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Thread: Am I on the right career path? What can I do to set myself up for Project Management?

  1. #1
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    Am I on the right career path? What can I do to set myself up for Project Management?

    Hello,

    I am fairly new to the industry and I wanted to make sure I am doing my best to prepare me for a bright future in this trade. I wasn't really sure where to ask this other than here, but if you have any other resources I would love to read it.

    My background:

    • Currently 24 Years old
    • Graduated in Fall 2017 with a BA in Management Information Systems/Project Management
    • Have 2 internships with a Large 1 billion $+ electrical contractor, one in Engineering back in 2012 when I first started college, and one in Project Management in Summer 2017, both 4 months each
    • Currently have 7 months of experience with a small union shop. Started as a Project Management Assistant for my first 4 months.
    • Last 3 months was changed to a Project Engineer which entails Project Management Assistant, Estimating, and Purchasing


    I am looking for my best options at this point in my career.


    1. First, I do not intend to leave my current employer, as I feel I need to build up more experience. I also personally think having both PM and Estimating under my belt will make me more valuable. If I am wrong on this, please let me know?
    2. I do want to pursue certifications that will make me a stronger employee in this industry. I do not qualify for PMP but I am considering going for the CAPM. Also looking at basic certs like OSHA 30. Thoughts?
    3. What can I request from my employer to ensure I get the most experience and training as possible? Should I ask for more PM work? More responsibility? My own project (to be shadowed by a PM)?


    Some more general questions...


    1. Does the fact my degree isn't in construction hurt me?
    2. How can I gain more field experience or training while staying in the office side?


    I also also looking for more general advice from other PM's or people in the industry for how to best prepare myself and fast track my intended goal of becoming a PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by jschwarzenbach View Post

    Some more general questions...


    1. Does the fact my degree isn't in construction hurt me?
    2. How can I gain more field experience or training while staying in the office side?

    the degree isn't as much a problem as simple lack of experience in
    this particular craft. that is not to disparage your abilities, but if you
    haven't years of experience with installation, which is what project
    managers find helpful, then you just don't. something where field
    experience will tell you at a glance that something is unreasonable
    or unworkable will require a lot more effort on your part to determine.

    this will put you at a disadvantage when scheduling projects. if you
    are a console jockey and brilliant at running primavera or timberline,
    that is a valuable asset. negotiating extras is really what you are needed for.
    if you are working in a union type of structure, you are going to be
    backing up a foreman or general foreman.

    i did project management on a $25M road and sewer for an "A" contractor
    for about 6 months. i balanced having never done formal project management
    by starting in a field i'd never worked in, roads and sewers.

    the job was a fluster cluck. the guy i replaced had not maintained any records,
    just stacked invoices and job correspondence in the closet of the job trailer.
    nothing in the filing cabinets. zip. when he bailed, he parked the job truck in
    the shop parking lot, with his keys and cellphone inside it. that was his notice.

    i handled the entire thing as best i could, but it was 12 hours a day, 7 days a
    week, for the six months. on salary. they and i, by mutual accord, parted, thank god.

    their job accounting was hosed. worse, it was crooked, showing a profit when
    there was none, the job was flat. i got access to the database, and pulled the
    raw data coded to the job into an excel spreadsheet, and using filters, did a P&L
    on the job at the 30% benchmark. with the MOB money, they were at almost 50%
    drawn down on the job, $11M. their profit on that volume was $18k. their "report"
    showed just under $1m profit.

    i went into the CFO, and asked about this. i showed my spreadsheet, with the money
    received, and the money spent. he went white, and told me never to show this to anyone.

    one thing i did do. they were getting paid 18 cents a gallon to treat groundwater. it
    was a hard number, not negotiable in the contract. every single day, i documented the
    groundwater treated, and did a transmittal to the management company for the customer,
    documenting and recursing all the previous daily reports, boxing them into having to
    pay for the extra. it was an hour and a half's work, every day.

    i was told they weren't wasting their money paying me to do that. waste of time, yada yada.

    the job ended up being decided in court, long after i'd left the company. almost 5 years later.
    they actually lost money on the job. less than $100k profit on a $25M job.

    except for the water treatment. they were able to collect the full eighteen cents a gallon
    on the water treated, because of scrupulous record keeping, and timely documentation to
    the customer.

    it totaled 43,500,000 gallons. that was all they got paid for, as their were no records kept after
    i left. they pumped another 12,000,000 gallons for free. they made $7M treating water and pouring
    it down the drain.

    so, at this point, i'd say pay attention to the details, and see how you can help.
    relax and enjoy the ride. back up your job foremen and general foremen.

    make sure that they get the information, materials, and equipment where and when they need
    them.

    if you can do that, you are worth six figures. just not right yet.
    ~New signature under construction.~
    ~~~~Please excuse the mess.~~~~

  3. #3
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    You're probably a nice person jschwarzenbach, but a 24yr old PM?....they'd eat you alive

    Sorry to be terse, but the field can be like that

    I would encourage you toward any trade related certs though

    Time is on your side

    Best of luck

    ~RJ~

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    Thanks guys. Obviously I am trying to learn from the field as much as I can and be there as the primary support role. I don't intend to be a PM right away, just wanted to make sure I'm on the right track.

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    Quote Originally Posted by romex jockey View Post
    You're probably a nice person jschwarzenbach, but a 24yr old PM?....they'd eat you alive

    Sorry to be terse, but the field can be like that

    I would encourage you toward any trade related certs though

    Time is on your side

    Best of luck

    ~RJ~
    Hey! I’m currently 25 and was a PM & Estimator when I was 23; and I was still in my 4th year of my apprenticeship. Anything is possible, but stress was intense😂.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jschwarzenbach View Post
    Hello,

    I am fairly new to the industry and I wanted to make sure I am doing my best to prepare me for a bright future in this trade. I wasn't really sure where to ask this other than here, but if you have any other resources I would love to read it.

