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From Project Management to Estimating

Are you standing at a crossroads in your career, particularly in the construction industry, and contemplating a shift? This article could provide the inspiration you need. We recently sat down with one of our estimators, Bobby Spurlock, about his career path. Bobby’s journey shows the power of embracing change, the importance of continuous learning, and the pathways to success in evolving career landscapes. If you're considering a pivot in your professional life, let Bobby's story guide and encourage you. In this industry, there are always opportunities for change and new roles to develop your career further.


Bobby grew up surrounded by the construction world. His dad was a union ironworker in Chicago, working in the field for over 40 years. His grandparents also worked in construction as ironworkers and electricians, so as a kid, Bobby spent a lot of time on construction sites. During his summers, he worked alongside his dad in the steel mills. He worked in landscaping while attending Purdue University, earning his bachelor's degree in construction management. After college, he moved to Cincinnati and became a project lead and the head of the Employee Safety Committee at a local utility company. Later, he moved to Florida and worked for a general contractor, stepping into the complex role of project management.


In 2008, Bobby faced a significant challenge when the housing market crashed, impacting numerous construction projects in Florida. However, his resilience and adaptability shone through as he strategically moved to Oklahoma, joining Ross Group as an assistant project manager. His dedication and skills were quickly recognized, leading to his promotion to a project manager position on the operations team. This period of his career was a testament to his ability to thrive in adverse conditions, and he said, "I have worked with a lot of great people at Ross Group that have shaped my career."


During this time, Bobby was exposed to various project types and worked alongside more seasoned project managers and superintendents. He also worked closely with estimators on estimates for projects he would ultimately manage, which sparked his interest in estimating. When he was in the bid room as a PM on bid day, he loved the high-stress, high stakes, competitive atmosphere and how all the work put in for weeks or even months came down to that one day. Bobby's interest in estimating and preconstruction peaked when he worked with the estimating team on a hotel project in downtown Tulsa. For the first time, he seriously considered switching from operations to preconstruction. Bobby said, "I spoke with other estimators who had transitioned from project management to estimating and to Ross Group's Director of Estimating about my interest in potentially joining the team." Following these conversations, Bobby was confident that his experience in operations would ultimately make him a qualified estimator, and he made the switch in 2016.


The switch to being an estimator was challenging for Bobby. He explained, "As a project manager, I was used to working towards deadlines that were months or even years away. In estimating, the deadlines are much closer, just two to four weeks away. It means things move fast; sometimes, you juggle two to three bids in one week." This shift required Bobby to really focus on how he managed his time. He admitted that the days leading up to a project's bid day were stressful at first. However, as he gained more experience, he became confident in his ability to be prepared for bid day. Bobby says that "to be successful in the bid room, you have to attack each project with dedication and consistently put in the work leading up to bid day so you are prepared for any surprises that may come up."


Bobby also mentioned that his time as a project manager was crucial to his success as an estimator. He noted that watching projects develop from start to finish has been a considerable advantage. Per Bobby, "It allows me to picture the drawings in three dimensions, understand the building process, and evaluate projects from a constructability point of view. This understanding goes beyond just crunching numbers and looking at spreadsheets."


Bobby's journey from project manager to estimator is a testament to the challenges and rewards of career changes. He navigated this transition by considering the pros and cons, gathering information, and talking with others who had made similar moves. His desire to learn, grow, and find his place in the construction industry drove him. Hopefully, his story will inspire you to look for opportunities to explore, adapt, and thrive in your career. For those who find inspiration in Bobby's journey and are interested in becoming an estimator, Ross Group actively seeks passionate people to join our team; the next step in your next exciting career opportunity could be just around the corner!

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