Family roots run deep, and the construction industry is no exception. Ask many builders why they got into the industry and often you’ll get a response that one of their parents was a builder and that ignited their interest and eventual passion. Nonetheless, this is more than just proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. At the heart of it, construction is a human business and an opportunity to build a legacy way beyond cement walls.
Michael Storer’s start in construction began like many others. His father owned a construction company. Nonetheless, his curiosity and determination drove him to learn anything and everything he could about the ins and outs of building. Now, as a Project Manager for the Shimmick Construction Company, he is making his own waves in the industry. In this edition of “Behind the Build,” we speak with Michael and reflect on his early days on the jobsite as well as his thoughts for the next generation of builders.
What first got you into construction?
My dad owns a construction company in the East Bay where he does residential remodels and commercial buildings. At a very early age, I was helping him by going to the sites and starting with cleanup work. I eventually worked my way up to carpentry work. My father convinced me that pursuing engineering would be the way to go if my goal was to do construction. I went to college, pursued civil engineering and then got hired by Shimmick Construction Company where I’ve been working ever since.
What do you remember most about being on jobsites when you were young?
It was always great going to the jobsite at a very young age with my dad. For me, it was nice learning from the people on the job. I think it’s always the impression from the workers that, “Oh, you’re the owner’s son, right? You’re already at an advantage.” But I started at the bottom, with a dustpan and a shovel, learning everything from start to finish.
Since I was age thirteen or so, and every summer in high school, I would go and work on jobsites. Even through college I would come back and help. We had our own personal projects that we’d work on, but it was always good to learn something new. It started with laborer work and digging under haunches and foundations. Then, I started to get into carpentry, actually putting bags on and framing the wall or doing drywall, putting down flooring and other intensive work.
It’s amazing how much you learn by doing and relying on the guidance of the people next to you to teach you the tricks of the trade.
Why do you love construction?
I love being able to go out there, build and provide a quality finished product that serves a real purpose. The other thing I most enjoy about the business is the opportunity to tackle complicated projects. The reason why I chose engineering and this field is to be able to problem solve. Construction involves a great deal of problem-solving and it’s fulfilling to figure out how to build a product that works.
What makes you come into work every day?
The people that I work with really makes me want to come in every single day–it’s a fun environment. It’s enjoyable to work with the people where we can figure out collectively as a team how to solve problems on a day to day basis.
I work with extremely intelligent people from a very broad range of backgrounds. I love being able to really learn from them and soak up their knowledge. Being able to pull in everyone’s perspectives, and form my own opinion and grow from it–that’s my favorite part of this business.
Is there a particular project that you’re most proud of?
I’ve been on many projects over the years. There’s not one I can say is my ultimate favorite. At the end of the day, our goal in the construction industry and the reason why I build is to first, build a job that serves a purpose. Secondly, it’s to build a job that’s quality–and build it safely. In the process, hopefully, we can build a project that can make money, but that isn’t the number one priority. Quality and safety are my main drivers.
I think each project has key elements that make it a success. For instance, ones that were overly complicated, I got great joy out of problem-solving. Other projects I enjoyed because we just had a really good relationship with the owner.
Is there anything that drives you crazy about working?
The number one thing that drives me crazy is poor management and storing of information. My biggest pet peeve is when people don’t have updated information available for the team. I really stress to my team to make sure when a new document, information or update comes in, it all goes directly to the server and everyone has access to it.
What sets apart a good day from a bad day on the job?
The difference between a good and bad day would be production. Today, so much of what I do compared to when I first started is meetings. I sit in so many meetings that at the end of the day it feels like I wasn’t able to execute on anything. I think a good day for me is when I have time to actually sit down and produce something that is meaningful. A good day is where I can progress and plan the job to hopefully build a successful project.
What do you wish you had known when you started in construction?
When I first got started, I wish I would have know how vast the construction industry is. There is so much variance in the construction industry when it comes to crafts, types of work and even materials. In a civil engineering program in university, you really honed into a lot of concrete, steel or dirt work. But there’s so much more out there. For instance, there are electrical, mechanical and architectural crafts. Beyond that, each one of those gets broken down into ten or twenty different categories.
I wish I could have had more knowledge on the different levels of the construction industry. Regardless, it’s still very rewarding to come across something new, and then learn how to build that type of work that you’ve never even come in contact with before.
What do you want to share with the next generation of builders?
For the next generation of builders, I would say that the most important thing is to learn as much as you can. Really soak up the knowledge from the people that have been doing it for twenty, thirty, even forty years. Never think that you know everything and put as many tools in your toolbox as you can.
Also, don’t be afraid to try to innovate and suggest new things to a peer that has been doing it the exact same way for the last twenty years. Construction is a collaborative environment. There are new technologies out there emerging every year, month and day. Speaking up and suggesting new things is the only way that this industry is going to progress and become safer, faster and easier. The more we innovate, the better this industry will become.