School: California State University Sacramento
Major: Construction Management
Company: Granite Construction Company Incorporated
Internship from May 19, 2014 — May 19, 2017
To the outside observer, it may seem that my life has been smooth sailing and everything has been handed to me. In reality I’ve faced adversity and fought hard to overcome it. A perfect example of this is the national construction competition that I participated in this past year. In addition to the 18 upper division units I was taking in college and the 30 hours per week I was working as an intern, I was invited to apply for a spot on the competition team. After spending an entire semester attending weekly meetings and completing practice problems, I learned that I was selected not as a team member but rather as an alternate. This was devastating to me, especially when I learned that the coach chose younger participants simply to give them the experience in preparation for future years. All that work, all of those hours committed, and I hadn’t made the team. It felt like a turning point in my career. Instead of walking away, though, I decided to use this as an opportunity to prove myself as a professional. I went “all in” as a team player and worked extra hard to prepare. When the week of the event finally arrived, I learned the alternates would have our own competition which would be especially challenging because we would be working with people selected randomly from other schools. Using the confidence I had developed from my experience during my internship, I took charge of my alternate team, assigning roles and leading them through the problem. During the awards ceremony, another team was announced as the third place winners. Then a team was called for second place. And taking first place… my team! We had topped every other team in the nation! At that moment, I was rewarded with the knowledge that the skills and traits I had been learning during my internship would give me the tools to overcome adversity and be successful in my career. My choice of a career in construction management was influenced by my father, a civil engineer with Granite Construction, who would occasionally take me to his job sites starting when I was very young. I followed in my father’s footsteps when I enrolled in the Construction Management program at California State University Sacramento, his alma mater. The opportunity for an internship arose a little over two years ago during the annual “Evening with Industry” where I was fascinated by Granite Construction’s tour of the Folsom Dam Auxiliary Spillway project. Because of my interest and enthusiasm that evening, I was asked to apply for an internship position with Granite. I pursued this internship in hopes of getting valuable site experience to be well prepared upon graduation. Although I know I still have a great deal to learn, this internship has given me some real world tools that will help me be successful in my professional career.
What results did you achieve on the internship, and how did you exceed the company's expectations for your role?
Working for Granite Construction has been a very rewarding experience. I am constantly learning something new. Whether it’s hearing about a new piece of equipment or a new construction process, every single day I learn something valuable. Even though I am an intern, I am considered a regular employee, which allows me to see how daily operations work. I receive information on the rationale behind processes and decisions, and I have the opportunity to identify areas of potential improvement. I came to Granite with no experience working in the industry, which was very intimidating. I did not know what to expect but there were plenty of engineers who were willing to take time out of their day to help me learn. One of the most valuable skills I learned initially during my internship was how to read plans. I was put in charge of performing hundreds of materials and earthwork takeoffs. I was also given the task of calling subcontractors to talk about the projects and their interest in bidding. Seeing the inefficiency of having to call up to 2,000 small businesses multiple times to meet the good faith effort, I suggested the development of an automated system to drastically reduce labor costs and free up personnel to work on other important tasks. Granite’s leadership was thrilled by my suggestion. After a year in takeoffs, I was assigned to projects in the field. In this new role, I felt very comfortable knowing that when I had a question, I could ask anyone in the office and they would be willing to stop what they were doing to help me. One of the key tools that guided me to success was the HCSS system. The system was intuitive enough that I was able to quickly learn HeavyBid and HeavyJob. I started out using HeavyJob to make and approve time cards, and after I was able to pick it up, I set up the time cards for the Foreman every day with great detail. Granite was very impressed with this and asked me to help foremen on other jobs with their timecards. Since I was knowledgeable about HeavyJob, I then worked under an engineer to help generate a few bids. Once I was familiar with HeavyBid, I was asked to explore ways we could improve our bid to build process without going through various steps. I was able to achieve this by finding many useful functions in the programs which eliminated various spreadsheets and placed information in one centralized location. This was very convenient and useful because all the programs communicated with each other. The fact that I was able to succeed with learning these programs put me one step ahead, making me a valuable employee and pleasing Granite.
What did you learn in this internship that will affect your life in a positive way?
