By Thomas Golden, Project Engineer

School taught me a lot about construction fundamentals. Western Carolina University gave me a practical knowledge of construction like reading drawings, learning building codes, and revising contracts. Throughout my internship with Shiel Sexton, I learned how to apply classroom instruction to physical construction projects. However, school and class theories pale in comparison to the lessons I have learned in my first six months of working in the industry.

Reminiscing on these past few months, I have gained a more in-depth insight into the construction industry. While some lessons took longer to learn than others, three key observations have stood out.

  • Never be afraid to ask questions. As a recent grad, I found myself placed into positions where I did not always fully understand the assigned tasks. Without help, it can get overwhelming. Asking questions – even if it is as simple as the steps to upload a submittal correctly – will ensure you learn operations and procedures correctly.  Not asking question can create bad habits for years to come. Asking questions helped me gain confidence in my ability to do my job and increase my industry knowledge.
  • Always be prepared. Fresh out of college, I was actively involved with various organizations and clubs. I thought I knew what “always stay prepared” meant. However, since becoming a Project Engineer, I have found that I only knew a small percentage of that statement. Whether it’s holding a meeting with subcontractors, speaking to an owner, or even communicating with coworkers, you never know where the day will take you. For example, I reread every email from a subcontractor before speaking to them regarding the project or research different techniques to keep me prepared. I find different ways to understand the tasks at hand so I can speak with confidence when communicating with others.
  • Be confident in who you are and in your ability. This job has challenged me in ways I could not have imagined when I first started. Being a person of color in this field is hard, add to that being under 25, makes it harder. Every day, I deal with a variety of people from owners, subcontractors and coworkers with more experience in the construction field than me. Though my abilities or my industry knowledge may get questioned, it does not slow me down. Through this job, I have found a new sense of confidence in who I am and in my ability to do my job efficiently and effectively.