Athena McKee is a Business Development Representative in the Tempe office. Most of her work experience stems from her career in commercial real estate where she focused on sales, client services and marketing. Her brokerage teams concentrated on office, retail and industrial properties.
She also worked for a non-profit organization where she planned and facilitated outreach programs for First Things First, an organization created by Arizona voters to improve the quality of early childhood centers, education, healthcare and family support for children.
She’s a loyal Sun Devils fan and has an MBA from Grand Canyon University and an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University.
Get to know Athena a little better by reading the Q&A session we recently conducted with her.
What was it about Sundt that made you want to work here?
My brother starting working with Sundt right out of college. He graduated from Arizona State’s Del E. Webb School of Construction with an engineering degree. My brother speaks very highly of Sundt and he sold me on the overall culture, people and employee-ownership platform. I am happy I listened to his brotherly advice to join the Sundt team as I am happy to be here!
What has been the most exciting thing about your job?
It has been exciting for me to meet so many new people. I am enjoying getting to know my team. I have also had the opportunity to meet clients and partners at conferences in Las Vegas and New Orleans. I am also impressed by Building Information Modeling, which was an integral part of a recent pitch presentation. I appreciate how 3D modeling tools help our team anticipate and solve issues before the shovel hits the ground.
What have you learned about the construction industry that surprised you?
I am surprised by the synergy and teamwork involved at all levels for each and every project. From bidding and preconstruction to scheduling and estimating, planning and bidding. And that is just the beginning. There are so many experienced minds at work in construction even before breaking ground. And I especially respect the operations side of things and the builders who make it all happen.
What’s the most important characteristic of people in the business development field?
The ability to not only build quality buildings, but to build trust, integrity and purpose for clients. This involves the commitment to foresee and realize win-win situations. Go above and beyond. Create competitive advantages. Add value. Do what you say. Be organized with processes and consistent follow-up to build and foster relationships.
Who has been your most influential mentor and what did that person teach you?
I had the opportunity to work with a successful commercial real estate broker, Mike Marinovich, at CBRE. Mike became a mentor and taught me a lot about balancing career and family life. In fact, he favored prioritizing family over career, which was a new perspective for me. Yet this is an important viewpoint to have in a client services and sales career where your work and networking events frequently blend into your personal time. Mike also taught me how to be myself and let my personable nature shine while maintaining a professional demeanor. I think a lot of “business” people can end up coming across as cold and impersonal. I never wanted to be like that. Mike taught me to honor my friendly, amiable side along with my strong, assertive professional side.
What do you do for fun away from work?
I have the most fun running around with my two sons, Braeden (7) and Ben (4). We like to find new playgrounds and parks throughout the Phoenix Valley and play every sport you can think of. My boys have tons of energy. I get all the exercise I need just trying to keep up with them. We also like to visit different resort pools in the summer. Braeden and I play golf together year-round. I only play at rural courses where I know I will not run into anyone I know because I am a self-taught terrible golfer. Other than that, I like traveling to San Diego and Sedona on weekends.
Where do you like to travel?
I love going to San Diego as much as possible during the summer. My brother lives there and my boys and I are huge beach fans. I also like visiting my parents in Northern Arizona at least once a month. It’s a beautiful area with rolling green hills and vineyards. It has become a weekend retreat for me to get away from the hustle and bustle here in Phoenix.
Is there a quote or saying that summarizes your approach to life?
I like both of these quotes from author and lecturer Marianne Williamson. The first because it reminds me to be cognizant of my own thoughts and cognitive dissonance. It is easy to forget how important our thoughts are, especially self-talk. I am a proponent of examining one’s own negative beliefs and faulty assumptions to ensure nothing gets in the way of making ideal, rational decisions based on the information at hand. I like the second quote as well because it is empowering. I live by the philosophy that every individual is powerful and important.
“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.”
“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”
The rebar cage that Slayden/Sundt will use to set the shaft before placing concrete around it. The cage is 220 feet long and weighs approximately 175,000 pounds.
The summer and early fall have been busy for Slayden/Sundt as the joint venture reconstructs the 2,000-foot-long Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Ore. The team has been focused on constructing the in-water piers that will support the three new spans over the Willamette River. Each pier consists of four drilled shafts that are 10 feet in diameter and up to 176 feet below the river bottom (the river is approximately 30 feet deep).
