The Construction Veteran Podcast

A Tale of Grit: Tony Alvarez’s Transition from Marine Corps to Construction

October 08, 2023 The Construction Veteran Episode 25
The Construction Veteran Podcast
A Tale of Grit: Tony Alvarez’s Transition from Marine Corps to Construction
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Discover the power of resilience and the beauty of transition in our latest conversation with Tony Alvarez, a former Marine Corps Reserves member turned construction industry veteran. As he spins a tale of grit right from his high school years in the Marine Corps Reserves to his transition into the construction industry, Tony's story is sure to inspire you. Listen to his journey from the small electrical shop all the way to the General Contractor side, and the priceless role of mentorship and constant learning in the course of his remarkable career.

This episode is not just about construction and military; it's about the underlying principles that link them together. Tony shares how the skills he honed in the military - problem-solving, teamwork, leadership - propelled his success in the construction world. More so, he provides invaluable advice to fellow veterans navigating the same path. But the discussion doesn't stop there. Mental health is a critical issue, especially for veterans transitioning into the construction industry.

Tony talks candidly about finding your tribe and connecting with organizations like Irreverent Warriors for support, emphasizing the importance of shared experiences and mutual assistance. We also dive into the evolving landscape of the construction industry, highlighting the increased focus on mental health support and work-life balance for employees. As Tony walks us through the intricacies of communication in construction hierarchy, he underscores the importance of every voice being heard, irrespective of rank. So, make yourself comfortable and get ready to be inspired. This episode is a testament to courage, resilience, and the indomitable human spirit.

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Speaker 1:

That's one of the biggest things like always be be open to, to learn from other people and ask questions.

Speaker 2:

This is the Construction Veteran Podcast, connecting and celebrating veterans in construction. Now here's your host, scott Friend. Welcome back to the Construction Veteran Podcast. I'm Scott Friend. I'm excited to bring to you guys today Tony Alvarez, a guy who started his career in the industry while also wearing a different hat and serving in the Marine Corps Reserves. Let's dig into it. Hey, tony, what's happening, man? Good Scott, how are you? I'm doing good, man, I appreciate you being on. So Tony actually reached out to me, so he's one of the people that I've mentioned in the past. You know, I'll have random people reach out about their story, which is awesome to hear, and I thought he had a really cool story that I wanted to share on the podcast. So, tony, tell me about your service background.

Speaker 1:

So my right out of high school I joined the Marine Corps. I went in as an O311 veteran, but I joined the reserves portion of the Marine Corps. Back then I had I wanted to go to college and get that out of the way. But so when during high school my recruiter was like, hey, if you want to do both, this is a good option In the moment, I thought it was great and that's the route I took. So I was a rifleman for Light Armor Reconnaissance Unit, so not really their typical grunt who walks everywhere.

Speaker 2:

And this is so. You did the whole time in the reserves.

Speaker 1:

Yes, so this was back in 2012. The wars were winding down and there weren't so before a portion of the reserves would get caught up to go to overseas or go active duty. But during my time they, they minimized that. So there was a couple of instances where we were told, yeah, we're going to ship out. Then that's the minute something happened and never, never went out.

Speaker 2:

So how long did you do total in the reserves? I did five years in the reserves, okay, so this is fairly recent when you got out right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, in 2017.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah so, but you were concurrently working on your career in the construction industry. Let's talk about that a little bit, how you got into that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So I did want to, I wanted to go to college. So when I came back, it was kind of during that like semester how it started. So in the meantime I was like, hey, I need a, I need a job. So with with my, my family background, you know, being a rank construction, I kind of drew on those memories of which tradesmen I used to interact with and I figured, hey, the electricians, it's a good way to go. You know, everybody needs power, everybody needs light. So I went that route. I joined a, a small mom and pop shop here in the area, and then that kind of took off. I mean, I've been in, I did electrical for 10 years and then now, now I kind of veered off and I'm on the GC side, but that's where it all started, just that, that opportunity that I got to to learn more.

Speaker 2:

And so you said here in the area you had worked with some folks, where are you located at? I'm in Rockville, maryland, okay, yeah, and for those folks that might not know, so that's right near the DC area, basically DC Metro, I'd say.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, dc Metro.

Speaker 2:

And so were you. You were exposed to this at a young age, so were you going on job sites with family members.

Speaker 1:

You said yeah, so my, my father was a contractor and you know summers or weekends I went to say oh and hang out. You know it's cheaper than than paying for a babysitter.

Speaker 2:

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. It's free labor on the job too, man, there you go yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, two hands that can carry whatever, right, so you're the gopher. Yeah, really, but it really exposed.

