Careers in Construction Month 2022

04 October 2022

October marks Careers in Construction month, and as is tradition, we wanted to learn more about the topic from the construction pros themselves. This year, we sat down with four Focus team members, all of whom work on different aspects of the projects, to hear from them what makes a career in construction so unique. Their thoughts below.

What do you love most about working in the construction industry? What do you find most rewarding?

Tay Atwater (Project Engineer): I love the unpredictability the most. There’s always something to new do in the field and every single day is filled with different tasks; no two days are same. Some days you might be in the office doing takeoffs, reviewing floorplans or you might be in the field helping the Project Manager and the Superintendent directly. The most rewarding thing about my job, and about the construction industry is that you get to be a part of history. Years later, you or someone you know, may point out a building and you’ll be able to say that you were a part of the team that built it. To build something as amazing as a building from start to finish is truly inspiring and brings me a lot of happiness.

Sheila Eustace (Development Manager): My answer used to be the tangibility of the product like seeing your impact on the local neighborhood or the city skyline. But to it has morphed into something all-encompassing for me. When you are part of a building project, you get to interact with, develop relationships with and learn from so many different experts. From structural to electrical engineer and from interior designers to enclosure specialist, I am amazed at the number of facets of the industry that have to work together in order to create the final project.

Steve Cannella (Project Manager II): I started off my career in architecture as I always loved design, but I eventually came to realize that things you put on paper actually get built and affect how people live, work and play. Moving away from architecture and into construction gave me more appreciation for the fact that those design choices have real world cost impacts as well. Now being part of a team that takes all of those aspects into account to make the best possible decisions for a particular project is what I find most rewarding.

Brandon Smrz (Superintendent I): Every day I come to work I know I’m going to learn something new and there will always be another problem that needs solving. No two days are ever the same and procrastination is not an option. In this industry, you’re constantly problem solving and must be willing to make mistakes in order to learn from them. A lot of things in life these days provide that instant gratification, and don’t require a lot of hard work or patience. What I find most rewarding about this career is the feeling of pride I get knowing the amount of time and energy poured into a project for months or years. The spaces and places I help build impact people’s lives and that’s what gets me up in the morning.

What was your biggest learning experience?

Tay Atwater (Project Engineer): The biggest learning experience I've had was during an internship where I learned the basics of everything I needed to start off in my career. It was a tremendous stepping one during which I worked on three different projects including a warehouse where I spent a lot of time working with the Project Manager and Safety Director solving for several unexpected delays.

Sheila Eustace (Development Manager): My biggest learning experience has been that there is no normal. As I have evolved in my career, I thought I knew the norms, but with COVID and the recent volatility of the supply, my career has challenged me to come to each obstacle with fresh eyes. Using my experience as a template rather than bible while recognizing there may be a more creative, unique solutions to the new obstacles we face everyday.

Steve Cannella (Project Manager II): Trying to find shortcuts at the beginning of a project will only cost you inexplicable amounts of additional coordination later. Laying a good foundation will make things run more smoothly as the project moves along… pun intended.

Brandon Smrz (Superintendent I): Creating a “lessons learned” by writing down all of the mistakes you make. A colleague of mine once showed me his list documenting all the hurdles and mistakes he’s encountered over the years so that he can avoid them moving forward. That willingness to make mistakes, reflect and get smarter is one of the most important things I’ve learned in my career.

What was your favorite project and why?

Tay Atwater (Project Engineer): The project I'm working on now has been my favorite so far because I’ve had the opportunity to learn new long-term skills which will benefit my career like coordinating buyouts, drawing up contracts, connecting with vendors and subs, and more. While this is the first time I've had so much responsibility on a project, I’ve never felt overwhelmed and had lots of support from my team.

Sheila Eustace (Development Manager): My favorite project were the renovation and expansion of the 1st and 2nd terminals at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport. It was my introduction to construction, my first love, everything was new to me. I loved the opportunity to be behind the scenes in such a secure area. I saw how a baggage claim sorting system worked, the back of house kitchens, the undersides of jetways. We also had a very large team, which showed me how every single person in the system is crucial for success.

Steve Cannella (Project Manager II): I’ve completed multiple office build outs and those tend to be the most satisfying for me. You get to meet staff that will eventually spend 40+ hours of their week in a space and hope that you’ve built them the best possible environment in which to do so.

Brandon Smrz (Superintendent I): In 2016, I had the chance to work with the Cubs on the Wrigley Field Plaza Office Building. I was only a few years out of college and was given substantial responsibility on a very high-profile project. I lived, dreamed and breathed Cubs that year and while I was working on the project, the Cubs also won the World Series. The perfect ending to a fantastic project.

What advice would you give someone interested in a career in construction?

Tay Atwater (Project Engineer): Pursue it fully; it is worth it. You’ll learn a lot, especially through hands-on training. And for women wanting to go into construction – just remember, even though it may be a male-dominated field, but you can do whatever a man can do…maybe even better. Always rely on knowledge and educate yourself to stay ahead of the game. Prove yourself and show that you know industry just as much as the next man.

Sheila Eustace (Development Manager): I would say that the beauty of it is that you are in charge of your own success. If you own your scopes and then some, take a narrow lens and wide lens approach, know the sequencing of your scope and it’s counterparts, and most importantly, ask lots of questions - you will succeed.

Steve Cannella (Project Manager II): Learn from your mistakes and don’t get discouraged. Being a part of this industry is all about making more informed choices based on experiences from past projects.

Brandon Smrz (Superintendent I): PASSION! There are going to be mountains of knowledge that you need to learn and there are no shortcuts. It takes time and patience. Stay passionate about the process of building something from nothing and this will be one of the most rewarding careers out there.

To learn more about careers at Focus or to talk about a project of your own, please reach out today.

Subscribe to learn more.

Next Article - Fox Valley Mall Unveils Plans for a Second Luxury Apartment Community and a Senior Living Center

Get in touch

Back To Top