Environmental permitting constraints have left the team with a tight window to complete the drilled shafts and construct/install the perched boxes around the concrete columns. The perched box caissons will allow crews to complete the construction of the piers over the next nine months. They will be installed with cranes and pile drivers above water, and by divers below the water. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is being used to pre-plan the work thoroughly for maximum efficiency and safety.
BIM is being used to plan the construction of the perched box caissons.
The $207 million, heavy civil construction project involves replacing the aging Sellwood Bridge with an open steel deck arch structure. The project team is using an innovative “shoofly” (detour) approach to complete this complex project, which is explained here. This short video shows the successful bridge slide that took place last January.
Artist’s rendering of the new University Center at Sonoma State University
For the first time, students at Sonoma State University will have a dedicated student center for dining, studying, shopping, student government, alumni relations and more when Sundt completes a $49 million project there next fall. Our crews are using Building Information Modeling throughout construction of the 130,000-square-foot University Center, especially during installation of the complex mechanical system.
“The building has kitchens on all three floors to support the dining facilities, a pub, and catering services for the alumni lounge and top floor ballroom. Coordinating all of the mechanical systems for those food service areas will probably be our biggest challenge,” says Project Manager Ron Deal. “BIM will be very helpful, especially because mechanical spaces these days tend to be designed as small as possible.”
The building will be situated in the heart of campus where it is intended to be a new hub of student life. The modern design, which hinges on the extensive use of glass, stucco and metal panels, will complement the new recreation center that sits immediately adjacent to the site. The University Center’s most prominent feature will be an interior staircase that extends from the ground floor to the top level and can be seen from the outside through the expansive glass walls. It will also include a number of high-end interior finishes.
The completed PSAP will begin serving the City of San Antonio and surrounding Bexar County in January.
Sundt and a joint venture partner have completed a state-of-the-art, mission critical facility for the City of San Antonio known as the Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP. The 40,000-square-foot fire, emergency services and police dispatch center will replace the city’s current 911 call center when it is brought online in January.
The single-story, concrete structure was designed to have a high degree of “survivability,” meaning that it can withstand natural disasters. All of the electrical, mechanical and communications systems are fully redundant so that the facility will never lose power or communication abilities. To manage the project’s complexities – identifying clash interfaces, scheduling and estimating – the team made extensive use of Building Information Modeling (BIM).
Installing the PSAP’s sophisticated communications systems presented the biggest challenge to the project team. They had to coordinate all of the electronics, telephone and computer equipment that run to the center’s 115 dispatch stations to that they function perfectly without interfering with one another. The schedule was also critical: the facility needed to be complete in time to allow the city to disable the former call center and transfer emergency response services to the new PSPAP without interruptions.
“The city asked us to build this project because they realized how complex it is, and they want it done right,” said Sundt Project Manager Ben Martin. “We understand that the building systems must function flawlessly on demand. There is no room for failure. People’s lives are depending on it.”
The new West 7th Street Bridge in Fort Worth, Texas will be the only one of its kind in the state.
Developing innovative ways to build complex projects is one of Sundt’s specialties. Case in point: the $24.1 million reconstruction of the West 7th Street Bridge in Fort Worth, Texas, a new landmark gateway between the city’s downtown and new cultural district that will feature two, 10-foot-wide pedestrian walkways and 12 precast concrete and stainless steel arches that run the length of the 980-foot-long structure.
When the first phase of construction begins in January 2012, Sundt will keep the current bridge open and operational while constructing the concrete arches offsite – with its own concrete crews. In the spring of 2013, the precast arches will be placed on both sides of the old bridge at night. Once they’re all in place, the old bridge will be closed and demolished and the new bridge will be built in its place – in just 150 calendar days. Area Manager Chris Cedar calls this phase of the project “tight, but do-able” with lots of manpower and planned overtime shifts. In fact, his aim is to open the new bridge earlier than its scheduled completion date of November 2013.
Using Building Information Modeling, or BIM, will help the team manage the project’s complexities, particularly the construction of the arches, because they contain many structural and lighting elements that have the potential to clash with one another if not planned precisely. BIM is a high-tech replacement for construction drawings on paper. Using multi-dimensional computer models, constructability issues can be identified and resolved before construction begins.
Approximately 300,000 pounds of polished stainless steel within the arches and bridge superstructure will be illuminated at night with embedded lighting, making the West 7th Street Bridge a one-of-a-kind in the state of Texas.