Speaker 2:

Go for this, go for that.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. But during that time it it exposed me to a different trades. I mean, plumbers were on site, carpenters, electricians, so I really got to see a little bit of everything. And and then, you know, it's in the community, the construction community. When there's a chance to, to explain your job or pass down knowledge of people, people take that. So I had, you know, conversations with these, these tradesmen that like, hey, what do you do, or how'd you get involved, and all that stuff. So I kind of figured, like you know, I didn't want to get wet and I didn't want to be out in the cold, that much. So the electrician route was like, hey, this is a good, good opportunity.

Speaker 2:

So I assume you're talking this is all residential right.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so I started out residential and then. So tell me, how did you get to?

Speaker 2:

a commercial electrician.

Speaker 1:

So in the in the mom and pop shop I had a superintendent that he was a master of electrician in multiple states and once I was running a couple of jobs and he came on site and he was like you know his conversation like hey, what's going on, How's it going?

Speaker 1:

And we started talking and he was like hey, honestly, like here you, you're kind of like reaching the limit, right, there's no more, no more like broad learning that you can do. So he kind of pointed me in the direction to other other companies that that was doing bigger projects and different type of electrical work which you know, without without that conversation, I mean, who knows how long I'd be still in that company, right, but it was interesting how, how somebody took their time and kind of was like to mentor somebody else. So he was like hey, there's more, there's more to electrical than what you're doing now, than what you know, and kind of pushed, pushed the buttons a little bit like you want to keep growing. So that's, that's a good, good conversation we had. So, yeah, I joined a bigger firm, a national firm, and got into the bigger mirror construction, the commercial side.

Speaker 2:

So how old were you when you started this whole path, when you got that first job on a job site or with a friend or dad's friend? How old were you when you legitimately had an actual job?

Speaker 1:

After I came back from training, I was 18. So this is pretty quick. How old are you now? 20, 29.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so that's I mean, it's quite a good amount of time that you have now in the industry, and let's touch real quick on what are you doing now, Cause you had an interesting path and we can talk a little more about it. But what are you doing now in the industry?

Speaker 1:

So right now I'm in assistant superintendent for a general contractor, a local contractor here in the DMV area.

Speaker 2:

And so let's talk about what that is for you, cause I think a lot of people don't realize with the title assistant, super field, super super senior, I mean, it can be completely different company to company. So what's a typical day, you'd say it looks like for you.

Speaker 1:

So the project that I'm on, it's broken up into different projects. So we're at a building and we have different projects going on. So when I first joined my current team I was under a lead superintendent just to learn the ropes of the project and the site and what's going on. But right now, earlier this year, I took the lead on a smaller project on site. So essentially as the lead, but still with the title assistant, I just kind of coordinate what's going on on site with the subcontractors. The customer attend meetings. I mean there's more meetings than people recognize.

Speaker 2:

And a lot of them. That could have been an email probably.

Speaker 1:

Most of them yeah, but yeah, it's a lot of coordination and just making sure everything's on track. We have completion dates and milestones that we need to meet, so any problem solving that needs to happen.

Speaker 2:

What sort of a facility is this that you guys are building?

Speaker 1:

It's one of our confidential clients, so they do a broad scope of work. The project that I'm on is a skiff.

Speaker 2:

Gotcha, okay, no more needed. So for people that don't know what a skiff is, there's quite a few. It could be government clients, typically federal, but it's a secure area basically where people can go in and have secure transmissions. So they really need to build man. So that's a really good learning opportunity for sure, I'm sure on your end.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, they are. It comes with a lot of learning, a lot of different methods of doing things than the traditional construction.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'd say federal as a whole is like that a lot, just different rules. But I mean, with the skiff too, you got the dielectric fittings or you got mesh and walls and crazy stuff. It's really neat. But it's definitely not your run of the mill. Building out a 50,000 square foot office space for someone's office, you know it's definitely a learning curve.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's good, and I'm glad you recognize that too, how this guy it sounds like whoever this was that took you under their wing really imprinted that on you of the constant learning because you can tell now you've got this. I guess what I'm getting from you is that, yeah, it might be stressful, but you're excited because you're learning stuff every day.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, a really good quote that I saw was all experience is good experience. So, no matter a bad situation that you're in, you still learn from it. Right, You're learning every day.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, man, I have had a couple of really tough projects over the decade or so, or last 12 years I guess and I would honestly say I probably learn the most on those bad jobs. I mean especially the ones that you're like I just can't carry on. But you keep your nose to the grindstone and you're glad you did, because the highs are highs, the lows are pretty darn low. But so I wanna ask you how did you get into the GC side of the world? So, for people that don't know, we've got these tiers, if you will, of the industry. So you got the customers who hire a general contractor, or maybe a CM that hires the general contractor, and then the trade partners that do the actual specialized trades. But you made a unique transition from a trade partner into the GC world. So two questions are one, how did that even come about? And two, how did that help you on this end?

