School: Virginia Tech
Major: Building Construction
Company: MCN Build
Internship from June 6, 2016 — August 5, 2016
As an Indian Muslim-American living in the United States, I have been exposed to many unique cultures. I grew up learning about the traditions and values from India while my parents constantly pushed me to speak our native language, Urdu. I also spent a lot of time enjoying sports such as football and basketball, playing video games, and hanging out with friends. A passion that I have developed over the years is art, and one of my favorite things to do when I have free time is to draw. This was the reason I originally planned on studying architecture in college, but I somehow ended up in construction. Needless to say, my parents were paramount in all of this because I would not be able to pursue my goals today if it had not been for their hard work, strong will, and continuous support throughout all obstacles that I have faced. My biggest motivation to succeed in college, get a degree, and start working is to make my parents proud and to somehow help repay them for everything they have done for me.
Over the summer, I had an internship with MCN Build, a general contractor located in Washington DC. Primarily, I chose to do an internship in construction because I am majoring in Building Construction; thus, I wanted to witness the environment in the profession. I knew the environment was important because it would dictate whether or not I envisioned myself in the field for an extended period of time after college. Secondly, I had a desire to gain real-world experience that would help me better understand the concepts taught in my classes while simultaneously helping a company accomplish its goals for projects.
After completing the internship, I know for certain that I have picked the right major in college because I enjoyed the environment at the company I worked with as well as the overall atmosphere of the construction industry. The people I worked with were integral to my experience and the primary cause of my success during the internship. Throughout the two months that I worked at MCN Build, they helped me develop my understanding of the role of general contractors. Hence, I successfully helped various people in the company – all of whom were nice, knowledgeable, and easy to approach.
Overall, I am grateful for all of the things that my peers taught me about working in construction. Furthermore, I am happy that I was able to create valuable new friendships while assisting the company on various projects by completing my assigned tasks in an efficient and thorough manner. Thus, I benefited from the opportunity to intern at MCN Build – a company that embodies the values and work ethic of general contractors.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
During the internship, I worked with a Project Manager named Yonas; he supervised four or five different construction projects that ranged from a quick “summer blitz” interior renovation of a school to a complete three-story construction of another school. Although I reported to Yonas, I also worked with several different Assistant Project Managers as each individual headed a single project. Initially when I started working, I did not complete many tasks because I did not have a laptop for the first two or three days. Furthermore, my co-workers and superiors were unsure about my knowledge in the field and the amount of workload I could manage. Gradually, they began increasing my workload with more tasks to complete such as typing the list of contract documents, reviewing submittals, following up with sub-contractors, keeping track of material ETAs, attending weekly owner-architect meetings, scheduling inspections, and even sending RFIs to the architect as needed. Towards the end of the internship, I truly began to be exposed to the requirements of working in a construction company.
I believe that I exceeded the company’s expectation’s throughout the two months of my internship; during the last few days, several of the employees with whom I had little contact with, told me that Yonas often commented on the high quality of my work. As time progressed to the last couple weeks of the internship, the project manager entrusted me with more and more work to complete. For example, the last owner-architect meeting that I attended, Yonas wrote down a list of sub-contractors that he was supposed to email and call regarding various punch-list items. At the end of the meeting, he simply handed me the list and trusted that I could accurately complete everything. Furthermore, of the assistant project managers that I helped half-jokingly told me that she would request to have me as her intern if I came back again next year. Looking back at my internship, I am glad that I was able to help the company by completing each and every task that was asked of me and more importantly I created strong friendships and gain an abundance of knowledge from the people I worked with.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
I had practically no experience with the construction industry and this internship took place after my freshman year of college; thus, I learned a tremendous amount about how construction sites function. First off, I was finally able to strengthen my understanding of the roles of a project manager compared to a superintendent. From reading textbooks, I knew that both positions help manage a project, but now I know that a project manager is responsible for lining up sub-contractors, coordinating with the owner or architect, ensuring materials are delivered on-site, etc. In contrast, a superintendent is responsible for efficiently scheduling sub-contractors to complete their work, resolving issues that arise on-site, and making sure an RFI is sent out if a conflict occurs that requires a decision to be made by the architect, engineer, or other third party.
The internship affected my life in a positive manner as the company’s motto was “Building Our Community”. MCN Build specialized in the construction of schools, gymnasiums, and other facilities that help people living in the area improve the community. This slogan was also illustrated in the various programs that MCN Build took part in, one of which was the youth employment program that helped younger people gain work experience. One skill that I tremendously improved throughout the internship was communication. I learned that communication is essential in construction because you are tasked to email, call, and talk to a wide range of people from architects, sub-contractors, inspectors, etc. on a daily basis. One way to ensure that communication is effective is to follow up with people and check that everyone is cognizant of what needs to be done. Maintaining strong, positive relationships with everyone you interact with applies to both construction as well as life in general. Overall, this internship has taught me invaluable lessons about how to accomplish my goals and succeed at work – ultimately helping me become a better person.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
Throughout my internship, I was not directly involved with safety on the construction site, although I always wore my personal protective equipment (PPE). However, I sat in on a few meetings where the assistant superintendent read safety procedures to the sub-contractor foremen about how to regularly inspect hard hats for any signs of damage, always being especially careful when doing work that involved heights, etc. This seemed to align with my perspective on construction because the importance of worker safety was strongly emphasized in my “Intro. To Building Construction” classes last year.
On the other hand, I was more involved in quality of the construction site during the internship. This included reviewing submittals from sub-contractors and checking to ensure that the materials being put into the building met the specifications required by the architect on the construction drawings. This definitely changed my perspective on construction because I did not realize the amount of effort required for reviewing the type of garbage disposal that was to be installed, or the number of a certain species of trees or shrubs that were part of the landscaping package for a project.
Another task included walking through each room and creating a punch-list for the three-story school that was located in NE Washington DC. Creating a punch list was one of the most tedious tasks that I have done because I wrote the same handful of things that needed to be completed or fixed for each room. I was surprised that certain items needed to be noted such as replacing a damaged ceiling tile for the tiniest smudge or mark. My perspective of buildings quickly changed, and I soon found myself entering rooms and looking around to check if the floor base, ceiling tiles, electrical outlets, etc. were properly installed. I was truly astonished by how much effort is put into inspecting every corner of a building to make sure the quality of the construction meets the standards of the owner of the building. In conclusion, I found out that quality control is an integral component of construction, which makes sense to me because this will help the building last for a longer period of time.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
Generally, when someone mention construction, the first thought that comes to mind is a new house or other type of building being built. However, construction includes roads, bridges, and other types of infrastructure as well. I believe that the website I Build America is a great idea because it sheds light on how essential construction is to everyday life. Personally, I believe there is a negative connotation or stigma associated with construction because people often think about construction as being loud, dirty, and causing lots of traffic. As a result, people do not think twice about the luxuries of life that they enjoy on a daily basis such as sanitation, air conditioning, utilities, etc. I am glad that this website is striving to educate people about the impact of the construction industry as well as the risks associated with it.
I believe I Build America is doing a great job of illustrating the harsh conditions that construction workers must deal with throughout the year. Also, the website allows individuals and companies to take part in the movement, which helps spread the word even more. Personally, I view I Build America as an initiative to help change peoples’ views on the construction industry from an annoyance to an integral part of society. Overall, this is a great first step in educating people and sparking interest to work in the construction industry.