By Jennifer Erb
2017-04-132017-04-13https://wvuieleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/[email protected]WVU IE200px200px
IMSE Undergrad Class of 2010
What does the company do? Jacobs is one of the largest and most diverse providers of technical, professional and construction services, including all aspects of architecture, engineering and construction, operations and maintenance, as well as scientific and specialty consulting. Founded in 1947, Jacobs currently employees 54,000 employees worldwide with revenue of $10.9 Billion in 2016.
Current role: Construction Project Manager, Buildings and Infrastructure
How I got to my current role:
A day in life of a Construction Project Manager– There is no such thing as a typical day but I feel that if you are doing your job then that is how it should be. Construction Project Managers manage Contractors and their Subcontractors for clients, which include managing safety, schedule, cost and quality. Typically for our clients, we handle reporting and setting expectations as well as the budget/forecast/risk analyses that we must deliver throughout projects. Miscellaneous requests typically come in every day that requires a different view on the forecasts or projections we prepare. Some days I have worked 16+ hrs. and then there were days when I was able to work from home for a few hours.
I work in a very flexible environment where your real job is managing expectations. In the office from 8 to 5 is common with some of my counterparts, however not a requirement, and I choose to have an earlier day. Some of my counterparts even work from home 2-3 times a week to pick up young kids from school when their spouses are busy and my bosses usually call into meetings from kids’ practices, soccer games, etc. As our job in most cases is to act on the owner’s behalf it is our responsibility to ensure everything is on track and our client is getting what they paid for. Because of this, we are expected to deliver on our tasks and be reachable at any time. It is not unusual to check/get emails at odd hours.
Below is an example of a recent day I’ve had.
4:00AM – My day starts at 4 when I get a quick shower and dressed for the day. Dress code is business casual except for Wednesdays. I usually wear suits or a sports jacket for important meetings which I try to bunch into the middle of the week.
4:30AM – I leave my house half an hour later and do so to avoid any traffic at all. My work is only 10 miles from home, but I go into Washington DC and the traffic in the area is horrible. It usually takes me 15-20 mins to get to work at this time, but every hour I leave later adds 30 minutes to the commute (not kidding).
4:45AM – I arrive a good bit earlier than most people to start the day. I work on Capitol Hill so mostly administrative staff and interns are around. I get ready for the day by replying to emails and checking my calendar for the day. I am usually prepared for important meetings days in advance but use the quiet early mornings to put the finishing touch on things or dig into big issues.
5:30AM –Usually my staff begins arriving between 5:30 and 6. If there are big items we need to go over, this is usually when we do it. I also try to use this time to teach my team. I am a firm believer in learning by doing. This is when we can go over new software or how to do something different.
6:30AM – Clients and Contractors begin to arrive. My team usually begins printing agendas, schedules, or information needed in the various meetings at this time. Most days I am helping my Admin and Project Engineer put these together, but today I am digging into the Contractor’s schedule as we believe they need additional staffing to stay on schedule.
7:30AM – I meet in my client’s office to brief him of my analysis and inform him of what opportunities and areas of risk are out there from what I have found during my team’s review. We head to the building Superintendent’s office shortly to brief the project stakeholders on the subject so it is good we get on the same page and place expectations with each other for the meeting.
7:40AM – We meet in the Superintendent’s office and go over the findings with our recommendations. This usually results in more analysis on cost and impacts followed by a request to the Contractor for pricing, however we were preemptive and asked the Contractor to provide pricing on the options we were evaluating. This meeting is more to confirm the staffing issues affecting the schedule which we had brought to the client’s attention a few weeks prior.
10:00AM – I typically each lunch at my desk or in our conference room with the rest of my team, but today I am eating with the client since we just finished up our meeting. Usually the cafeteria is switching between breakfast and lunch at this point so we are eating at the food trucks down the street (if you’ve never eaten at the food trucks in DC, it should be on your list to do).
11:15AM – Back at the office, my team has been monitoring the Contractor and digging into other items. When I get back they usually have a number of items I need to make decisions on or hold a meeting to go over with various stakeholders. Today’s list includes everything from a question on paint colors that don’t quite match what the owner wants to reviewing contractor qualifications to perform testing. This is usually quick, and I usually only need to provide direction for everyone to run with.
11:30AM – I am back at my desk and check emails, I also have my monthly call-in with my Jacobs Supervisor, Project Controls and Accounting to go over big issues and financials. My supervisor is considered a “Project Executive” but also wears many hats as his title internally is “Business Leader”. As the “Project Executive”, he handles everything from staffing to contractual issues which may include reaching out for additional support internally at Jacobs.
12:15AM – Off the call and back out to my team. At this point, I am asking my team for daily updates of what the Contractor is doing, what they should be doing and what we are processing. This is usually to ensure we are tracking properly. If anything is off I will make some course corrections to get things moving in the right direction or dig in more with my team. As an example for today, we are nearing the end of a review on a document and have not received comments from a critical stakeholder. I called the stakeholder and informed them of the deadline and asked how we could help. Now I am scheduling a meeting so my engineer and I can walk through the information with them tomorrow morning to capture their comments and concerns in person. Usually the reviewers we deal with are on 5-10 projects so sometime holding their hand is needed.
1:00PM – I get on a webex presentation/call providing details on our Summer Internship Program (SIP) and the Role of the Champion. This is going over what I will be doing as someone who manages our interns overall experiences for the summer and includes everything from laying out “lunch and learns” to going over potential projects for them to visit. I listen in for the next hour while doing other work. At this time I am looking at my calendar for the following day and reviewing our upcoming deliverables (which we use a joint Outlook calendar to track with the entire team). If anything needs prepared for tomorrow or if someone on my team has a hot item coming up I go see how it is coming and offer my assistance where they may need it. Today my help is directed at formatting a presentation that my Admin has been working on which we present to an oversight committee tomorrow.
2:15PM – Walking to my car to head home!
Why choose Construction Management? I think that this position is great for anyone who aspires to manage large scale projects, construction or otherwise, as it gives you the tools to really do so. Most people think of Construction Management as wearing a hardhat and safety vest every day and watching someone swing a hammer when in reality it is being someone behind the scene making sure that one person swinging a hammer will accomplish the job on budget, on time and with the quality expected by the owner. I would say this job is great for anyone who loves analysis and also has good social skills as you must be able to crunch numbers but then present the findings to a client. It is very rewarding to drive through Washington DC and see a number of buildings which I have been a part of constructing.
What’s the end goal? My end goal is to eventually be a CEO or COO. I have always had a knack for leading teams and driving a strategy to accomplish a goal and see my skills being best utilized at a higher level where I can have a greater impact. I love the reward from teaching others and really seeing those around me excel and think that would translate really well into a corporate role.
Most surprising thing that I didn’t expect coming out of college – I didn’t expect my Industrial and Systems Engineering degree to be as applicable as it has been to construction management. It is less applicable to the methods for construction than it is toward the methods for management, but I have used lean methods and just-in-time process to aid in managing schedule and waste management. I have also used Total Quality Management to assist in the defining processes for monitoring and managing construction work where the work is not typical. These tools, and my awareness of them coming into construction management, have been very helpful to push my career forward.
Least favorite thing about corporate – So far I don’t have a least favorite thing. This company has been very generous and rewarding to work for and I know that isn’t the case in other companies. I look forward to everything I they are planning to involve me in and can’t wait to see where it takes me.
My 2 cents – Always be humble and don’t ever stop learning!