is often overlooked. Construction has played a huge role in helping America become the most advanced, powerful country in the world. It has created the vast infrastructure that we continue to develop and advance. However, it is often taken for granted since it is so readily available in the United States. I Build America brings needed attention to and places value upon both the individuals and companies who play a role in creating the infrastructure of America.
I Build America is deeply meaningful to me as it seeks to share the same pride and passion I have for construction and engineering with others. I hope more people will gain the desire to build, and that they will push the limits of construction even further as we continue to develop our country. New ideas in the construction industry excite me, and I believe I Build America helps new minds consider such new concepts as they enter the business. I was lucky enough to see this firsthand this summer. Ryan Southern hired a new estimator straight out of college, and my boss appointed me to train him his first week. Training someone older than me with a college degree was a humbling experience, one for which I felt out of place. As time went on, though, we were able to recognize our shared passions, and it became a blessing to help and train a similar-minded young person in my field. Training him gave me a greater passion for engineering, and made me excited about what this generation of civil engineers will do for our country. As I Build America gains more and more publicity for its belief in the value of men and women in the construction industry, I believe that our country’s infrastructure will continue to get even more technologically advanced, visually pleasing, economically efficient, and environmentally friendly than ever before as more young people enter the work force.
I Build America makes me excited to be an engineer, and equally excited for the future of civil engineering.