Putting it All Together | Spotlighting KA’s Project Coordinators
On a busy job site, the project managers and superintendents are the face of the project, overseeing its functions from start to finish. But they can’t do an effective job without a lot of support. A critical role that often goes unnoticed is the project coordinator, who works behind the scenes to make sure that all paper work is filed, schedules are maintained, and clients are happy.
It’s a challenging, rewarding, and inspiring career, as these talented and passionate KA project coordinators share some perspective on their vital roles on the project team.
Q: What led you to becoming a project coordinator?
RACHEL STRUCKMAN: I would have to thank my dad. He was a general superintendent for KA back in the day and now retired. I was fascinated by the stories he would tell us at the dinner table about his day at work and the times I was able to tag along with him as a kid on days I didn’t have school. So I thought when I graduated high school, I want to try construction to see what it really was about and here I am, a senior project coordinator and love my job!
JILLIAN SIDLER: Evolved from an accounting role. Saw a need for PM support where I was at the time (at a subcontractor) and created the role.
DEBBIE JOHNSON: I got into it by accident. I started out as a mail-clerk temp at another construction firm, and they hired me on as a Project Assistant after my 6 month “probation” period. That was back in 1991. I’ve been at Kraus-Anderson for 15 years now.
KRYSTAL BURTON, LEAD PROJECT COORDINATOR: I think the biggest thing is you’ll hear a lot of people talk about how they mistakenly fell into construction. It wasn’t something that they really understood what was behind it. I was in college at the time, and I was just looking for a regular 9-5 job and came across an opportunity at Kraus-Anderson. I was working in the mailroom with the coordinators, and I got to see what they were doing. I thought, “Oh, that’s really cool. I want to do that someday.” To me, it was more than just an administrative role. You have your hands on something that’s really making a difference, that actually helps build buildings.
Q: What does your day-to-day work entail?
RACHEL STRUCKMAN: Providing support to project managers, superintendents, owners and contractors from the preconstruction, bidding, construction, and closeout phases of a project.
KRYSTAL BURTON: That’s a difficult question to answer, because things change so much each day. We don’t come in and think, “I have these 10 things on my check list I need to do.” It changes by the phase of the project, whether we’re bidding, in pre-construction, or closing. We can have anything from two to six projects on our plate at a time. It’s anywhere from putting projects out to bid, to doing small logs, to making sure contracts are drafted. My role is a bit different because I’m on the project coordinator side, but I’m also on the lead side of things as well, which is putting out fires and making sure that the staff has what they need from me to do their job effectively.
DEBBIE JOHNSON: It’s never the same – I can be working on weekly meeting minutes for one project, with subcontractor change orders from another project on deck to process…then BAM! I get sidelined with urgent PCOs to be processed, sent out for pricing and uploaded to PlanGrid. Or, I may be preparing and sending out subcontracts, which can fill a whole day when you have 25 of them for one project.
Decipher some of the jargon of your job. What’s an RFP? RFI? SI? Other good acronyms?
BRENDAN WARD: RFP= Request for Proposal; COR= Change Order Request; OCO=Owner Change Order; RFI= Request for Information; SI= Supplemental Instruction.
Q. What is your role in closeout?
RACHEL STRUCKMAN: Collecting warranties, operations and maintenance manuals, and as-builts from the subcontractors and turning the information over to the owner.
Q. What’s one of the more memorable projects you have worked on in your time here, and why?
RACHEL STRUCKMAN: The Bemidji Regional Event Center (now Sanford Center). This was my first event center/arena project at KA. I worked out onsite for the entire project and was able to be involved in every aspect of the project from construction meetings, owner meetings, and daily/weekly site walks, etc. I learned a lot from this experience.
TAYLOR GEMEINER: Working on the Forest Lake projects. I grew up in Forest Lake, so to see all the changes is fun!
BRENDAN WARD: Most memorable would probably be the recent summer slam at the Andrew Boss Lab of Meat Science. To complete the necessary MEP work during a short time period over the summer took and incredible amount of teamwork and communication from all parties involved. It was very impressive to see how planning and scheduling at the beginning of the project helped us deliver our temp occupancy to the client before school started. My PM did a really good job in the pull planning part of the project.
