My internship with the Department of Parks and Recreation has thus far given me an invaluable glance at the career of a civil engineer. As an intern, I have learned a lot and have gained many knowledgeable mentors on the way. From each one of them, I started to see the many different ways one can view and manage a project. Mark Green, who is the primary resident engineer representing Parks on our project in Cadman Plaza, has showed me his style of managing projects and the way he chooses to deal with contractors and daily problems. In his words, “I always start a project with a full glass of water. It is up to the contractor on how much of that water he spills on the way.” In Mark’s managing style, he opts out of a domineering style that other Parks resident engineers, whom I had the pleasure of getting to know, choose to use. Mark starts each project with his best foot forward, acting professional, understanding, but always making clear that he is the inspector of the project and that it is he who has the final word on how the project will move forward. Elizabeth Maneli, a temporary resident engineer on our project, also has a very similar style. She always interacts in a very polite, professional manner.
The reason why I discuss styles of managing is because as a civil engineer, daily problems arise: trucks deliver material without notifying the engineers, the contractors are not completing the work as mentioned in the contract, there are safety hazards that need to be dealt with. During situations such as these, it is up to the resident engineer to figure out how he or she will deal with fixing the problem. And, as I spend more time on this project, the problems that arise do not lessen but rather increase in size and scope. Constant interaction with the contractor superintendent is necessary because it is the superintendent who works for the construction company and keeps the physical production of the construction workers going. Cooperation with the superintendent is always helpful because he/she is the first person a resident engineer talks to in order to fix a problem on the construction site. While superintendents can be difficult to work with because they can have different priorities of what needs to be done compared with a resident engineer’s priorities, Mark and Elizabeth have shown me that however many times an engineer needs to request or assert that a job needs to be done, the final word is the contract and it is an engineer’s treasure map in getting your word clear and understood. As a result, I have been supplied with my own blueprints, contract item book, contract regulations book, and NY State Construction work laws by my desk side so as to always refer to them when I am unsure of what needs to be done in special circumstances. As I continue my internship, I believe that the management style I have started to see within myself is much like Mark’s and Elizabeth’s. I choose to see that the glass is full too and it is up to the contractor on his speed of spilling. Depending on the contractor’s adherence to the rules of the contract, management means to me to get work completed in the most effective, necessary means and to make the priorities of different parties clear. Sometimes a contractor will not prioritize your requests immediately, however, that does not mean that your word does not pass. If a job is not completed today, Mark has taught me that it then must be a priority on tomorrow’s list of work to be done.
After starting this internship, I had begun to set goals for myself as I felt like I was being fed more information than I could process. I have started to achieve some of my goals, like familiarizing myself with construction items and tools and making it a habit to use the contract item book so that I could use the correct terms when writing which items were used on site. In the future, I would also like to interview and possibly visit more Parks construction sites to see how women resident engineers experience and do their work. Since the construction field is dominated by men, I would like to actually see the interactions and experiences that women have. Work in any STEM field does not mean the same for everyone. Men and women have different experiences and although I was fortunate enough not to notice a disparity in interactions on our project between men and women, my interaction with other female resident engineers led me to discover that they have had very different interactions in their careers. Perhaps, this would allow me to understand the styles that other women resident engineers whom I have spoken to have chosen to use to get their projects completed. And, perhaps, I would then understand that the method of management that I see myself conducting is not one that is static, but something that will have to change with every new project.