February 20, 2019
February 15, 2019
Since 1951, National Engineers Week has been educating and inspiring young people on the importance of engineering within society. This week, we spoke with employee-owner Eden Roth about her journey to become a Field Engineer with Sundt’s Concrete Division. Eden graduated in 2017 from Arizona State University with a degree in Construction Management. While attending ASU, she was involved in various activities including Advancing Women in Construction, Design-Build Institute of America, and the Associated Schools of Construction. Eden started with Sundt in April of 2018 and has worked both in the office and out in the field.
What attracted you to become an engineer? Was this something you always knew you wanted to pursue?
The funny thing is I actually didn’t know I wanted to become an engineer. I saw the students around me getting jobs as engineers, both project and field engineers, and actually applying what they learned in school to their job, and I just thought that was great.
There are a lot of different paths a person can take with a Construction Management degree; how did you decide on becoming a Field Engineer in the Concrete Division?
So, when I started going to school for construction, I didn’t know that I wanted to go into concrete; I just knew I wanted to build things. I met my mentor Chandra in Advancing Women in Construction at ASU, and she started talking about how important concrete is and how it’s the foundation of the structure. So, I started looking into it, and I realized how much I could learn from it, and here we are today. I can honestly say I love concrete!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced while being an engineer, I’d have to say, is changing groups or project teams that I’m working with. Everyone works together and communicates differently, so you really have to take the time up front to get to know one another if you’re going to be successful. But once you do take the time, it’s worth it.
What’s your favorite part about being an engineer? Least favorite?
My favorite part about being an engineer is probably that you have to be collaborative and you have to work as a team. I enjoy being around other people, and there’s no other way to succeed except to work with your team and your coworkers. My least favorite part about being an engineer is probably that you work day or night, rain or shine; it might be midnight, maybe the middle of a hot day, but you’re out there. I guess that makes it the most fun too.
Knowing what you know now, and being where you are in the industry, what advice would you give your younger self just starting to find your way in the construction world?
Knowing what I know now, I would say not to be scared, and to go for it. I think it’s really easy to limit yourself and let fear dictate where you’re going, but this is the most supportive industry I think I could have found myself in. If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in construction, do it.
How does it feel being a woman in a predominantly male industry? Is it different when you’re in the field compared to in an office setting?
For the most part, it’s a lot different than what I thought it was going to be. The men all seem to be really supportive, and I haven’t had any issues with clashing or not feeling accepted. I’ve learned that if I ask questions, then I get support, because this is the most supportive industry that I’ve ever come across. There are actually a lot of women out in the field, and in the office. I find it fun to come to big events with the whole company, because even though I might be the only woman in my jobsite trailer, I get together with the Sundt family and I realize that there’s a lot of us and that I’m not just one.
January 15, 2019
Senior Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) Manager Mark Epstein was recently named among ENR Texas & Louisiana’s 2019 Top Young Professionals. After completing two concurrent master’s degrees in architecture and construction management at Washington University in St. Louis in 2010, Mark accepted his first position as a project engineer with a construction management firm. He later moved into an architecture role with Gensler in Austin, Texas, where he spent three years learning to produce high-quality construction documents and eventually became a project manager. Soon after, a friend introduced Mark to Sundt Construction in San Antonio, where he now leads our BIM and VDC strategies. Mark is advancing Sundt’s technology capabilities with a full immersion of the Texas Building Group into BIM and VDC processes. Part of his goal is to strengthen communication between the office and field, and better transform concept into reality. But there’s a lot more to Mark and to his work than meets the eye.
With your unique background in both construction and architecture, what drew you to Sundt, and how is it being back in construction?
The transition back to construction has been really refreshing. It’s been good to get on the jobsite and touch and feel the work—not just in the digital form or detail form on paper, but to be out around the work, the people performing it, and then to learn from their expertise. Some of these guys have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive. I have a huge amount to learn, and I appreciate that. On the contractor side, there’s that ability to learn and people’s willingness to teach and take you under their wing, and in architecture I’d say it’s just much more limited in that regard. So, yeah, it’s been a great transition.
Speaking of that dynamic, how has the team in San Antonio taken you in and supported you in your role?
The leadership down here is incredible. Eric Hedlund and Todd Calder have really high aspirations for what they want us to do, but at the same time they provide us with the resources that we need to do it. That, to me, shows that they’re serious about accomplishing these goals. When I came to San Antonio, they knew I had an architecture background; I was working with “backbone” technologies like Revit and Navisworks, which are cross-disciplinary for the architecture and contractor side. So, they’re leveraging that experience to build upon what they want to achieve with technology here, and they’ve been extremely supportive.
What are some innovative things you’ve been working on recently, things that you get excited about?
Well, I give credit again to the leadership and resources that Sundt has provided. Dominic Daughtrey with the Continuous Improvement Department has gotten me up and running with a drone fleet here, so that’s been a great way to explore technology and implementation. You’ve got the hardware aspect, but then you also have the data and deliverables to manage and distribute. That’s been a real game-changer to experience how that data can affect how we do work on site, you know, bridging that gap from computer to the field. That’s not necessarily the most innovative thing in the world, but it’s just been eye-opening to see where else it can go, for example, taking that jump from basic drone flights to importing footage into augmented reality applications and 4D scheduling.
But, you know, the innovation isn’t the tech itself; the innovation is how we’re deploying the hardware and software packages with our project teams. It’s helping project engineers, managers, and superintendents understand how technology can help them do their job, to be safer and more efficient, to have less rework. I mean, you can hire a “tech person” or a few “tech people” in this role. But that’s not what we’re doing here; we’re infiltrating the jobsite with this tech, having superintendents and project engineers know it, and having people at the project level buy into technology as a comprehensive approach. We’ve actually got a guy here, age 60, who’s really excited about using 4D scheduling—not to sound ageist, but across the industry, you have a lot of construction veterans who typically don’t want to learn that stuff. But when we have people here buying in, that’s a big deal. To me, that’s innovation. That’s success.
