Careers in Construction Month allows us to spread awareness of the incredible growth opportunities and rewards that come with a construction career. At Wise, we prioritize early awareness with our co-op program that provides those who are keen on joining this industry an exciting look into our day-to-day lives. By offering the next generation a look into a career in construction we are laying out the opportunities for them to #BuildBeyond.
Our co-op program provides eager students with the chance to explore their curiosity, have their questions answered, and satiate their thirst for knowledge. The program’s success is evident through six valued employees who once participated and are now full-time Wise employees. Tony Raei, Victoria Aldersley, Lars Lauersen, Alex Main, Suhani Jain, and Chris Schena shared their thoughts on Wise’s co-op program and their rewarding careers in construction.
Below are their responses:
Question 1: What were your thoughts about the construction industry while in Wise’s co-op program?
Tony Raei, Project Engineer: “I found the construction sector to be difficult, demanding, and confusing as a new co-op. My coworkers soon helped me to understand that the construction business was fascinating, fulfilling, and thrilling as time went on. Wise Constriction helped me understand the effect of having a great team to work with and the success that comes with it.”
Victoria Aldersley, Project Engineer: “Simply put I thought it was fun. Not every project is the same and not every client is the same. At the time of my co-op, I was excited about all the new things I would be learning and the new experiences I would be having. Nothing beats learning from firsthand experiences. The construction industry is so much bigger than one might think.”
Lars Lauersen, Assistant Project Manager: “I quickly found out that construction is a fast-paced and diverse industry. There are so many different types of career paths you can pick from within the industry. You can work for a general contractor, an OPM, a sub-contractor, become an engineer, or work within the industry doing finance, marketing, or estimating. There are endless opportunities.”
Alex Main, Senior Vice President: “I didn’t have many thoughts of expectations going into the first co-op with Wise Construction. The extent of experience and knowledge I had was from a textbook while I studied at Wentworth Institute of Technology. I was learning things on paper and having great discussions throughout my time at college. So, starting a hands-on co-op experience at a construction company and seeing things come together on a job site was truly eye-opening.”
Suhani Jain, Project Engineer: “Initially, I saw it as a challenging and rewarding field. I was excited to gain hands-on experience and learn various aspects of construction management.”
Chris Schena, Project Manager: “I was immediately excited by the fast-paced nature of the industry. On my first day, I visited three different sites for various science and technology clients in Cambridge, MA. The sites were in various phases of construction from demolition, above-ceiling inspections, and punch list. I was able to perform a job shadow in high school that allowed me to ease into this fast-paced environment and enabled me to hit the ground running when I came back the next summer as a college co-op.”
Question 2: How did Wise meet your expectations of what a co-op was supposed to be?
Tony Raei, Project Engineer: “I began working at Wise Construction during my junior year in college. I had the opportunity to work on numerous cool projects. Spanning from healthcare facilities to laboratories, and offices. This allowed me to gain a greater understanding of the everyday responsibilities of a genuine project manager.”
Victoria Aldersley, Project Engineer: “My co-op at Wise proved to be everything I hoped it would be. The environment was warm and inviting. I was placed onto a specific team to work with which I believe made my experience much more fluid and enjoyable. I was able to adapt and learn the management style of this specific team rather than having to juggle different management styles from various project managers. I benefited from this style of co-op as a student in the program.”
Lars Lauersen, Assistant Project Manager: “The Wise co-op program exceeded my expectations! This was my second co-op after working at a different construction company. At my first co-op, I felt that I was not being used to my full potential. At Wise, I was thrown right into the fire. I started with reviewing submittals and publishing RFIs and by the end I was running the full punch list for one of Wise’s largest jobs that year. When you are a co-op at Wise they treat you like an employee and work with you as a fellow team member.”
Alex Main, Senior Vice President: “As far as expectations go, I was thrown into the fire which was a ton of fun. I got to do a little bit of everything from going to meetings, talking to superintendents, and even some procurement. Talking to friends at the time, my experiences were above and beyond anything they were doing. As the semester progressed, I would complete one task well to then get handed another one. This process built the experience and development I made while in Wise’s co-op program.”
Suhani Jain, Project Engineer: “Wise exceeded my expectations of what co-op was supposed to be by providing me with real-world experience. I had the opportunity to collaborate with various experienced stakeholders and to work on different projects that aligned with my career goals.”
Chris Schena, Project Manager: “Once involved in Wise’s co-op program it became evident that the opportunity was built to allow you to take on as much as you were willing. Instead of doing busy work, I was able to build off skills as I went and take on increasing roles with each week. It’s this kind of development that accelerated the start of my career at Wise.”
Question 3: What did you enjoy most about this industry that made you choose this career?
Tony Raei, Project Engineer: “The adaptability of different work styles. Being encouraged to alternate between working on-site and in the office is what I enjoy most. Having the opportunity to work on-site allowed me to gain a better understanding of the schedule and operations that take place daily. While having the option to work in the office helps me with my managerial abilities.”
