Thursday, May 24, 2012

Construction Work Ahead–Part 4 of 4


Editor’s Note: This is part 4 of a guest post series by a dear friend, A. Scot Tedisco.  See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 to get the full story.

Do you remember where we were?  I’d just made the rounds with Randy to let him know I was applying to the Project Manager role at Harris.  He understood and let me know the solar job wasn’t turning into anything.

Then there was Sam and his company. I’d sent the references over with a request to get back with me. That book is now closed though: he never got back with me.

So the interview with Chris and his Project Managers at Harris’s offices is at the LA City college campus. As is usual, I am a couple minute early.

Peggy shows me into the conference room. In less than a minute, Chris is there to greet me and let’s me know he is going to round up the other guys.

Though the interview is relaxed, they ask some difficult questions. Like, “would I go back to Bernards if Bernards asked?”. There are also moments of just talking and cracking a joke here and there for everyone’s laughter.

The interview reminded me of my first with Jeff Bernards, where Jeff was able to make it a very relaxed discussion just by his presence. The other Project Manager’s seemed like decent people and I knew I liked Chris from when I did the CDC project. Though the hour went by quick, it didn’t seem rushed. We talked about some of the other projects, various perks from Harris, and some of the general duties. At the end I mozied out with a hand shake to Chris and asked him to call me if he was interested in making me an offer.
The drive home was uneventful. I called [my significant other] a couple hours later. I tried to tell her ALL the detail of the interview. I think I even told her what the other guys were wearing. Do you want to know at this point?

So as I am telling her the story, I happen to check my email. I see there’s a message from Chris. It was time-stamped from ten minutes after I left the interview. I shared with Nina what Chris said in his message: he was hoping to catch me before I left because he wanted to make me an offer. This was 10 minutes after the interview!!!! OK, so he knew me from before, but STILL!. I hung up with Nina to call Chris.

2012.04.27_Sean_MacEnteeI had to leave him a V-mail. He called me back pretty quickly: less than 15 minutes. So I note to him his message was 10 minutes after the interview and he comes back with an, “Of course it was quick, I already had my mind made up before the interview. I just wanted to see if the other guys had any concerns. They all gave the thumbs up. Even if they had hesitated, I still may have made the offer.”

I tell him I’m stunned … a couple times. So we start talking about the offer: the salary , vacation, and other perks. It all sounds pretty good. No gas card or car allowance like I had with Bernards, but a base salary increase that makes it about equal to what I was making. Considering the market, where most people are taking 10% to 20% less for a job, this was great!

I wanted to say yes right there, but I knew I should let it all sink in a bit. I let him know that I wanted to sleep on it. He agrees and lets me know that other things will have to happen if I accept: They will need to get me approved by the college (they never rejected anyone else, he says) and some paperwork from the Harris HQ.

After hanging up I called [my significant other] and told her all the details. She tells me she’s not surprised: they should be honored and are very lucky to have me; no amount of money can compensate for the care and dedication I give to my work. 

I also called Arash, my chief counselor. After telling him the story, he says that it sounds like my mind is already made up. He also agrees with me about sleeping on it. As he said, he almost made a mistake of agreeing to an offer too quickly. I let him know how right he was about the flurry of interest just a couple weeks from when he’d said it. More on that later.

I also gave a call to Randy to check in with him. While I didn’t feel obliged to him, I wanted to make sure we weren’t missing opportunities with each other. He said he still had nothing and didn’t want to string me along with something that wasn’t there and didn’t know if it would ever be there. That night I talked with [my significant other] about the job some more and also how it would affect our time together. She got spoiled with me being home so much. We had to process such a change.

The next day, Chris and I fine-tuned some details about the offer. I made sure to get a formal offer letter with all of the details.  He said it wouldn’t be a problem.  Someone in HQ would be sending me something, via email and hard copy. He wanted me to start right away. We were talking on May 18th / 19th. Given that they needed to get approval and that I wanted some time to “cool off” from the excitement of it all, we agreed that I could start on June 1, 2011, about 8 months from getting the news from Jeff that I was being let go, downsized, put out on the street, encouraged to find work elsewhere,… given the boot. I thought I would treat the week and a half as a vacation. Not so lucky…I’ll get to that in a minute (or as fast as you can read).

