In the last few weeks, we’ve been featuring stories from veterans in the construction industry. From tenured superintendents to fresh faces in the industry, our spotlights have been highlighting the avenues and reasons why vets enter and stay within the building sector.
In this week’s “Behind the Build,” we speak with Enea Cibuku, veteran and Assistant Superintendent at Satterfield & Pontikes. Enea shares more about his journey from the Marines to construction management and provides sage advice to other vets considering a career in building.
Why did you choose construction after transitioning to civilian life?
I’ve been working in the construction industry for a total of ten years now. My parents owned masonry and carpentry companies, so I grew up in the industry.
When I came out of the Marine Corps and had the option to go to college, I first went into structural engineering. I enjoyed the concepts behind the field and embraced the chance to build something. I eventually transitioned into construction management so I could get more hands-on.
The construction industry as a whole is about building infrastructure for the economy. In the grand scheme of things, we’re really re-building America.
What’s your current role at your company and what do you spend the majority of your time doing?
I am currently an assistant superintendent at a joint venture firm working for the Delta LaGuardia Redevelopment. I started this position about a year ago after coming from a smaller contractor in Connecticut. When I started, my primary roles and responsibilities revolved around assisting in daily field operations, tracking and managing deliveries, logistical coordination and general field coordination.
Since I started, I have been gaining a higher influence in my role. I’m managing multiple trades, coordinating between my trades and others, developing fieldwork sketches and solutions to day to day problems and building a schedule and system for my contractor responsibilities. One of my newest endeavors is managing the technology integrations site-wide across the campus, with the emergence of iPads, PlanGrid, on-site WiFi and additional innovations yet to come.
What do you like most about working in construction? What keeps you coming back each day?
The best thing about working in construction is the ability for me to come into work and know each day is never going to be the same as the day before. A mega-construction project such as this has a considerable amount of moving parts and unexpected issues that come up each day. I take pride in the fact that the information and direction I pump out on a day to day basis, is feeding one of the largest projects in NYC and the country.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of working in construction?
The most challenging part of construction is being involved in not only the tangible aspects of building but the personal ones as well. The biggest initial investment an owner can make on their construction project is with their labor force regulations, requirements and forecasts. With that being said, as a construction superintendent, the most challenging aspect of your day to day life is in communicating effectively to your trade contractors, project management, inspectors, jurisdictional authorities and supervisors.
My mentor and current boss, Robert Kipp, has always taught me that no matter what project you go to and who you work with, people won’t listen the first time. I have learned that to be effective in my job, I have to communicate the same information over and over again and ensure everyone involved in or impacted by an activity is on the same page.
What do you love most about your team?
The best thing about my team is that we have superintendents who all come from a specific trade background and are experts in their field. Our team is effective when it comes to finding solutions to complex problems and knowing what will impact their trades’ scope of work. We have a good level of comradery and internal communication that helps us complete our jobs more efficiently.
What transferable skills did you gain during your service apply to your job as an Assistant Superintendent?
Coming into the commercial construction industry, the best transferable skills that I gained from the Marine Corps were perseverance, commitment and foresight.
I gained perseverance in the sense that while on duty, I would stay awake for days. Lack of food, water and sleep in the military trained me to be self-sufficient and plow through whatever issues come my way without needing to rest and regroup. In my current job role, often time than not, I’m on my feet, on the phone and running around to different areas of the job. This leaves me with no time to sit down and take things in over a period of time. The rush rush rush attitude has helped me handle the daily stress effectively and efficiently.
Other skills that have translated well to construction are commitment and foresight. In the military, these two traits were critical to ensuring you could plan ahead and avoid problems and mitigate risk. The Marine Corps emphasized these traits because of its value to protecting each person’s life. In the construction industry, they play the same level of importance but with an owners’ budget and overall jobsite safety.
What advice would you give other veterans considering a career in construction?
The advice I would give to other veterans considering a career in construction would be to look at their options. Construction is a small industry, but it has many different facets. It’s important for other veterans just getting out to view their options of what region in the country they want to build in, whether they would like to work union or non-union, urban or suburban, commercial or residential, building or civil. I find that this research can better propel your career from the start and give you a long-term development plan. You have to find out what you like about the industry first before you get in it. Analyze current market trends, attend seminars on technology and design innovation, go to school for construction management or attend a trade or union school to get specialized skillsets.
What do you think the industry and construction companies can do to hire more veterans on the jobsite?
The best way for the industry as a whole to hire more veterans would be to advertise their openings at military bases, college campuses (since most veterans go to college after the service) and link with Helmets to Hardhats.