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Robert Kipp - General Superintendent Satterfield & Pontikes

Behind the Build: Interview with Robert Kipp, Veteran and General Superintendent for Satterfield & Pontikes Construction

Veterans compose a vital segment of the construction workforce. The many skills acquired during their service are highly transferable to the construction industry, which is needed, especially considering the significant skilled labor shortage. Before Veterans Day next month, we’ll be highlighting several accomplished vets in our “Behind the Build” blog series. This week, we interview, Robert Kipp, Army veteran and a General Superintendent for Satterfield & Pontikes Construction.

Before joining the construction industry in 2007, Kipp was a Captain in the U.S. Army for seven years, completing two tours of duty in Iraq and even earning the Bronze Star Medal. After leaving the military, Kipp was selected to be in the Junior Military Officer Recruitment program. Even with a choice of 21 attractive job offers, he ended up choosing construction.

“Construction shares many of the same unwritten rules as the military does and at the end of the day, it’s the tangible results that matter,” he notes.

Today, Kipp’s talents have helped shape some of the largest and most important projects in the New York City metro area including Hudson Yards and most recently, expansion of the LaGuardia Airport. In this week’s “Behind the Build,” we speak with Kipp on how he’s building his legacy in construction and learn his thoughts on what construction companies can do to attract more talented vets to jobsites.

Why did you choose construction after transitioning to civilian life?

Think about the largest construction company in human history: the Roman Army. The military engineering of Ancient Rome’s armed forces helped build the civilization. Again and again, we’ve seen this throughout history, from the Great Wall in China to the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. There’ has been no other part of human experience that has been able to mobilize people like military campaigns.

Construction shares many of the same unwritten rules as the military does and at the end of the day, it’s the tangible results that matter.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of working in construction?

The most difficult part of working in construction is dealing with all types of people. At our core, construction is a people-centric business, and it’s working with them and the process that makes a difference. We need to deal with different personalities and education levels, as well as varying degrees of training. Pair that with the fact that construction isn’t always a comfortable and pleasant environment, it’s not an industry for the faint of heart.

What do you love most about your team at Satterfield & Pontikes Construction?

You have to love the people that you work with – it’s simple. You spend more time with your coworkers than you do with your family. I’m amazed to see how talented my team is at S&P; everyone is so dedicated. Also by being located in New York, which is heavily unionized, we work with the top tradespeople in the world.

Seeing the high level of craftsmanship and excellence is incredible, and I’m proud to work in that environment.

What keeps you coming back each day?

In construction, each day you are setting up another piece of your legacy. Right now, I’m working at the LaGuardia Airport airport in Queens, New York. Once complete, it will likely be here for a 100 and some years – it’s a project my grandkids will see.

Everything we build in construction is unique to the human experience.

It’s truly the foundation of everything else in our civilization. Without construction, we wouldn’t have schools for education, hospitals for healthcare, courts for our law system and even a basic level of comfort like access to running water. Those who work in creating the built environment see the world come together like nothing else. We see first-hand all the little components and pieces that our complex environment requires.

What transferable skills did you gain during your service that apply to your job today?

There are many values and skills that both the military and construction share. To name just a few, these include teamwork and communication, problem-solving, driving initiatives and excellence, dedication to the mission (project), complex organizational skills, organization and prioritization and knowledge of logistics and equipment.

What advice would you give other veterans considering a career in construction?

Construction is a wonderful industry to start a career. The projects you work on will challenge you every day of your life. There’s also unlimited growth potential – or on the other hand, as little as you want.

What do you think the industry and construction companies can do to hire more veterans on the jobsite?

Construction companies looking to hire more veterans on the jobsites should look at doing more targeted recruiting. Also, providing opportunities for mentorship and transitional training and practice will help attract more vets. Finally, construction companies can also do more to educate vets about the shared values of the industry and the military.

Further Reading:  Behind the Build: Interview with Kyle Hlebak, Project Engineer

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