There were two key pieces of information that struck my attention during my internship. I immediately learned that loving your job is a key part of enjoying your life. From the first day I started at Granite Construction, I have loved every minute of it. I met more people than I can count who were supportive and willing to help me out with anything I asked. It gave me a great learning experience as I was not timid about asking questions, no matter how small or insignificant they seemed. The work I performed on a daily basis made time fly by. There was not a single day that the work was not interesting. I was always doing something new and exciting. Sometimes I would be in the field and sometimes in the office, but I never did the same thing two days in a row. I looked forward to coming to work often times and that gave me motivation to work hard and productive. While working, I endured many long, hard, and tiring shifts which taught me the other key skill I learned during my internship, the value of time management. There were days where I wondered how my co-workers managed all of their various tasks. After working for about six months, I finally realized that they have become very good at time management. They perform their work in ranking order from what is urgent and pressing to what can wait a day or two. Once I realized this, I started working smarter in order to maximize my efficiency. The tactics I gathered at Granite regarding time management have translated throughout almost every aspect of my life. It helped me balance my time between work, school, clubs, and competition teams. I now make lists of everything that I have to do which has helped me stay organized and manage my time on key tasks that must be accomplished each day. I prioritize each activity on my list to make sure I complete the necessary ones and keep in mind the secondary ones. With this effort, staying energized and giving each task everything I have is feasible. Time management is a quality that many think they understand, however it takes a lot to master it. Through the use of time management, I am able to stay energized, completing each task productively with a positive attitude. I enjoy working and learning at my internship at Granite Construction and I appreciate the value of the qualities it teaches me to carry on with other aspects of my life.
How were you involved with safety and/or quality during your internship, and how did that change your perspective on construction?
By far, the most important ideal in the construction industry is safety. Safety meetings take place prior to work every day to discuss the daily activities and the different potential hazards at the jobsite. Granite has made it very clear during my time that the goal is to send everyone home in the same or better condition than they showed up. If this is achieved every day then we will reach our company wide goal of zero annual accidents. The reason that this is a focal point is due to the rapidly changing environments in construction and the historical accident rates. I was heavily involved with safety during my internship and was required to take occasional tests to make sure I met the safety standard. Being the young guy in the company, I come in with the least knowledge about safety so it was essential for me to refrain from becoming lackadaisical and putting myself – or others – in harm’s way. With job scopes changing so rapidly, as well as working alongside management personnel, safety has been my main concern on every project for every person involved. Granite has put me on projects involving earthwork, paving, concrete placing, rock blasting, mining, and even working with a mechanic. This has given me experience with many different project types, showing me all the different safety precautions that need to be taken. The keys to safety are always having a plan, communicating, and being aware. On the projects named above, I worked around pedestrians, vehicle traffic, train traffic, and even airplanes. During my time as an intern I worked inside a dam and even in an active prison facility. I observed that it is important to notify proper personnel of an unsafe practice or tool better fit for the task. My internship has helped me realize that employees may try to use different tools or equipment which might save money but increase safety hazards. That is not the type of engineer I strive to be. I have seen employees hurt themselves after continuing to overwork a tool which was not meant for the particular scope. At Granite, I was taught that safety goes past the construction process. When we build projects, we build to the highest standard. We do this to ensure our product holds up, performs how it is intended, and keeps people safe in the process. Working with the project engineer taught me to inspect the work to ensure it is built per specification and as safe as possible. Because I was able to witness a variety of project settings, Granite has set me up for success for the rest of my career. I am now able to understand the reasoning behind more decisions that are made. The lesson I have retained most heavily from my internship is to perform work with the proper equipment in the safest manor without taking shortcuts.
After reviewing www.IBuildAmerica.com, tell us what I Build America means to you?
I Build America takes the initiative to recognize the importance of individuals, projects, and companies that construct the projects we use in our daily lives. Many of these hard working people work diligently day in and day out and do not receive any recognition for their commitment to the industry and community. I Build America helps focus attention on the projects that the average citizen might take for granted. The bridges we build, the roads we pave, and the buildings we construct take many man hours to complete. Many hard working professionals work on preparation, construction, and maintenance of these structures in order to build the infrastructure of our communities. Field personnel, engineers and managers work very early mornings, extremely long hours, and sometimes nights to ensure the projects are constructed to the specified standard of quality. Many of these projects go unrecognized by the general public. Utilities, roads, and buildings are often taken for granted; people just expect them to exist and work properly. The general public only recognizes construction when it places a burden on their daily lives. I Build America helps put a spotlight on the industry personnel, the projects they are completing, and the methodology that was used. This website and organization is accessible to anybody with no registration or log in required. It is a phenomenal tool to show pride in our industry and to bring recognition to the men and women who put it all together behind the scenes. For many years, the men and women in the construction industry have worked extremely hard with few people seeing the sacrifices they are making. Thanks to I Build America, times have changed and everyone can now see the work that is put into building our nation.