Speaker 1:

So when I was doing electrical, I was in Nashville and I had another great conversation with one of the superintendents from the GC side Just what's going on and what I've been doing, and myself asking him like, hey, what's your day to day or how did you get into it? I went to the GC superintendent route and essentially from there it kinda blossomed into me like being more wondering what else is there to do, Cause at certain stages you reach this plateau, you're doing the same thing over and over again or you don't see any advancement. So this was like being in the GC world, Like I didn't think that I would end up here. So just having conversations with people, it kinda opened up my eyes to what else is possible.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the opportunities are out there. And it's funny, man, your story is very similar to one of my assistant superintendents on my job. He was an electrical superintendent for me on another project. We got to talking, we became friends and he wanted something else not necessarily more, I think, cause he was at a good level. He's a journeyman electrician and some people know you can make it to a master electrician, open your own shop. So there's a lot of opportunity out there, but it depends on what you want, and he's certainly happier. He's overwhelmed, as I'm sure you are, cause it's really different going from focusing on one trade to now. You gotta be almost ADD in this industry to be successful, trying to think about these hundreds of people that you got on the job site.

Speaker 2:

So what do you think?

Speaker 1:

about that. Yeah, it's definitely more work and more learning, obviously, cause now, like you said, instead of focusing on your one trade, now you gotta really understand everybody else, have a good understanding of how everything works. I mean, as, like certain trades, they're used to working with other trades, but somebody who is there in the beginning, they wouldn't necessarily understand what the finish is, the finishing trades right or or whatnot. So, just having that overall willingness to learn more and ask questions, you know, whenever I get the chance I get with all my trade partners and I get like tell me how you do your job, how does this go, and then just kind of, you know, go from there, that's one of the biggest things I think always be open to learn from other people and ask questions.

Speaker 2:

Let me ask this so you were exposed to the industry from a young age, so you've got a unique story, and that's not typical nowadays, which is crazy. I mean, that used to be the norm A lot of guys in construction taking their kids out but so I can't exactly ask you about the transition from the service into the industry, because you were doing them both at the same time, which we don't give enough credit, I think, to our reserves, reservists that do that, that balance, that life plus the industry. But how much of a shock, if you will, or how much did it just kind of rock you when you went from the sub side to the GC side. I mean, did you expect what you have now? Did you have some different expectations? What do you think?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I expectations were were high, but definitely now that I'm that I'm in it, I mean it's, it's not. I think that I overthought what. What was going on. You know I was like, oh my God, they're, they're over there, you know just experts at everything. But honestly, it's like you have you have your your specific trades that people focus on and then everything else kind of falls in. So we have, like, the MEP superintendent to really focus on MEP, but they also have a general knowledge of everything else. So I kind of in the beginning I was like Well, how much of everything else do I need to know? Like, what level do I need to be with an understanding of what you know, what the drywall guys do, that the carpet, everybody else. But it all falls in like, especially if, if people are like fast learners or very technical, like it's, it's not something that isn't like unmanageable. You can, you can definitely do it.

Speaker 2:

So let let's rewind back to your military service. Seeing that you had to balance both of those those worlds is really unique, because a lot, a lot of folks that come off active duty it's just a whole different world. But you were able to balance those being in the reserve. So how, when you were in, how did your service help you for the better with being a tradesman? And I don't think you were in the GC world at this time until you had already separated, yeah, so how did that help you?

Speaker 1:

It's a lot of like the soft skills that really like translate over. So, like you know, a sense of commodity and being able to starting out, especially like the lower ranks. You got to really focus on, on your job and then go from there. So in the construction industry it's like once you spend time focusing on what you're doing and getting and mastering it and then moving on to the next step and next step that kind of relates the infantry world doesn't really translate a whole bunch into the civilian world.

Speaker 2:

So it's not, maybe not the tools, but definitely the soft skills. I would agree. Yeah, yeah, leadership especially.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, there's a lot of veteran like soft skills that that are very translatable. I mean problem solving, being adaptable. Things change all the time and you can't have like somebody that's like stuck who doesn't want to think differently. You got to be adaptable.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, the mindset of I can't do this, it just it doesn't exist unless it's impossible. You know, there's things that we make work out in the field for sure.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, and, like you said, teamwork and leadership I mean it's, it's all stuff that military members kind of comes instinctively.