Recall that Arash predicted I would be getting a plethora of interest: The day after I accepted the offer, I get a message through LinkedIn from a recruiter with Disney. As I read the message telling me how I look like I might fill the position they are trying to create, I am in wonder over 1) how Arash’s prediction is coming to pass, and 2) that they (Disney) thinks this of me just from my LinkedIn profile. And, they want to talk to me more about how I would fit in.

I gave it a weekend before I tried to contact them, to let them know I had just accepted an offer. During the conversation, I let them know that I didn’t want to seem like I wasn’t interested, but that I’d committed to Harris. I also told them the Harris offer was conditional.  So if things didn’t work out, I would definitely like to hear more about the Disney opportunity. They were appreciative of that approach and I let them know that I would like to keep them as a connection and would “network” and let others know of their interests.

Once I posted my new position at Harris on LinkedIn, Disney sent me a message congratulating me on having the offer go through. I thanked them and let them know I would stay in touch. As things go, I may need to do that more than I would have expected.
As to this supposed “vacation” I was to take... It wasn’t but a couple of days into the week that I received a package from Harris HQ with all kinds of paperwork to fill out and a notice of being sent up to Concord, CA for my official orientation.

P2012.04.27_DigitalInativeaperwork! Who would have thought one could get used to not doing paperwork in only 8 months?  There was so much info: Insurances; health, dental, vision, payroll deductions, 401k info… all too much to do in one sitting. It seemed like too much, I sent a message to Chris and one of the office girls telling them that I hadn’t even started yet and I was already buried in paperwork. Chris said I better get used to it. I’m not sure how much he intended that comment to be funny.

So, now, many pages and some time later, I’ve completed my story. The challenges I have are more and different than what I expected, but I will persevere.

I certainly learned a lot during this ordeal, including how important it is to keep that human connection, to care about and deliver the best results on every project and endeavor without a care whether it’ll ever come back, and knowing that it always will in some form or another.  It’s been turbulent, exciting, and a life changing experience...with many more interesting days ahead.

Wish me luck.

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

Photo Credits

A. Scot Tedisco, Sean MacEntee, DigitalInative

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Construction Work Ahead–Part 3 of 4


Editor’s Note: This is part 3 of a guest post series by a dear friend, A. Scot Tedisco.  See Part 1 and Part 2 to get the full story.

You recall, I was doing Randy a favor by walking a job site, where I’d met up with a previous contact from a project, Angela.  She’d made it clear that she hoped I’d land the job, even after learning I was no longer with Bernards!

Angela and I had exchanged some final words and said our goodbyes. All that was left for me to do was to tell Randy of the meeting. I couldn’t help feeling a little odd over how Angela and the rest not only remembered me, but with such … fondness? Not something I am used to anyway.

Now I have to call Randy, AND tell him that I will be interviewing with Sam at Erik’s old Company! I give him a buzz later that day and tell him about the walk and my acquaintance with Angela. He’s not surprised about the project, nor how I am remembered. He tell me it was through my efforts that Bernards was able to get an invitation and was recommended to write proposals for design-build project (vs. design, bid, build) for the LA Community College District.

When I tell Randy of pending interview, he takes a long, deep breath. He tells me “know which questions to ask.” I ask him to elaborate and he lets me know that the company is very demanding and expect long hours. I let him know that I don’t want to cause any issues with him and using me in a proposal. He says it’s ok and that I should do what I think is right for me. His tone is clear: he doesn’t think that the other company will appeal to me. I take his view (as he suggests himself) with a grain of salt.

Sometime in that same time frame, Randy asked if I would be interested in a solar power project he was looking at. I can’t remember the details of when this happened vs. the other items. He must have mentioned it sometime before the interview with the other company. (In hindsight, this was important in that Randy was trying someway to get me on board with his company). More on this later...

