Throughout my college career at East Carolina University (ECU), I interned at several companies in attempt to see how different operations were in the construction industry. My fourth and final internship was with Shiel Sexton. I spent most of my summer working on the Watercrest Senior Living project in Fort Mill, SC. Throughout my time in Fort Mill, I was granted the opportunity to manage submittals, RFI’s, drawings, and other document control items. I also spent a decent amount of time coordinating in the field and helping punch out The Aspens at Bedford Falls Senior Living Community in Raleigh, NC. I was eventually hired on full-time as a project engineer at the beginning of 2020. I learned a lot of helpful information through my classes at ECU, but some things you simply can’t teach in a classroom. 

  1. Never stop growing – If you aren’t learning something new every day, you’re wasting your time. Any time you’re walking your site/building you need to look at your surroundings and ask, “why is that there?” Or “How does this effect other activities down the road?” The more critical you are of yourself, team, and subcontractors makes for a smoother project. 
  2. Ask questions – I’ll be the first to admit, I was nervous starting my first full-time job as a project engineer because I didn’t feel like I was experienced enough. I’ve come to learn that no one is truly prepared for their first full-time position in the professional world. But with the right guidance, you figure it out. I was fortunate enough to be put on an outstanding team for my first project with Shiel Sexton, and I have learned so much from them. Don’t get discouraged, just ask questions and learn from your mistakes. 
  3. Over communicate – As a project engineer, I assume the responsibility of all document control and procurement. I’ve learned that it is best to over-communicate when it comes to submittals or RFI’s. When I receive an approved submittal or answer to an RFI, I ask myself “Who all does this affect on site?” For example, once our storefront shop drawings are approved on a project, I’m sharing these shops to the hardware supplier/installer, framer, and everyone else that could benefit from receiving these shops. When it comes to long-term procurement items, I’m following up with my subcontractors every week, to make sure we are still tracking the correct dates. A lack of communication on these items can delay a project dramatically. 

Your first few years are crucial for learning, growth, and making mistakes. I hope these tips help shed a little light on those that are just graduating and starting their professional careers!