A Day in the Life of a Superintendent: Gerald David

Posted on Feb 22, 2018 by Construction

Q: How long have you been a superintendent?

A: I’ve been a superintendent for 20 years now.  Seventeen of those years were with Miron, and the three years prior were with another contractor.

Q: What did your training entail?
A: I started as a laborer when I was in high school and became an apprentice mason when I turned 18. Three years later, I was running masonry projects. When things got slow, I assisted a concrete flatwork and wall crew, undertaking small industrial and commercial projects, and a few years later I was running them. Little projects eventually turned into big projects, which brought me to where I am today.

In addition to job site experience, I’ve received certifications from the American Concrete Institute (ACI) and have completed Supervisory Training Program (STP) leadership courses as well as Dale Carnegie training courses. I’ve taken every supervisory and safety training course Miron has offered. Training is definitely a continual undertaking, as the industry of construction continues to evolve.

Q: What time does your normal workday start and end?
A: I am usually on the job between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m., and depart between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.

Q: What does a typical workday look like for you? What are the variables of your workday?
A: Prior to the crew arriving, my morning consists of completing the previous day’s paperwork and filing it physically and electronically into the job folder, as well as responding to any email messages I was unable to address the previous day. I undertake my pre-task planning, modifying it for the next two-to-three days as necessary. (Pre-task planning involves setting project expectations and determining which subcontractors will be onsite, which tools will be needed, which particular risks may present themselves and how they can be avoided, etc.) In addition, I amend the four-week outlook schedule as needed, and compare that to the overall project schedule. I prepare for the crew’s Excellence Huddle, which is how we start out each and every workday. During that time, we participate in a stretch and flex session to minimize potential muscle-tendon injuries, as well as talk through the plan for the day.

Once the team has completed the huddle and disbursed to their respective project areas, I return to the job trailer. From there, my day consists of responding to phone calls and email messages, which revolves around answering numerous questions and tracking down personnel who can answer the questions I cannot. I invest much of my day in communicating with project managers, foremen, tradespeople, yard operations, risk managers, architects, owners, and representatives. I coordinate the undertakings of all companies and trades on site so that they are not working on top of each other, but rather with each other.

Once the crew has called it a day, I catch my breath and problem solve any issues that may have come up throughout the day that I was unable to address immediately.

The major variable tends to be the different personnel I work with from day-to-day. Personalities range from very calm and collected, rolling with the punches, to intense and demanding, wanting immediate answers to impossible questions. Working with so many different personnel definitely keeps us superintendents on our toes.

Q: How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old? What are your responsibilities?
A: To compare it with school, I am the principal of the construction site. My job is to think things through and make sound decisions. The foremen are the teachers; they help students learn. When the teachers have questions about how to do that, they come and talk to the principal, and together they determine the best and easiest way to help students develop.

The same goes for the construction site. The superintendent (principal) works with the foremen (teachers) to make good decisions on how to construct a big, beautiful building. It takes the principal, teacher, and students all working together to be successful.

Q: What kind of equipment do you use every day?
A: My basic tools are my phone, computer, and iPad, and occasionally, my hands when I can get out and help the crews.

Q: What was the most challenging thing you learned for your job?
A: I can’t narrow it down to just one thing, actually. One definitely needs to learn how to work with many different types of people and uncover their personalities, temperaments, motivations, and trigger points. You must keep an open mind and be a sharp listener and negotiator. It’s crucial to create and maintain positive relationships with your partners, as that can often make or break a project. It can make it fun, or it can make it miserable. I like to have fun!

You must never stop learning, always being open to new concepts, methods, and technology. Even after 20 years in the position, when I think I know it all, something new unfolds and I start learning all over again. In all things, stress management is crucial.

Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
A: The complexities of the project, along with staying within schedules and budgets, is definitely a continual challenge.

Q: What is the best part of your job?
A:  The challenge. I am always being presented with different situations to work through, which keeps me from getting bored. The constant challenge of figuring out the right people and resources from which to get answers is fun. If things were easy, I don’t think I’d enjoy getting up every morning to go to work the way I do.

Q: What do you wish you’d known before you started in the construction industry?
A: I wish I would have known earlier in life that this is what I would be doing as my occupation. I feel I would have put more effort into school, paying attention to math, spelling, and grammar skills in particular. It would have made things easier and less embarrassing.

Q: What is something about your job that would surprise someone outside of your industry?
A: I think some people may at times make generalizations about field staff, assuming they are “old, grungy, uneducated construction workers,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. We are working with high-tech, sophisticated construction personnel who are utilizing cutting-edge technology and equipment to construct buildings.

Recently, I gave a tour of the UW-Stevens Point Chemistry Biology Building (my current project) to some college students. As they walked through, they were amazed by all of the technological resources we were using, including the Ci Hub, Electronic Total Stations, iPads, and computers. They questioned me on the usage of “old blueprints,” which I explained to them were virtually non-existent and get used rarely, if ever. I gave them a demonstration on my iPad and the Ci Hub as to how all of the “blueprints” and virtual models are right there in my pocket, and explained that nearly everyone on this project is using this same technology. I showed them how I do the majority of my verifications, daily reports, plan updates, safety audits, and job filing on my iPad. My notepad is on my iPad; very little information gets collected on paper anymore.

Q: How has being a superintendent changed over the years?
A: The changes are endless. The days of dictatorship and yelling and screaming on the job have passed. You need to allow the direction to build come from everyone involved in the project. There are so many expectations and requirements—those of the client, those of Miron, and those tied specifically to the project itself—and all players must be on board. Trades will get it done and have more fun doing it if they are made to feel like part of the team.

For me personally, technology has been a major change. Fifteen years ago, I could hardly turn on a computer. Now I cannot get through the first hour of my workday without one. We have become 100% dependent on computers, iPads, and iPhones for our information in the field. If you fail to keep up with it, you are undoubtedly going to get left behind.

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