January 25, 2019
January 21, 2019
Project Engineer II Dinesh Allam has been selected as one of the top 20 under 40 construction professionals by Engineering News Record (ENR) Southwest. Dinesh leads efforts to automate preconstruction processes for Sundt’s Concrete Division, and his work has resulted in substantial time savings and added value for the company. Starting as an intern with various design and construction firms on civil projects, he went on to earn a master’s in construction engineering from Arizona State University. Dinesh joined Sundt in 2016 as an Estimator, and now as a Project Engineer he is developing cost management dashboards with the company’s project management group. This week, Dinesh took some time amid his busy schedule to share about his recent award.
At 26, how does it feel to be the youngest (and the only twenty-something) selected in ENR Southwest’s Top Young Professionals?
I just thought “Wow!” I expected there to be more [people in their 20s]! (Laughing). But it’s a huge honor for me. When I heard the news, I knew I’d get some stick from everyone, like, “Oh, here comes that top-rated guy!” It’s been nice though; at the different jobsites, people have been recognizing me. So yeah, it’s been a good ride.
Your ENR profile describes you as an innovator. What’s the most innovative thing you’ve done with Sundt?
Innovation, for me, is more about our culture. But one specific thing I did was take apart 2-D take-offs and turn them into 3-D take-offs. This resulted in time savings across the board, which led to a big culture change in our division: how we hire, how we estimate, everything. I give credit to my group too because they adopted that. It’s hard sometimes to change the way people do things. I was 23 when I joined Sundt and brought up this idea, and they said, “Do it.” They trusted me, and that was a huge deal. Based on our survey, we were able to achieve 82% time savings across all major [precon] processes. And, from last year to this year, we have the same amount of people and twice the amount of revenue. That’s something I really take pride in.
You come across as someone who is very driven and invested in this industry. What motivates you?
When I see inefficiencies, I see opportunities. If I can make a difference in my circle—within ACI (American Concrete Institute) for example, then it can impact the whole industry. And if we can drive that innovation from within Sundt, it benefits us but also everyone else too. That’s one of our core values—industry and community service—and sometimes those commitments cost money and work hours. But Sundt realizes the benefits are real and gives me those opportunities, and for me that’s also motivating.
So you’re working on your MBA, guest lecturing at ASU, giving your time to different industry and community efforts—how do you keep everything balanced?
My number-one rule is that once I go home, I shut off my work phone. I also run every day, which helps me shed off all the stress. And I just do a bunch of active things like mountain biking. The other side is spending quality time with friends, having a social life.
Looking toward the future, what are some big-picture trends you see affecting the industry in the next few years? And where do you see yourself within that process?
Everyone is trying to cut costs for construction services, and we see this trend happening in every market; people are trying to pay builders less and less. I think if we can pursue certain niche markets and establish ourselves as a leader, and perform really innovative and skilled work, we can differentiate ourselves and rise above that trend.
January 15, 2019
Central Arizona College (CAC) recently won the Excellence in Business award for Large Business from the Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce for its role in addressing Arizona’s current and future workforce needs. Serving nearly 10,000 students across Pinal County and offering 90+ degrees and certificates, CAC gives graduates high-demand skills and higher income potential, while improving the economic well-being of their families, communities, and the region at large.
Sundt Director of Craft Workforce Development Sean Ray and Chief Administrative Officer Dan Haag attended the Chamber’s annual dinner and awards presentation, among 300 attendees including state government representatives. Addressing the crowd, college president Dr. Jackie Elliot complimented Sundt for our part in workforce development in an industry and a region that increasingly needs skilled professionals.
Central Arizona College President Jackie Elliot addresses the crowd at the Greater Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce annual dinner and awards presentation
The success of CAC and Sundt’s partnership program can be measured by its students’ success in the field, evident among several recent graduates entering the workforce. 68 students have graduated from the program since its start in 2017. One of the many graduates now working for Sundt full time is employee-owner Billy Holsey, Pipefitter Helper for our Industrial Group. Billy had a lot to say about CAC and his journey toward becoming a craft professional.
“I was there in 2017,” said Billy, “and they really beefed up the program and put students on the map for major construction employers.” He emphasized the balance that the curriculum offers: “The classes at CAC have both book work and hands-on work. It was great to have Josue [Ponce] come in each week and give us some industry perspective; he’d say, ‘Yes, you need to know these things in your book, but on the jobsite, you’ll also be asked to do these certain tasks.’” In hindsight, Billy said he learned the basics needed for welding and pipefitting, “the take-offs, the math side,” yet he also gained a broader understanding: “learning how to learn, and knowing what questions to ask.” So, when he first was on a jobsite, Billy said, “[he] was able to pick things up faster and adapt.”