November 30, 2018
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.
November 14, 2018
For the second time, Sundt has been recognized by Vault.com for having one of the top internship programs in the nation. Based on responses from over 13,000 interns across the country, the 50 Best Internships were announced earlier this month, and Sundt was one of only two general contractors selected, and the only one from the Southwest. Other companies who made the list included AT&T, Capital One, Home Depot and KPMG. Vault’s rankings were based on independent surveys on compensation and benefits, quality of life, career development, the interview process and full-time prospects. To give a firsthand look at what our program is like, some of our 2018 intern class shared about their experiences.
José Gamez Garcia, Transportation Group
Growing as Professionals and as People
When asked about what he’s learned in the past year, intern José Gamez Garcia in the Transportation Group said, “I now see every project with the true purpose of why it’s being built as opposed to just the how. I think this mindset allows me to work hard while staying aware of the purpose of what I’m doing.” From the Industrial Group, intern Kate Kneip responded to the same question, saying, “The past few years, I’ve been able to grow as an individual and gain industry experience far beyond what I could’ve imagined. I was pushed outside of my comfort zone, and I was able to learn the importance of asking questions and paying attention to details.”
Dalton Holly, Concrete Division
Giving Credit to their Mentors
Emily Tucker, who interned with the Building Group on the University Square project, said, “I was fortunate enough to work closely with both a PE and Superintendent, Kelly Wyllie and Bryan Terry, which provided a diverse learning experience.” Intern Dalton Holly, who is with the Concrete Division, said “When it comes to my mentors working side-by-side with me every day, there’s been plenty. Anthony Pallini was my mentor for two summers now and has taught me more about the concrete industry than I could’ve ever imagined. Now I’m a part-time intern on [a project for a confidential client] where Neil Kerkhof is my mentor, and he continues to help my development as a field engineer in countless ways. I can’t thank them enough.”
Maddy Williams, Workforce Development
Getting Excited About Being Full-Time Employee-Owners
“Everyone here treats me as if I have an important voice and the ability to make important decisions, which has really driven me to be confident in what I do as a recruiter,” said Maddy Williams, who will join Sundt full-time in January. “I’ve learned a lot from every single person I’ve met at Sundt so far, and I’m excited to continue meeting our amazing people.” The difference with Sundt’s internship program is really the difference with the rest of the company; true leaders attract other leaders, and it shows in all aspects of our business. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks to José Gamez Garcia, Kate Kneip, Emily Tucker, Dalton Holly, and Maddy Williams, as well as Mike Morales, Manager of Sundt’s College Recruiting Program, for contributing to this piece.
Sundt Construction’s Jon McKelvain presented at Texan by Nature‘s (TxN’s) first annual Conservation Wrangler Summit and Celebration last month in Dallas, Texas at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The summit brought together more than 200 Texas leaders to discuss the beneficial connections between business and conservation, and to highlight the best Texan-led conservation projects in the state. Topics ranged from addressing light pollution, to oil drilling with a smaller footprint, to using man-made wetlands to treat reclaimed water while serving as a habitat for wildlife. With all of the ideas presented, it was evident that Texans, by nature, are creative and community-minded people, and when they come together amazing things can happen.
Jon McKelvain, Vice President and Preconstruction Manager for Sundt’s Building Group, Texas District, spoke on engaging employees and the community, covering a broad range of Sundt projects and initiatives that exemplified industry best practices. “As a company, we empower our people to get out in the community and work with causes they believe in,” Jon said. “Also, we try to select projects that will have wide-reaching positive impacts on the surrounding area. There’s a lot of work out there to be won, but we’re passionate about pursuing the right projects.” Among many such projects, Jon covered a few high-profile examples.
Jon speaking on the Ocotillo Water Reclamation Facility, where technological innovation allows for smaller footprint and reduced sludge production. Sundt’s work increased service capacity to allow for community growth, and the water was made available for aquifer recharge, industrial use and irrigation.
In San Antonio, Texas, Sundt created a world-class linear park and public gathering space for an underserved community at San Pedro Creek, which became the focal point of the city’s 300-year anniversary celebration. “Think about it,” Jon said. “Before, that was basically just a concrete drainage ditch. Now, it’s a new park that’s improving flood control and serving as wildlife habitat and recreational space, with an anticipated $1-billion impact on the area.” Additionally, Sundt’s work on APS Four Corners in Farmington, New Mexico allowed for significant reduction in the power plant’s emission of greenhouse gasses, while also providing jobs and long-term economic benefits for the local Navajo Nation.
Other key projects were discussed, as well as the impact of the Sundt Foundation, which has given more than $8.6 million in grants to local charities and nonprofits since 1999, nearly half of which has come directly from Sundt employee-owners. Speaking on Sundt’s behalf about who we are and who we want to be as a company, Jon shared several instances of best practices with a focus on community and sustainability.
TxN founder, former first lady Laura W. Bush, addresses the crowd. The nonprofit brings conservation and business together, supporting efforts that are Texan-led, community-organized and data-based.
TxN’s goal is to amplify conservation projects and to activate new investment in research and conservation, which returns real benefits for people, prosperity and natural resources. “The whole premise behind Texan by Nature is that conservation is just good business, and it improves everyone’s quality of life,” Jon said. And true prosperity, as Jon pointed out, goes well beyond material wealth. For Sundt, a company whose purpose centers around creating prosperity for the communities where we live and work, this is an effort in which we’re proud to take part.