Speaker 2:

But it's kind of kind of different seeing it like with civilians that like, oh, like you figure they'd be the same or they have like the same commonalities, but it's not on that same note, I've said it time and time again and I've spoken with friends that agree in the industry there's a lot of parallels between the service and the military or, excuse me, the service in the construction industry. But I want to get your feedback. What do you find that's very similar to when you're, you know, with your squad platoon, what have you to what you're doing now?

Speaker 1:

There's a lot of on being being as a team, right? So you're, you spend pretty much most of your your days or weeks with the same people, or relatively the same people, and you're working on on meeting the same goal. You're getting this job accomplished, so there's really no, no room to have any any bad blood, right so? And there's a lot of problem solving that goes on in different roles, right? Like you said, there's a lot of parallels, but that that having that camaraderie is a big, it's a big one.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, especially when you're in those stressful situations. I've said before, you know we're, we're. We complain a lot in the field. There's there's tough days, but it's the same thing in the service. But you're, you're going through the junk with your, your buddies by your side, so it's good. I love having a big field team. How many people do you have on the GC side? As far as field leadership, where you're at right now, my team we are.

Speaker 1:

we're seven, seven, seven members, but that's including our PMs and APMs.

Speaker 2:

And they're.

Speaker 1:

They're on site full time as well, for the most part you know they have their, their work from home days or their office days.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, no, I love that, I mean it. I love what we do. It's tough, though, when you're alone and maybe doing a couple floors and a high rise building by yourself, because you're. It's stressful man. Sometimes we need the buddy to lean on.

Speaker 2:

We got a lot of mental health issues in the industry and I think a lot of that is that, that solitude, whether you're traveling.

Speaker 2:

So I think it's so neat to get on a big team and for me personally, I think it it harkens back to the days when I was in the service. Like I just love being around our guys in the field, whether it's my guys, the trades, and that to me I would agree with you, the camaraderie is what I miss the most and what I've found in this industry, yeah, for sure. So let's talk about you know, I kind of mentioned the, the mental health issue, but it's really easy to get burned out in this industry, whether you're on the trade side, I'd say even more so on the general contractor side, because you're kind of the, you're stuck between a rock and hard place Sometimes when you got an upset trade and upset customer. So let's not pussy foot around it. It happens People get upset, but if you got a fellow vet out there that's just going through the muck trying to get through the project, Just having a tough time keeping their head held high. What would you say to them?

Speaker 1:

I'd say reach out. That's a big first step is reach out to somebody who's either I know it's intimidating going and talking to somebody about a problem or an issue, but it doesn't necessarily to be somebody that knows everything that's going on, right. So start with somebody that you trust or that you know and you know maybe there's there's another person in your company or another veteran. You know there's always. There's always the same that you're never alone. So always, always, reach out. That's the biggest thing.

Speaker 2:

I've definitely had some tough conversations with other vets on the job, coming to talk to me or vice versa. I mean it, it's really difficult to relate. You're like man, I don't know why I'm so anxious all the time. I don't know why I'm so angry A lot of the common issues that come up with the mental health but our industry doesn't really make it any better, right, I mean, it's it's already very stressful and you're trying to deal with this stuff. So I think the question, or why I asked the question, is is the folks that are getting out wanting to get into this industry need to realize hey, there's a lot of veterans in the industry also that have already gone there. So if you're going to reach out, grab a vet at your company, contact me.

Speaker 2:

You know, tony, I'm sure it's fine with you and then anybody we've talked to on the show for sure, we all are going through this crap together, man.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's a big, a big thing, especially now. Just reach out to anybody. I mean not everybody, but there's definitely different channels to reach out, like I mean, I'm linked in as a big one. I mean like I reached out to you without even knowing you, Definitely if you got guts, man.

Speaker 2:

But if I was just secretly like just a total jerk off of the podcast, I would never have any guests.

Speaker 1:

It was. It'll be well worth finding out, right, you don't?