Central Arizona College graduate and Sundt Pipefitter Helper Billy Hulsey at the jobsite
Billy started as a laborer with Sundt then was hired on as a helper with a crew of pipefitters. “They paired me up with a guy who was one of the best, like he could bevel a pipe by hand, and it looked like a machine did it. And I said to myself, ‘Man, I want to do that.’ Obviously, that kind of skill doesn’t happen overnight, but I was able to at least study his technique and know what to look for, and then try and apply that to my work.” Now working on projects such as the Signal Butte Water Treatment Plant, Billy has plans to further develop his career at Sundt and pursue a construction management degree down the road. “It all started at CAC, though. I wouldn’t have been able to do this now, and learn on the job like I am, without first having that skillset from the program—it really helped me get ahead.” To other students considering the trades and CAC’s program offerings, Billy said, “I’d highly recommend it.”
January 11, 2019
Over 50 years ago, while working to put himself through his final year of college, Guy Weinzapfel was awarded a Sundt Scholarship. At the time, Sundt presented a one-year full-tuition scholarship to a fifth-year student at the University of Arizona CAPLA (College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture) who was self-supporting. For Guy, the scholarship made a huge impact. “It might have been around $250,” he said, “but back then that was a lot of money, and it let me concentrate on what was essentially my capstone.”
As a student, Guy was spending countless hours a week in a Safeway—not bagging groceries, but learning to plan, design and construct buildings. A lesser known fact of Tucson history is that from 1958 to 1965 the CAPLA’s design studios were located in a former Safeway grocery store on Park Avenue, a block southwest of the college’s current location.
Between the long hours, demanding coursework and close quarters of the repurposed building, students in the “Safeway Studios” became close friends and remained so, long after graduating.
The “Safeway Group” eventually came together as a tight-knit network of alumni. Having reaped many benefits from their careers in architecture, they wanted to pay it forward to future students. In 2010, the alumni came together under Guy’s leadership to create the Safeway Studios Alumni Scholarship—though Guy credits the idea to his wife, Jane, who herself is an architecture alumna of CAPLA and was part of the first class to graduate women in 1966. Modeled on the Sundt Scholarship of years past, the Alumni scholarship is awarded to a fifth-year student working to put him or herself through the most challenging year of an already very challenging program.
With their endowment close to reaching its target of $250,000, and the 2018 fall semester approaching, Guy reached out to Sundt Project Director Dave Ollanik for a donation. “When Guy approached me,” said Dave, “and I heard his story about the legacy of Sundt’s scholarship activities at the U of A and how it had impacted him over his 50-year career, we were excited to become the capstone of the newly formed Safeway Studios Alumni Scholarship.” Sundt contributed the last portion of the endowment, allowing the group to reach their goal and award a scholarship for the 2018-19 academic year.
The “Safeway Studios” Class of 1965, with Guy Weinzapfel on the far left.
The first recipient of the Alumni scholarship is CAPLA fifth-year student Ben Stewart, who just began his final semester in the program. “The scholarship has changed the course of my last year,” Ben said, “by increasing the time I have available to focus on my capstone, to more thoughtfully consider all that I learned during my internship this past summer and incorporate this into my final project, and time to mentor and support younger students, all without having to work an outside job. I’m extremely grateful to be the recipient of this scholarship.”
Reflecting on the team effort behind the scholarship, Guy was proud of his group: “To know the impact this will have on current and future students, it just really puffs up everyone’s chest. All of the Safeway Studios alumni gave, every single one of us. And it just further cements the bond that we’ve had since the beginning.” For Sundt’s part, we’re glad to contribute and continue the tradition of giving back to our industry and our community.
December 28, 2018
Companies and teams often brag about an “all-star recruit” who has committed to their side, but it’s not as common that we get to celebrate bringing on an “all-star recruiter.” Luckily for Sundt, that’s exactly who Madison Williams is. This week, Maddy joined Sundt as a full-time employee-owner after completing her internship with the Workforce Development Group.
Maddy grew up in Denver, Colorado, where she lived in the same home her whole life, before moving to Tempe to attend Arizona State. She has held different jobs in the service sector, but working for Sundt is her first “real, adult job” she said. Maddy graduated in December with a Bachelor of Arts in Business with an emphasis in Spanish Language and Culture. Since joining Talent Acquisition in March of last year, Maddy has been a valuable asset in recruiting top talent and helping Sundt maintain its sustainable growth as a company. When asked to share a bit about herself, she gladly obliged.