JILLIAN SIDLER: In 2010 worked on Gustavus Adolphus Beck Hall which earned LEED Platinum certification. There was a lot of learning going on at that time?
Q. What in your opinion are three vital qualities of a good project coordinator?
TAYLOR GEMEINER: Patience, self-reliance and communication.
JILLIAN SIDLER: Adaptability- we work with many different roles and types of people on project teams. If we can meet each person at their level, we can all communicate and execute better. Can-do Attitude! Attitude is everything. Freaking out over a stressful task/day/whatever is only going to put you deeper in the hole. Strap on your helmet and get to it! Service- Everything we do is Customer Service.
RACHEL STRUCKMAN: Effective communication, team player, able to multitask.
BRENDAN WARD: Well organized, good communicator, willingness to help in whatever fashion that may be.
TAYLOR GEMEINER: Patience, Self-Reliance and Communication.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a project coordinator?
KRYSTAL BURTON: I’d say the biggest challenge is just keeping that line of communication open. People use the phrase that it’s kind of like herding cats, but the project managers you work with are so busy that you have to make sure you get what you need from them for the sake of the project. Another aspect, which is definitely a big challenge right now, is the bidding environment. Everyone is so busy that it’s sometimes difficult to get people to bid.
DEBBIE JOHNSON: For me, it’s keeping my head straight around the various projects I’m involved with at one time. Some will have the same owner, architect, and/or subcontractors. You have to be on your toes and be able to multitask within a project, as well as between projects.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
JILLIAN SIDLER: I love being part of a team that makes cool places. I will totally point out projects that I have been involved iwth to my family when we are driving around town.
DEBBIE JOHNSON: Diversity of the work and projects. I work in the healthcare sector, but I’m sure this is the same for any sector. You can be doing a job for a repeat customer and it will not be the same as previous projects. They always vary. Different circumstances and stumbling blocks arise, such as the unknown/unseen whether doing a renovation, addition, or new build.
BRENDAN WARD: I love being part of a team. Everyone has their role and it’s equally important as the next. Also working to achieve the goal of delivering what the client has requested and paid for on time/within budget is a big motivator.
KRYSTAL BURTON: I love that it’s not always the same. Even though I’m doing the same procedures and processes over and over, they never feel the same because there’s always a different challenge to it or a different scenario, something that will make you think outside of the box. The most rewarding part is being able to see the final building come out of the ground. I bring my kids to daycare in town, and they’ll say “Mom, there’s your job site!” They get excited about it, too.
Q: A lot of people may not know what goes into a project behind the scenes. What do you wish more people understood about your job as a project coordinator?
DEBBIE JOHNSON: We work hard behind the scenes to help make projects successful. The work we do is behind the curtain, but we’re pulling a lot of strings. We take pride in the work we do and the projects we’re on. We take our responsibilities seriously and implement the necessary steps to perform our tasks accurately and in a timely manner.
KRYSTAL BURTON: The coordinator role is not just an administrative position, it’s a specialized role. It takes at least six months to a year before a new project coordinator is effectively on their own with a project from start to finish. I think that’s often what people don’t understand. It could take years, especially if you’re on a project that’s over a year duration.
Q: Why KA?
KRYSTAL BURTON: I was hired here when I was barely a year out of high school. People always use the term, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” but for me, I know that the grass is not greener. You build relationships with these people and they become part of your family. The leadership obviously has the best intentions when it comes to the people aspect. They really try to put the people first, which is a great thing.
DEBBIE JOHNSON: I feel respected and needed. I know this is a cliché, but we really do have a great group of people working here. I’ve worked in places where there was a definite hierarchy and you were expected to revere upper management. That is not so at KA. Everyone, no matter their position, is revered the same…we are all CO-workers. And the laughter…there is always laughter throughout, which keeps your spirits high.
RACHEL STRUCKMAN: I love what I do at KA. I love the work I do, the people I work with, and overall KA is a great place to work!View Comments