    My background:

    • Currently 24 Years old
    • Graduated in Fall 2017 with a BA in Management Information Systems/Project Management
    • Have 2 internships with a Large 1 billion $+ electrical contractor, one in Engineering back in 2012 when I first started college, and one in Project Management in Summer 2017, both 4 months each
    • Currently have 7 months of experience with a small union shop. Started as a Project Management Assistant for my first 4 months.
    • Last 3 months was changed to a Project Engineer which entails Project Management Assistant, Estimating, and Purchasing


    I am looking for my best options at this point in my career.


    1. First, I do not intend to leave my current employer, as I feel I need to build up more experience. I also personally think having both PM and Estimating under my belt will make me more valuable. If I am wrong on this, please let me know?
    2. I do want to pursue certifications that will make me a stronger employee in this industry. I do not qualify for PMP but I am considering going for the CAPM. Also looking at basic certs like OSHA 30. Thoughts?
    3. What can I request from my employer to ensure I get the most experience and training as possible? Should I ask for more PM work? More responsibility? My own project (to be shadowed by a PM)?


    Some more general questions...


    1. Does the fact my degree isn't in construction hurt me?
    2. How can I gain more field experience or training while staying in the office side?


    I also also looking for more general advice from other PM's or people in the industry for how to best prepare myself and fast track my intended goal of becoming a PM.
    Try to get out to the job sites, talk with the men (to a point, they will goof on you because your green), sit in on job meetings, learn the paper work, PM needs to be able to work both sides of the fence fairly, keeping in mind who you work for. You must be ahead of the job, materials, labor/man power (when is it better to pay ot as opposed to full time worker), tools, rfi, change orders, extras (if you have x hours with x men with hard bid and deadline can the men handle the extra or do you need a new worker/ot/ increase price on extra to cover the worker) , one hand washing the other (negotiated between trades/gc). Don't forget to bring donuts/coffee, pizza for the men!

  7. #7
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    My observations over the decades is that the position of Project manager for a Mechanical Contractor is a completely different animal than for a Construction Manager or a GC. The things one would learn to earn a Project management degree are valuable, but not necessarily directly related. The project management skills needed to run typical electrical job under, say 5 million, should be able to be taught on the Job or with a couple months instruction. Again, in my experience, project managers I have run in to and in my area, are expected to be the experts in the electrical field.


    I know what I don't know, and I know where to go to find it!

  8. #8
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    A couple of thoughts:
    * Most times it's better to make a timely decision, and have it be wrong, than make no decision in time.
    * Learn how to manage your time - I start my day between 4:30 and 5:00am at the office. Sounds crazy, but I get more done in 2.5 to 3.5 hours when no one is around than when my estimators and project managers begin showing up. I can bid a job on a Saturday with no one around that would take me a few days while having to deal with everyone else.
    * Make a task list daily. Carry things forward from the previous day, and add the new stuff as the day progresses. As you deal with things, make your notes right on this list. Keep them organized and save them. I have lined pads going back 15 years. It seems like every 6 months I refer back to someone, somewhere or something.
    * You don't need to know everything, but you should make sure you know someone who knows what you don't. Same thing for work performance - Leave the specialized work for the guys who specialize.
    * You'll be in this business your whole life so keep that in mind. Keep your reputation solid and intact with your men, your vendors and your subs.
    * A $100,000,000.00 dollar job is (most times) made up of the same components as a $100,000.00 one. It can seem overwhelming. Don't let it get you. They are just zeros. Break everything down to it's simplest components and put it back together.
    * Stress can cause illness, anxiety, insomnia and a whole lot of other things. Make sure you have something you can do to zero yourself out and make sure you make the time to do it. I used to fly airplanes, play music, fish, etc.
    * Learn to leave your job at home as best you can when you have a family. Spend as much time with them as you can while you can.

    Good Luck!
    If you can't fix it, fix it so no one else can.

  9. #9
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    Just be carful what you wish for, the only guys I ever see get let go in the middle of a job are the supers or the PMs. Someone has to be held accountable.
    I can build anything you want if you draw a picture of it on the back of a big enough check.

    There's no substitute for hard work....but that doesn't mean I'm going to give up trying to find one.

    John Childress
    Electrical Inspector
    IAEI / CEI / C10
    Certified Electrical Inspector

  10. #10
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    Am I on the right career path? What can I do to set myself up for Project Management?

    Quote Originally Posted by Strathead View Post
    Again, in my experience, project managers I have run in to and in my area, are expected to be the experts in the electrical field.
    I would somewhat agree with that, but also say it depends on the structure of the company.

    With smaller companies the PM is the guy everyone is going to call when they need a “how-to” answer. But if you’re large enough to have a project foreman, that would be the first contact for the electricians. And then maybe a general superintendent below the PM. I will say though I’ve worked in all these capacities, and my phone never stopped ringing no matter what the title was.

    Some GC’s I work with, their PM is expected to be equally knowledgeable in all facets of the job. But then you have larger projects where the superintendent just wants them out of the way.

    Wanted to say also, don’t let your age hold you back. I was working over guys 2-3 times my age when I was in my early twenties; just remember respect isn’t a given based on your job title. Study hard, work hard, and put your tools on when necessary.

    Also grow a beard.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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