How much did you know about Sundt before you started your internship?
Honestly, not much. I was researching HR-related internships back in March, and an offer at Sundt came up in my search. I applied without really knowing what Sundt does as a company, but once I started researching, I was intrigued by the large scope of projects that Sundt is a part of. I didn’t know much about the construction industry before starting my internship, but I’ve learned so much in the short time I’ve been here.
What’s the most interesting part about being involved in the construction industry on the Talent Acquisition/Recruiting side?
The most interesting part of being in college recruiting specifically is that I get to work with people from all four groups/divisions at Sundt. Sometimes it’s difficult to stay up-to-date on all the projects going on throughout the company as a whole, but it’s been interesting to work with people from all the various disciplines and markets.
What advice would you give college students who want to work for Sundt?
I would tell them not to pigeonhole themselves into one specific type of work. A lot of college students studying construction or engineering will have an idea about the type of project they want to be on, so they don’t open themselves up to other possibilities within construction. An internship is the perfect time to explore the many different aspects of work that construction, and Sundt specifically, has to offer.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
Running a marathon in under 4 hours last February. I had trained for the race, but it was my first marathon, and I was not expecting to do very well. My one goal was to finish. Once I reached the 13-mile mark, my body almost went into auto-pilot until mile 20, and then it started to get tough. But I finished in 3 hours and 46 minutes, and I realized how insanely powerful the human body is—sometimes you just have to convince your mind that it’s okay!
Deep in Nevada’s backcountry, between the Toquima and Toiyabe mountain ranges whose peaks top 11,000 feet, Kinross’s Round Mountain Gold Mine is one of the most rugged and remote places Sundt has ever performed work. Having overcome weather, travel, and logistical challenges, Project Manager Derek Neill expressed pride in his team’s resilience thus far. The already-massive open-pit mine is being expanded, and since September we’ve been building new processing facilities to accommodate its growth.
Sundt is self-performing the majority of work on the PEMBs (pre-engineered metal buildings), which will serve as new processing facilities for the gold mine.
“This one was a short fuse,” said Derek on the project’s quick start, “so you have to get creative with staffing, training, housing, and transportation”—and that’s just to get to the work, let alone perform it. Sundt has taken several steps to ensure necessary manpower and resources for the project. We’ve leased a temporary housing camp, which employee-owners have rightly named “Camp Grit,” and rented vehicles that can handle harsh conditions, including two 52-passenger buses equipped with tire chains. Then there’s onboarding, MSHA training, warehousing and equipment, and IT needs to account for, and it becomes clear just how much coordination is required to deliver as promised on such a job. “We’re prepared though,” said Derek, “mainly because we can cherry-pick from a deep roster of skilled craft professionals. I’ve got some real road warriors; they’d work on the moon if that’s where the job was.” Moreover, everyone here realizes the importance of doing well on this job, as it can open new doors in an important market like Nevada.
Round Mountain Gold Mine sits at 6,800 feet in elevation and is located 55 miles north of Tonopah, Nevada. Kinross Gold Corporation, a Toronto-based mining company, acquired full ownership of the mine from Barrick Gold Corporation in 2016.
With over 150 Sundt employee-owners on site, we’re self-performing a large majority of the work, including rebar, cold-weather concrete, and even architecture. The scope includes multiple PEMBs (pre-engineered metal buildings) and related civil, structural, mechanical, piping, electrical and instrumentation work. Self-performing allows for better control of scheduling and quality, especially with several risk factors already in play. “It’s gotten down to 5 or 7 degrees here, and at that point the project just turns into an ice rink,” said Derek. “We had to buy special cleats for our boots so guys wouldn’t be sliding around out there.”
A large-tonnage open-pit operation, Round Mountain is known for its high yields of gold, as well as its safety and environmental programs. The mine is a strong supporter of local community initiatives and is the largest private employer in Nye County, NV.
Add to these conditions a demanding six-day work week, and time off to see family about once a month (at best), and you might think workforce morale would be another challenge. The attitude here couldn’t be more positive, though, according to Derek. “These guys come to work so motivated, and we actually have a lot of fun.” Crews have taken ownership of the Grit part of Sundt’s tagline and now have “Got Grit?” sewn on their hats and jackets. “I know that our whole company has grit,” said Derek, “but I think we have the grittiest team.” Challenge accepted, Derek. Challenge accepted.
The Sundt Round Mountain Project Team poses together for a photo in front of “Camp Grit”