Speaker 2:

you don't know what this guy's a fraud. I think people need to be more encouraged to, like you said, when people here reach out. I know me. At first it was like, man, I don't want to go to a therapist, Like I don't want to talk to these people. Now, eventually I did, which helped. But what really helped me was other guys that had served seeing. Hey, man, like something's wrong, you should probably talk to somebody calling me out. I needed that. I think when people hear that, oh you know, go reach out, talk to somebody. It doesn't mean it has to be a medical professional, but I would still advise you to. I'm not a medical professional, but I think you need to see one if you're having struggles. But if it just means having coffee or a cigar with your buddy and chatting out, first take that first step. I mean Somebody who will hold you accountable and call you on your BS.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure. I mean, yes, medical professionals are important, they're an important step, but you know who knows a veteran better than a veteran, right? So reach out to anybody that you might have served with or similar roles, similar MOSs, or there's many communities out there that have been started because of that, because of having that commodity amongst veterans that have been through the same situations. Right now you can go on Facebook, look up groups in your area, veteran groups for a variety of things. You know, if you're interested in motorcycles, I'm pretty sure it's a motorcycle veteran group that there's.

Speaker 1:

There is like doing yeah.

Speaker 2:

I'm telling you from experience because I don't ride anymore. If we did video, you'd see the big, nice scar on my arm. I had a motorcycle accident in November but I was part of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association. It was an amazing organization and there, like you said, there's stuff out there that's not just the VFW and nothing against those kind of organizations at all. I think at least when I was growing up it was a bunch of old guys drinking at the bar. There was this like huge gap between the GWAT guys, the Gulf War guys, you know Vietnam guys, korea, like if you're going back that far, but it was just kind of uncomfortable for me. A lot of guys loved it, but once I got into riding I found them. So you know there's got to be a veteran skiing club. There's got to be. I know for sure there's veteran outdoor clubs. We have a bunch here in Texas. But yeah, find your niche, find your group and it's going to ease you into the civilian life. I think you know. Find your people, find your tribe.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure. I mean Scott, if you don't mind I can plug in a group. That's helped me out.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So it's called a Vervent Warriors IW. I followed the group for a while but when I moved from the DC area to Nashville you know I was new area for me. I was, you know, I didn't have no family, no wife and kids or anything. But it was a tough transition in the beginning and I went on their website and found that there was a Nashville IW group. So they had an event going on that weekend and I went and the rest is history. I mean, we drink, we talk, they do hikes throughout different cities. So it's definitely like it's not hey, you have to talk about your like. Wherever you're going through, it's just to hang out or just be around other veterans or active duty personnel. You know it's just having a sense of belonging, I guess. But they really helped me out when I was going through something.

Speaker 2:

And Vervent Warriors. Was that started by Donnie O'Malley? Yes, yeah, so lots of people know Donnie O'Malley through it's Vet TV, right? Yep, that TV hilarious. So the Rev Warriors was then. It was started by Marine Vets. They're really big here too, tony. I mean there's groups, like you said, all over. We've got a really big group here in Texas.

Speaker 2:

A couple years ago when we did the carry the load event in Dallas, which is the culminating event from all over the US we do it here local, and the group that I was signed up with they started their walk at man. I want to say it was midnight, we stepped off or somewhere definitely close to that, and it was led by the IW guys and they're screaming Marine Corps hymns and wearing their silkies they're a little marine booty shorts, but now it was such a fun time but really solid folks and I had a chance to hang out with them after the walk and we just chatted man and I asked about their mission and it's really good stuff for. So for people who want to know, that's irreverentwarriorscom, there's bound to be a group close by, especially if you like hiking, I mean that's, that's their big thing. Right Is like the long walks big groups of people.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, and it's not hiking through the woods, it's like through cities, kind of like a little bar across, essentially.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I probably lost half the people there like screw you man, I'm not going hiking.

Speaker 1:

It's just a walk. It's just a walk, yeah, you're not going up hills and everything it's doable, manageable, I mean there's no. I guess you do need to be a veteran or a service member, but the civilians allowed, I guess yeah no, and it was started by Marines.

Speaker 2:

But I mean there were tons of all the branches are represented and the cool thing I thought too is there was people of many, many different ages, and these are not just, you know, the last 20 years of GWAT vets. This is people much older than them that go and participate in support and it's not like a heavy ruck or anything crazy, it's really just walking on mass for support and they do have events that you guys will probably find your local city, wherever you're at. But look it up, I'm glad you shared that man. Yeah, of course. Yeah, and there's I'm a big believer in the outdoor stuff, whether that's, you know, guys like a Reverend Warrior's doing the walks but doing something out in nature.