Victoria Aldersley, Project Engineer: “Construction is such a fast-paced industry with multiple moving parts. At times you may feel inundated with tasks but there is usually always something to be done or a challenge to overcome. For me, I knew I would be going into construction through the influence of my vocational high school teachers and mentors, and the wise team only served to solidify my enjoyment and drive in this industry.”
Lars Lauersen, Assistant Project Manager: “I love the ever-changing challenges that we face in this industry. Every day there is a new obstacle, question, or challenge where the team has to gather together to determine a solution. We are one of the few industries where you may face multiple challenges every single day.”
Alex Main, Senior Vice President: “I started my college experience at Wentworth as an architectural candidate and quickly realized that I needed something more tangible that played into my love and yearning for problem-solving. So, as I got further into the construction management program the Wise co-op experience made it evident to me that problem-solving and working with people was really what I wanted to do. The problems, solutions, and team members grew my passion for what we do on a day-to-day basis.”
Suhani Jain, Project Engineer: “I chose construction as a career because it has a tangible impact on the environment. Seeing a project go from conception to completion and knowing that I played a part in it gives me a feeling of fulfillment that is truly lasting.”
Chris Schena, Project Manager: “I enjoy how each project is so unique, one day you could be renovating a lobby or a café for a life science client in Cambridge and the next day you are in the heart of Longwood renovating an outpatient care space or a pharmacy. Each project we do is a prototype that’s never been built before, and we are brought on to bring that to life.”
Question 4: What has been your biggest learning experience thus far?
Tony Raei, Project Engineer: “The most significant learning experience has undoubtedly been trying to comprehend the operation of all the different MEP systems. Especially working in the healthcare industry, certain systems implemented in these facilities can be challenging to understand at first.”
Victoria Aldersley, Project Engineer: “The biggest learning curve was trying to apply what was learned in the classroom to actual practice. It’s easier to talk about things and hear about them but it’s a whole other playing field when you need to apply what you’ve been taught into practice. Additionally, I would say another thing would be adapting to different Project Managers and their specific styles of management. Not every Project Manager is the same and their processes may be different as well.”
Lars Lauersen, Assistant Project Manager: “The experience you gain from working in a hybrid location between the office and jobsite is an all-around great learning experience. This allows you to get a full understanding of what is going on onsite while allowing you to gain well-rounded management skills.”
Alex Main, Senior Vice President: “By far my biggest learning experience is knowing that I don’t always have the answer. The people and team members around you are all working together to connect the pieces and complete a project. So, utilize the people around you and treat them as a resource by asking questions and seeking out the answers. Always try to find the next new thing to help the project reach its end goal. Once you realize not having all the answers is not a bad thing you will gain extreme knowledge and advice that will help you succeed.”
Suhani Jain, Project Engineer: “I’ve learned the importance of effective communication and collaboration. Construction management involves coordinating with various stakeholders and I have realized clear communication and teamwork is the key to project success.
Chris Schena, Project Manager: “My biggest learning experience has been how important the team dynamic is in construction. You cannot do what we do alone. It’s crucial to build relationships with your team in the office and especially onsite. You then need to apply that relationship and expand it with other project partners, subcontractors, client representatives, and the design team to ensure everyone is moving in the same direction to make the project a success.”
Question 5: What advice would you share with someone thinking about pursuing construction?
Tony Raei, Project Engineer: “When you are unsure about something, don’t be scared to ask questions. At Wise Construction, all our peers are more than willing to clarify any confusing information. Another piece of advice would be to work on-site as much as possible when you first join the industry. As college students we were taught how to read construction drawings so being on-site allows you to apply what you’ve learned and gain a greater understanding of systems and practices.”
Victoria Aldersley, Project Engineer: “I would say strive for success and be a sponge. Be adaptable and willing to learn everything you’re being taught. Learn from the experiences and find ways to apply them better in the future. Be open to asking questions when you don’t understand, no matter how small you think they may be.”
Lars Lauersen, Assistant Project Manager: “I would share that this is not an easy career, but it is extraordinarily rewarding! This career allows us to pour hours of work into a project and be able to view the tangible final product. The best part is we then get to see these projects as we drive around the city and remember what we accomplished.”
Alex Main, Senior Vice President: “The best advice I can give is to understand that this is an industry driven by people. It is not all about the bricks and sticks and steel, it’s about working with other departments internally, our clients, design partners, and subcontractors. Whether you are in the office on a computer or walking on a job site with a Superintendent, the relationship you create with people is crucial. In this industry, people are either going to make you successful or people are going to make you fail. Finding the real dynamic of people you want to work with again and again is what has driven me to come this far.”
Suhani Jain, Project Engineer: “For someone thinking about pursuing a career in construction, I would say be open to learning and be adaptable. Additionally, building strong relationships with colleagues and being proactive in problem-solving can help you thrive in this field.”
Chris Schena, Project Manager: “I would advise them to get involved as early as possible and have a good attitude and willingness to learn. What you know is not important, if you show up excited to get involved with a genuine interest in learning how things are built, everyone in the industry from coworkers to subcontractors will be excited to share their knowledge with you.”