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catherine joslin webcor construction

Behind the Build: Interview with Catherine Joslin, Project Engineer, Webcor Concrete

What’s your favorite thing about your workday? For some of us, it’s the chance to solve problems or work with a team. For others, it may be managing a workforce or even balancing a budget. For Catherine Joslin, a Project Engineer, it’s a particular part of the construction process. “I love to pour concrete–it’s my favorite thing to do.”

In this week’s “Behind the Build,” we speak with Catherine about her journey in construction so far. While her role at Webcor Concrete extends beyond pouring the construction material, the camaraderie she has experienced from every aspect of the job keeps her from never wanting to leave. Below, we discuss what she loves about her team as well as what drives her crazy on the job.

How long have you been building?

I kind of stumbled into construction by accident. I just wanted to try it out. I was in school for civil engineering, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I always loved bridges and big stuff, so I took a chance, and I took a job for an internship on a construction site around 5 or 6 years ago. I didn’t want to leave after my first day. I thought it was the coolest thing.

What about it did you not want to leave?

The camaraderie on a construction site is really compelling and makes any other job seem not as interesting. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. There’s just something so cool about getting together with a group of people and making something huge and meaningful that will be there for a long time. It’s just a great experience in general.

There’s nothing cooler than starting work the morning after a pour, pulling forms off of a wall and seeing it come out and thinking, “I did that.” That’s the best feeling.

What makes you come into work every day?

It’s hard to get up at 4 am or earlier every day, but the job is worth it. Coming in and seeing the people I’m working with, everyone’s always in a good mood because we know we’re going to have a good day and we’re going to build something together.

Further Reading:  Behind the Build: Interview with Grace Link, Project Manager

What do you spend the most time doing at work at Webcor Concrete?

It depends. Working on the self-performing side of things is a long day all the time. If the guys are there in the field, I’m outside. Sometimes I am on the computer all day building the 3D concrete model and generating drawings for the field crews. I love to pour concrete–it’s my favorite thing to do. If we have a pour, I could be working a straight 16 hours, but it’s just about teamwork. You don’t really appreciate a beer at the end of the day until you’ve been pouring concrete for 16 hours.

What about concrete do you love?

Concrete’s strange. Not a lot of people know a lot about it, but it’s quite complicated and a lot goes into it. At the end of the day, it just looks like a big mass.  People unfamiliar with the work see a slab or wall and have no idea about the formwork, reinforcing, hangers, and trade coordination that went into getting it built, formed, poured and stripped. My favorite thing though is the urgency of the work. Once concrete starts getting poured, you can’t stop. It’s a huge operation. If something goes wrong, it’s one of the hardest things in the world to fix (literally.)

What drives you crazy about building?

There’s a lot of red tape, people to go through and paperwork. Construction is a huge industry, and not everyone in charge knows what’s going on on the job all the time. That can drive me crazy sometimes, but the good outweighs the bad by a far margin.

What would you say sets apart a good day from a bad day on the job?

A good day is when nothing goes horribly wrong. Every day, there’s always going to be something that goes wrong on the job. What sets apart a  good day is when you can handle something that went wrong without much hassle.

Inevitably, you’re going to have good days and bad days. I’ve had a lot of bad days, I’ve had a lot of really good days. If you have a good attitude, the good days are a lot more meaningful than the bad days.

What do you love about your team at Webcor Concrete?

I love everybody on my team. They all pull their weight. The key to a happy construction site is everyone working hard, everyone doing their best and knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you shouldn’t be talking in the first place.

So, when I work with my team, everyone knows their place, and we all just work well together.

Further Reading:  The Business Case for Attending the PlanGrid Construction Summit

What do you wish you had known when you got started in construction?

Oh my gosh, my first day on a jobsite, I put my hard-hat on backwards. I didn’t know anything. But now, I’m helping run a crew of 60 carpenters and laborers to build an airport so you learn a lot fast. I’ve poured about 30,000 yards of concrete on this job.

And if you don’t get overwhelmed, and you take it all in stride, you can learn anything quickly. In the end, everyone’s a team, and nothing can get in our way if we all work together. No one builds anything alone.

What’s something you would share with someone considering a career in construction?

I’d want them to know that construction is hard, it’s extremely demanding physically and mentally, but if it’s something you’re passionate about, you can go so far, you can learn so much and transform yourself.

When you’re done with a job, and it’s a finished structure and you can remember each part of it you were involved with, I think that it is beautiful.

In construction, where do you see yourself in the next 10-15 years?

I went into construction and I didn’t think that I could run crews and get a jobsite built. I thought I would be in the background doing money management and I had resigned myself to that. But now with this company, I have the opportunity to run things on the field side and I am really excited about it.

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