Speaker 2:

I think it's really good for us to just get, you know, reconnected, kind of take a reset, take a break. There's a bunch of them here, I know, in Texas, I'm sure up in your area too, we're actually part of the big news that we have. Coming up is one of my guests that shall remain unnamed right now, and a friend, and then another guest. Most likely we're forming our 501C3, finally, and we have a few folks that have chipped in some guided hunts for free for vets. And these are not cheap I mean, these can be 1200 plus dollar hunts and fishing guides and I just think that's really cool to get guys disconnected from that anguish and grief and really focus on something fun and it's. We're going to be with them. We'll be with you know, you'll be with other vets. So if you have a hobby, there's bound to be a vet group. That's what I'm getting at.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, yeah, and that ties in, you know, with construction. I mean it's, it's important to take time. I mean if you, even if you're not a veteran, just going back to how you can get really, really stressed out, you know you need some time to unplug. Can I get a distraction?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that too is is I do have a handful of non vets that listen to the podcast. I'm really appreciative of that, and I've had a couple non vet guests and what we're talking about is not specific to the service. I've heard other folks talk about it and it put my mind at ease that, hey look, just because you're not, maybe you weren't a combat veteran, Maybe you were support personnel that never saw any kind of action, or maybe you're not a vet. Trauma is trauma, Stress is stress and we channel it differently.

Speaker 2:

I mean, there's, there's people at the tip of the spear that still have trouble, have a hard time and are proud enough or humble enough, I should say to, to reach out and get some help. But these issues aren't just for vets. We're in a very stressful industry, man, and I think let me get your take I think I've been seeing a change over the last decade for the more positive, just because it's this respect for people and really focusing on people over the product. But I want to see what. What has your experience been with that?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I have seen an increase in the talk about mental health and construction. Many companies and firms are now participating in these events where they have safety standouts to talk about mental health, and especially in construction. But for us it's a double whammy because we're in construction and a veteran. But many firms have taken the approach of hey, you do need a balanced work life situation. It's especially now, with the younger generations, the millennials, going into the workforce and being in leadership roles, where they see what the older folks have been through and endured and it's kind of like hey, it's not something that should carry on. The days of just working straight for months with no breaks and no vacations. It's kind of slowly going away. It depends on projects too, but even within the project teams there's always at least from what I've seen there's always that encouragement to take your time, take a day off if you need, or hit the reset button. There's a lot of that going on now.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's definitely gotten more lenient on the PTO side, especially for us salary guys, because technically you're on all the time, right, and I mean, if you don't take PTO, we help each other out. I mean, if you're having a tough day, hey dude, why don't you just take the day off and figure it out? So I think, yeah, I've definitely seen it change in that regard and I can assure you I could probably put metrics and data together for this. I truly believe that, since I'm not pushing my guys, whether it's our own staff or our trade partners, since I'm not pushing them to work these insane hours, we do what we need to. We'll do the OT when we have to do it, but it's not constant, it's not all the time. So I guarantee I could prove that I've hit more milestones on time on the project by doing it that way than just the traditional of work, when we can work and just keep pushing and just driving people into the dirt man.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean you're the trade partners. I mean they really take the brunt of it, so they're overworked, always tired. It opens it up to having incidents and the quality issues and there's just so much more that that kind of is on the backside of just having these long days. And it's changing for sure, especially in the beginning with scheduling a project. That's a big, big step for on the GC side and on the trade partner side, when you're bidding like hey, we're not going to work every weekend, we're not going to do 14-hour days all the time.

Speaker 2:

I had a guy, so I won't say what trade it was, but I did a project and the guy came in and I always have my daily huddles, so I'm huddled up with all the guys and this is the representative from their company. And he told me and I'm the superintendent on the job, I'm the one that schedules everything and this guy tells me well, we're going to be working I think he said 12 or 14-hour days my immediate response is and no, you're not. Well, it's going to take me two weeks. I said, man, I scheduled two weeks for you guys in the schedule. I am certainly not going to be here 14 hours every day. We're not doing that.

Speaker 2:

He said well, you don't have to be here. Yes, I do, I have to be here in case something happens. I'm responsible man. So he came around to it eventually when he realized hey, man, we diligently plan and I have my daily huddle with my guys, we utilize pull plans and everybody has a voice on the job. We don't want to kill ourselves over the fricking schedule, man, it's just not worth it and you get poor quality out of people. Yeah, I definitely see it turning, or turning towards the better.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure. It starts with scheduling and getting other people to understand right. Manage expectations with the owners and owners reps like, hey, I know I understand that you want this project done, but this is not the way to go about it, man.

