School: University of Rhode Island
Majors: Civil Engineering and Spanish
Academic Year: Junior

This summer I have been working with Grace Industries, an affiliate of Haugland Group, on the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the 13L-31R runway at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York. I spend most of my time performing quantity takeoffs and evaluating finished work in the field. I routinely collaborate with the superintendent, annotating the contract drawings for percentages completed on the job and assisting in verifying invoices from sub-contractors and vendors working with us.

My favorite aspect about interning with Haugland Group is the environment that I work in. In or out of the office, there is a sense of camaraderie that I have never experienced before. From my first day on the job to every rainy Monday morning, I am always greeted with a smile. Although this project is incredibly fast paced, with restrictive timelines and deadlines that need to be met, my experience has been nothing but encouraging, informative and pleasant. One thing I’ve learned during my experience is that there is never a dull moment in construction. On or off the field, everything is constantly moving and changing. I learned that I love working directly with my hands beside people who have the same passion that I do.

The people I have met throughout this experience have all been role models to me, but there are three people in particular who have stood out and become my mentors. The first is Project Manager Tim Mullarkey, who has opened my eyes and allowed me to see the true definition of success. Success is accomplishing milestones, achieving desired goals, and doing so while still loving what you do. He has shown me the inner workings of construction and how everything, and everyone, has to be working in accordance for the project to succeed. The second person who has been a mentor to me is Project Engineer Jason Sommeso. He has shown me that there is much more that goes into construction than what meets the eye. Through his guidance, I have learned how to verify invoices and separate each category of labor into different codes, allowing for the optimization of billing on large-scale projects like JFK. The third and final mentor that has guided me through this process is Superintendent Paul Duarte. The instant he walks into the room, his presence is reflected off every face in the office; his energy is unmatched. Each day, Paul encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone and make a direct impact on the runway. I assist him in organizing daily labor work, with special attention to sign foundation logistics. When I work with Paul, I believe I am truly making an imprint on this incredible project I am lucky enough to call my summer home.

Prior to this summer, I wanted to pursue structural engineering, with hopes of working with an engineering firm that mainly designs bridges, buildings and other infrastructure. The experience I’ve had with Grace Industries has opened my eyes to a branch of civil engineering that I can see myself pursuing. Working in construction is a lot like working with LEGO bricks; it allows you to see the project from start to finish, giving you the ability to take a step back and say, “I did that” or “I helped do that.” The project transforms from a drawing on a piece of paper to reality right before your eyes.

Keep all of your options open and accept every opportunity given to you. Take steps out of your comfort zone because it’s only really then you figure out who you are and the potential you have.

Check back on Haugland Group’s website soon to learn more about the PANYNJ JFK International Airport Reconstruction of Runway 13L-13R and Associated Taxiways Project that Natalie worked on.