In our last blog article, Superintendent Scott Trueman shared some of the specifics about what he does each day on the job site. This week, we continue our conversation with Scott and talk about some of the challenges and rewards of working in the field.
What do you like about being a superintendent?
I enjoy the scheduling aspect of it and coordinating multimillion-dollar jobs with various subcontractors on site. It’s sometimes a tedious process, but keeping a smooth flow throughout a job is a challenge I enjoy. Another aspect I really like is seeing all the little pieces of scopes of work come together to form a larger piece. It’s a lot of pushing people to get their work done so that the next subcontractor can come on-site for his scope, but I like working with people and motivating them to get the job done.
What are some challenges?
Two of the biggest challenges are projects and people. Every project you work on is different. So, although you gain knowledge and experience from every job, you have to remember you cannot “just do it that way because that’s how it was done on the last job.” There are different plans, specifications, details, and quality levels for every job you’re on. You must be able to adapt and learn something new. For instance, a common challenge that many superintendents may have to overcome is installing and testing out fire alarm systems. Depending on the location (township, city, or state) there is a different authority having jurisdiction that plays a crucial role in acceptance of a building. Every building or structure may have a different classification that entails different fire codes, some stricter than others. Within one city block, I completed two fire alarm systems that consisted of 5 different groups of occupancy.
The second challenge is dealing with people. Everyone you work with has come from different backgrounds and experiences, and has different communication styles. You need to be aware of how you speak and come across to others. Some may take the tough love approach, while others are more sensitive. It’s important to adjust and find out what works best, to get the work done.
What is something about your job that would surprise someone outside our industry?
Many people don’t realize that a superintendent’s role on a project starts in the beginning stages of the lifecycle. From predesign, design, estimating, through construction all the way to completions/turnover, even post construction, a superintendent will play a crucial part in all these stages as an influencer. We can offer input on common practices that may or may not work, experience, value engineering options, and safety.
Most people wouldn’t think of safety as a superintendent’s role, but it is. At the end of each day, it comes down to the question, “Did everyone who entered my jobsite leave the same way they showed up?” Superintendents watch over others to make sure they get back home safely to their family. This can be a dangerous industry and we want to stay proactive, not reactive, when it comes to safety.
Lastly a superintendent is a well-versed individual when it comes to construction. You will leave a job having experienced underground utilities work, mechanical performance testing, electrical lighting controls, structural design criteria, operation and maintenance of plumbing components, and physical security. You will take part in pretty much everything that comes onto a jobsite.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the field?
The best advice I could give someone is to observe and ask questions. Some people are hesitant to ask questions for fear of feeling stupid. But in reality, it is one of the best ways to learn. Most people in the field want to help and will likely both answer your question and explain why they are doing their work in a particular way. Tradesmen typically enjoy what they do and like to pass along some of this knowledge. Subcontractors are most often experts in their field, and you can gain so much knowledge from asking questions and being willing to listen and observe.
What was your favorite project and why?
It was the first project I worked on with Ross Group – a training range at Fort Bliss, Texas called the CACTF, or a combined arms collective training facility. The project wasn’t just the construction of one building, it was 27 different buildings! It was basically a small town in the middle of the desert for the troops to complete their training. I loved it because there were so many different parts to the job and the added challenge of building in the desert. It was honestly one of the coolest projects I have completed to date.
Another favorite is the Consolidated Learning Center in San Angelo, Texas, which is a training center and library. On that job, I was able to gradually take over more responsibility. This project was a significant learning experience due to how complex the project was, which helped me get to where I am now.
As you can see from our conversation with Scott, construction superintendents play a critical role on the jobsite by working closely with all the teams involved on a project to ensure that every aspect of it runs smoothly. If you’re interested in getting hands on with a project, like working with different people, and enjoy organizing different pieces of a puzzle so they all come together to complete the job, this may just be the career for you!