Speaker 2:

I think that's a breath of fresh air for them too. I've had some really good clients that we tell them the bad news early, because I certainly hate being blindsided. Tell me the bad news now so I can plan around it. And I think and I don't know if this is since COVID or if something's changed big, but I really think that has something to do with it that people are becoming more understanding on the schedule because all these products have gotten delayed. There's no such thing as expediting material anymore. The industry has just changed. But I think they appreciate that and I know from my end I've seen it get a lot more collaborative with customers and the trades. Is that, hey, we're all stakeholders in this thing, man?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, like you said, I do think COVID had something to do with it when many projects went over their expected delivery dates because of manpower and their material issues. So now at least what I'm seeing is there's a lot of talk, at least during the design phase, like, hey, a lot of these long meat items and how is it going to impact manpower and what we're doing, our site orientation, with the subs. Like, hey, how much manpower do you have? What are you thinking of this project? Is it going to realistically?

Speaker 1:

And that's a big thing.

Speaker 2:

And that's humility, man. I think that's huge, especially from us field guys. I came up under some really good dudes, so I can't speak ill of them at all, but I came up under some pretty bad dudes too that were really full of themselves and didn't want to hear the trades. And I'm sitting here going man, you're an electrician by trade, I'm a carpenter by trade. I am still never going to tell mill worker how to do his job. I'm going to ask for his input.

Speaker 2:

I might give mine some suggestions, but I think, at least from what I've seen, is guys like yourself that come from the trade. That's a really hard thing to break, because you're like hey man, I was an electrician, I know how to do this, and a lot of guys get really cocky about that. But the best thing to do is hey man, I have this knowledge. Let's work together. And I think that's a mentality that's changing as well, because the old school supers I mean they were legitimate general contractors, probably like your dad, who knows the contractor. He could probably touch any piece of that project and know how to do it, and that doesn't exist as much anymore.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure, like you said, you know your trade. But there's also many ways to do the same thing. So, speaking with the electricians on my side, it's like, oh, that's a different way, I want to do it like that.

Speaker 2:

but hey, if it works. It's like marriage, man. I mean, we both have our own ways to do it. It's the same thing with the trades and it's the same thing, I'd say, internally too, because one thing I'm learning as a leader is with my assistants. I got two assistant superintendents on this job and I'm trying to do my best to not micromanage, but I find myself not micromanaging things, but I'm still taking too much on myself. And it took a more senior leader to tell me hey, man, like it's okay to delegate.

Speaker 2:

It's not that I don't trust them, but I think that was the perception. It was just this I have to train them, but at the same time, let them go, let them do their thing, let them make their own mistakes. It's not the way I would do it, but just like you said, okay, that works, as long as the end state is the same. And I think that's a big difference from the military and the industry is that we give people a lot more freedom, regardless of where they're at in the chain of command. The Marine Corps does a lot better at it. I would say, giving a Lance Corporal who, for those who don't know, that's an E3. So this is somebody that, let's say, they join when they're 18. This guy might be what? 20? Maybe.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, mate, 19, 20, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So this is a very young individual with a ton of responsibility, especially in a combat scenario. However, lance Corporal is not going to make the call to the staff to change the training schedule or something like that. I won't say people aren't heard. But your rank, a lot of times I think, comes first in many branches and I think it's still that way, which is sad, and I think we have it in the industry too. People see title before knowledge a lot, but I think that's changing where I don't care if you're the laborer of the site, I don't care if you're the general superintendent. Everybody in between has a say. Now, I might not agree with you, you might not have the knowledge, just for me to tell you hey, here's why that's wrong, here's why we can't do that. But it's certainly a lot different in the industry than it is in the service, I think, or in the military. Sorry, it's different in our industry.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I like how you touched on rank. I mean rank and billet kind of goes hand in hand. You can be an assistant superintendent, but on a small project you can be the lead billet, right. That's just how you say with the labor, like yeah, they could be a labor, but they are knowledgeable in whatever it is that they're doing. So everybody has a say. But it's just getting some of the the crowd to understand that, just because you're labeled as a certain role or job title, at least listen to what they say, be open-minded and then, I guess, go from there.

Speaker 2:

I would say that there are still people in the industry and, without getting in trouble, I'd say it is a lot of older folks that are retired at this point. But the mentality of hey, shut up, this is your title, you're below me that does still exist. It's not like it's completely gone. I think that's one thing that's really changing. But us, as the generation coming up, as these next leaders, also need to recognize that we do need to know our place sometimes, that we can't make the call on signing off a massive change order. That's not my call, that's an executive call. There's things that I just cannot do.

