School: University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Major: Broadcast and Digital Media Communications
Company: J.F. Brennan Company, Inc.
Internship from November 2, 2015 — September 1, 2016
I am currently a Communications student at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, and to be honest, I never would have thought I would have an internship at a construction company. I had thought about seeking out an internship before acquiring this one, but was not sure where to start looking. I heard about the marketing internship at J.F. Brennan Company through a friend that was also an intern with them. She thought I would be a good fit and encouraged me to apply. While a little hesitant at first, I decided to give it a shot because I did not have anything to lose. After submitting my application and interviewing, I realized that Brennan was much more than the typical construction company. They are a family-owned company with almost 100 years of experience in various markets, such as marine construction and environmental remediation. They do unique work all over the Midwest and have recently expanded to the East Coast. Their work ranges from environmental remediation using state-of-the-art dredges, to repairing locks and dams, building railroad bridges, and so much more. When offered the position, I decided I wanted to be a part of a company that was helping to revolutionize the construction industry. I chose to intern at J.F. Brennan, not only because of the work that they do, but also because of the family foundation and ideals the company is built on. Since day one, I have always felt valued, listened to and a part of the Brennan team. I am so glad that I chose to do an internship in construction, as it has changed my perspective on the industry in such a positive way and helped me to achieve many things I never would have thought possible.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
Throughout the course of my internship, I was able to learn and grow various skills so much more than I ever would have thought. I have assisted with projects from the quarterly company newsletter, to content creation for a new website, to promotional videos and the development of a new intern program. During each project’s duration, I found myself learning something new, whether it was how to use a software program or uniquely apply our company’s ideals to marketing materials to bring in new clients. This internship helped me to achieve not only hard skills, like learning how to operate a certain program, but also soft skills, like time management and communication. Each of these projects had their challenges, but in completing each of them, I have improved and grown more confident in my communication and collaboration skills. I have also learned how to work successfully in a professional environment and use constructive feedback to strengthen my skills. I feel that I have achieved a much higher level of confidence in the abilities that I have, whether they were previously acquired or those that I have learned during my internship. Coming into my role, I initially felt a little unsure, as I had not had a lot of direct experience with marketing before. However, I believe this actually helped me to exceed the expectations set for me, as I came in with a willingness to learn new things and a fresh perspective. I was able to share my own ideas that combined what I was learning at Brennan with my experience in communications and media, which are essential to successful marketing. I have been able to work independently on several different projects, such as videos and presentations, but I can also contribute to a group or team setting as well. My willingness to develop my skills and branch out has helped me to develop my skills in marketing, while also strengthening the communication skills I already possessed.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
Throughout my internship, I have learned many lessons that will not only benefit me in my professional life, but in my personal life as well. When starting my internship, I initially knew little about the work that Brennan did. I had done some research, but still did not fully understand all the aspects of the business. However, throughout the course of my internship, I have learned so much about the industries that we work in, which has allowed me to become better at my work, and I have been able to share this knowledge with others as well. I have also been able to develop my professional skills in time management and communication, as well as strengthening my proficiency in software usage, social media analytics, content creation and writing. This has taught me that even though I am getting older and towards the end of my “educational” career, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow if you take the initiative to do so. It has also opened my eyes to the amazing work that companies like us do, from restoring contaminated waterways, to building bridges and repairing railroads. I had never thought much about all the hard work that those in construction do before starting at Brennan, but now I have a deep appreciation for the individuals involved and the dedication that they have to their work. Doing my internship at Brennan has also introduced me to so many wonderful people that I am lucky to work with. Because of the culture that Brennan prides itself on, with a focus on safety, quality, leadership, professionalism, loyalty, teamwork, respect and many more, coming to work has always felt like a welcoming environment, and a place where I can continue to develop my skills. In my future career, I hope to be able to work in an environment like this, and help others like myself, grow and thrive as they are learning the ins and outs of a professional workplace.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Safety, quality, and efficiency are the top aspects of our culture at Brennan. I am proud to be a part of a company that focuses on keeping their employees and everyone else they work with safe, while achieving the best possible quality for their client. Working within the Marketing department, I did not have much direct experience with the safety training and extensive drills that Brennan does at all job sites. However, just because I was not on site does not mean that I was not instilled with the same message that safety is paramount to our company’s success. In researching different projects I have done, I have found that no matter the format, whether it is a video or a PowerPoint presentation to a client, our safety culture is always emphasized. Every day employees use HCSS to report what we call SBOs or Safety Based Observations about positive or negative safety behaviors that they have been a part of or witnessed. These observations can take place anywhere, from a job site, to on the road or in the office. By implementing this system, our company has created a culture of individuals that not only perform quality work, but also do so in the safest manner possible. Before working at Brennan, I had always thought of construction sites as pretty dangerous places that I would not want to be around. However, by the time I had my first job site visit, I realized that the simple education and training Brennan applies eliminates so many of the potential risks. Learning more about our safety culture has definitely given me a different perspective on the construction industry. Where I used to see a multitude of dangerous conditions, I now see opportunities to practice safe working behaviors while continuing to deliver quality projects to our clients.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America is a way to recognize and appreciate what the construction industry does for every individual in America, from helping us to get essential products like water, to being able to enjoy a game at our favorite sports team’s venue, to preserving our environment, traveling all across the world and communicating with those we love. The construction industry is so much more than the big machines and hard hats that people often associate it with. The people that are planning out huge projects, operating high-tech equipment and working in difficult conditions are providing a service to so many people that is so often underappreciated. After seeing some of this construction in action, I can say that I have a much greater appreciation for the work that all men and women in construction do. Many construction workers spend 12 hours a day working on a project they may never even end up benefitting from, often times in dangerous conditions, to help provide for themselves or their families that are back at home. Initiatives like I Build America help to educate those outside of the construction industry on the vital work that construction workers and companies do and the sacrifices they make to complete this work every day. This education in turn helps to recruit more people to work in construction and continue to “Build America.” To me, I Build America is about more than just a program highlighting the construction industry. It is a way for Americans to appreciate those that do so much to help our nation develop and prosper.