Taking Randy’s suggestion about finding out more of this other company for the interview, I try to get a hold of Doran to get his perception, but I get no call back. C’est la vie.
So Friday comes. It’s 9 AM and I’m down in Irvine. I find the place without an issue and wait in the lobby. I’m a few Minutes early and the receptionist tells me she will let Sam know I am here.

Quite some time slips by. A few people walk through the lobby from the offices, but none appear to be looking for me. Finally, Sam comes out. He apologizes for being late, the reason being he didn’t check his email for the message from the receptionist letting him know I was waiting. (huh!)

We make it to his office, which is littered with drawings and boxes everywhere. He starts heading to his desk.  I see my resume on his desk.  He asks if I would like something to drink. I remember that I left a water bottle out in the lobby and I go fetch it.

While doing that, I realized he intended to conduct the interview across his desk. This doesn’t appeal to me. His office also had a small couch with a “lobby-type” chair and coffee table. He sees me come back to his door and he says he’s going to get some coffee. When I enter, I take the couch. He comes back in and pauses, then gets the resume off his desk and takes the chair across from me.

We start talking about some generalities of my experience and the questions keep coming from his side. I figure I can wait till the end to shoot off some of my own. About 15 min. into this, his cell phone rings and he answers it. When he gets off the phone, we go on for a while more, with two main points that indicate that the company expects results that I am not willing to put in the hours to achieve, basically 80 hour weeks.

He asks if he could get some references and I ask from which segment of the industry: Subcontractor’s, Owner’s, Architects? He says sure and maybe a Superintendent. Now I start thinking it’s close to 10 and I need to start getting some of my questions in. I get one or two minor ones in and he looks at the clock and tells me he has other appointments to get to, pretty much shutting down the interview. I let him know I will get the references to him on Monday.

When I get home, I start thinking about the list of references and if I really want to be with Sam’s company. Well, sending the refs is what I said I would do and doesn’t commit me. So… I contact a superintendent and a Project Manager (both with Bernards). “Sure,” they say. I can use them, I need not even ask. I like to ask anyway. So, next I need a reference from the owner’s side. Wasn’t Angela just giving me some positive vibes? So I call her up.

A couple of rings later and I am ready to do some minor chit chat and confirm to use her contact info. Right after our greetings, she asks, “ Are you still looking for a job?”

“Well, yes, that’s why I’m calling. I was…”

“Good,” she says. “I was talking with Chris Dunne [he’s the overall manager at the City college campus], he is looking for a Project Manager, and I told him I saw you and thought he should talk to you about the job.”

“Wow, sure, I can definitely talk to him about what he has in mind.” I let her know I was surprised, because I was just calling to see about using her as a reference. She says that’s fine too just in case the other thing is more appealing than what I’ve seen so far. I thank her, let her know I will get with Chris, and hang up.

Now I may be working for a Construction Management group? I’ve spent the last 12 yrs. or so trying to target General Contractor positions. Recalling a little irony though, I also vowed not to work at fast food. What does 7-1/2 yrs. at In-N-Out mean? OK, so it’s not even an interview yet, let alone an offer. So let’s first see what’s the opportunity.

I leave a message for Chris and he calls me back a little while later. He lets me know he’s hiring a Project Manager and a Project Engineer. The Project Manager (me) would be working on a new Student Services (SS) building, which would include demolition of the old library building.

Under the same contract would be a renovation to the building next door to the new SS. This was somewhere in the realm of a $42 million contract, combined. It all sounds interesting to me (and I need a job), so I let him know I will shoot him a copy of my resume and we set up a date for a formal interview, where he wants me to meet the other Project Managers. Chris also mentions in the conversation about the good job I did at the CDC.

I still have this Solar Power thing hanging out there with Randy, so I let him know I will be interviewing with Harris & Assoc. He says he understands that I’m not just waiting for him and he doesn’t want to string me along. He let’s me know the solar job isn’t turning into anything... yet anyway.

Then there is Sam and his company. I shoot the references over to Sam with a request to get back with me. That book is now closed though: he never got back with me.

So the interview with Chris and his Project Managers at Harris’s offices is at the LA City college campus. As is usual, I am a couple minute early...

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your comments below.

Photo Credits

A. Scot Tedisco