Speaker 2:

And, like you said, man, I was an assistant the first job I ran. That was my title, but it was about a $2 million job. It was not very big, but I had that opportunity. I was the king of that castle. But then I go to the next job and I'm like the third rung down and that's fine. But I was trusted with the specialty that I had from that interior side. I carried that in. So I think you're recognized in the service the same way the military service that you might be an expert at one thing or whatever you're doing, you're in the small team environment and you're the top dog, even as a Lance Corporal, but you still have this critical role to play. But we still need to understand where we're at in the chain of command, two on our side as far as in the industry.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure, it's definitely part of the mirror folks coming up. It's like getting an understanding of what each role and each person does in construction and then that way you can evaluate and not find yourself in a situation where somebody comes up to you and asks you something and then you go ahead and kind of take charge but then not realizing, hey, that's not my call.

Speaker 2:

So let me get into my last question here to wrap things up. Man, tony, I really appreciate your time. If you've got folks that are either in the reserves or folks getting off active duty, what would you say? Because, man, we know we need people in the industry what would you say to these individuals to try to encourage them to see this industry as a viable way of life after they separate?

Speaker 1:

I'd start with asking them to kind of think within like, hey, what are you comfortable doing? So it's not. I think we know construction is very laborious and you're out in the environment pretty much. So if you know that you are comfortable in those environments and then go from there, seek there's different content creators that kind of go over their day to day or they do their job roles, like getting an understanding, or just asking people like, hey, what do you do? It's really more finding out yourself what you're interested in, because there's a lot of people that after having a conversation with it's like, hey, maybe construction might not be for you.

Speaker 2:

So that's a good point. I didn't think about that either.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, like we have to, you know, not long hours, but you know, waking up early, if you're a type of person that kind of wants to sleep in all the time, it's because, like when you're involved in construction, no matter if you're starting out or once you get to have a few years, there's still responsibilities, right. So if you're responsible with yourself at first and then knowing being a leader of self, that's kind of the first step and then just reach out. Reach out to people, get, find an interest or find a trade that you think you could be interested in and try it out.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think too, maybe if people are interested in like IT or something or administrative work, there's still tons of work in the industry. And I think another thing I've never touched on in any of the previous episodes, really too, is the fact that the construction industry is so stable most of the time. I mean, at least through COVID, we got busier, so you don't necessarily have to be in a trade, you don't necessarily have to be in the field or on the general contractor side. I mean, just think about wherever you're listening from and what you're sitting on, whether it's your vehicle or in your home. Somebody built that, and so there's all these different people that get involved in this industry and touch the industry, and so it's not just the tradesmen in the field. So we work in the built environment, but we need support personnel too. So, yeah, there's accountants finance all this different stuff. So I think I would encourage people to look at the industry holistically and not just fieldwork, you know.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, for sure there's veterans that are in our office IT, that they take their skills and translate into our world. Essentially, it's still within construction. You're still around it, you still have to learn the lingo right, but you're not necessarily working in it, you're not hands on. So there's definitely different occupations, especially like you brought up technology. It's ever more evolving and construction is one of the industries that's kind of been slow at it, but now that it's kicking off.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think it's really neat to see us integrating this stuff or figuring out how are we going to use AI, how are we going to use different types of cameras, 3d cameras I did a whole episode on my YouTube about that, talking about technology. There's really neat stuff. Now it's not all the new technology we can actually use in the field, right. So some of it's just hey, man, that's cool, but we're probably not going to use it. It serves no purpose because we're still building at the end of the day, but definitely stuff that makes our lives easier. So I think that's good. Tony, I'm going to go ahead and wrap up. Man, I really appreciate your time. If somebody wants to get a hold of you, what's the best way to do that?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so my LinkedIn is always the best way, Tony Alvarez Alv-A-R-E-Z. Pretty sure you can also tag it, Right, Scott yeah?

Speaker 2:

yeah, I can tag everything. And then, if you're in the Rockville, Maryland or DC area, would it be okay for people to reach out to you and maybe link up and figure out how you can help each other? Yeah, of course.

Speaker 1:

Reach out. No matter what the question is, if I don't know it, I'll definitely do my best to help you out and figure out and answer together.

Speaker 2:

All right, tony man, I really appreciate your time. Thank you, scott, appreciate you. All right man, I appreciate your time. Thanks for your story. Thank you. If you're a military veteran in the construction industry or you're in the construction industry and support our military vets, then you'd like to be a guest on the podcast. You can find me at constructionvetpodcastgmailcom or send me a message on LinkedIn. You can find me there at. Scott Friend, share the stories and motivate others.

Military to Construction Industry Transition
Trade Partner to GC Superintendent Transition
Military and Construction Industry Similarities
Supporting Veterans' Mental Health
Mental Health Support in Construction
Communication in Construction Hierarchy and Navigation
Connecting in the Construction Industry