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Working for a General Contractor

shji

Hi guys, I posted a question thread about construction salary previously and construction definitely is way up when it comes to money side. I am considering to a move to a GC but I am concerned whether my introverted personality would fit!

Architecture designers coordinate with client and contractors here and there but spend most of the time drafting, working alone or with the team mostly. In case of GC or CM, is majority of work contacting and coordinating with your team, sub contractors and clients? Is it a lot more tougher than working in a cozy architecture office? Do you have to be a people person in order to be successful in CM? What is a typical day of a GC project manager look like? What are the major day to day tasks? 

 
Feb 7, 18 8:10 pm
archinine
Ha I would not describe any GC I've worked with as a 'people person'. You'll be just fine. And don't forget to blame everything on the architect and charge for a change order!
Feb 7, 18 8:27 pm
jeffl

I haven't worked for a general contractor before so can't say much but it must be pain to work on the site all day during cold winter.

Feb 8, 18 9:38 am
arivas208

Here is my story. I started in architecture in 2006. Went to school for drafting and design and worked for an architect who did high end residential work and smaller commercial work. After the downturn I was let go in 2010. I immediately went back to school and got a BS in construction management. After I finished school in late 2013 I accepted an offer as a project engineer with a general contractor that did large scale commercial work. I worked there for a year and was let go by the company by because I voiced my opinion on needing more staff in the field. At this time I was still doing drafting/design work on the side and it was probably hurting my performance at my full time job. After losing this job, I quickly found another job with another big commercial contractor this time as a field superintendent. The salary was good but the hours were long. It was a very demanding job that required a lot of meetings and communication. It also required a strong personality in order to keep subcontractors performing. During my time at this company (around 2 years) I was still designing houses on the side, but I was exhausted. I was working 10-12 hour days and then coming home and drawing for another 3-4 hours. About 2 weeks ago this company let me go, they explained to me that I was not a good fit for the position. I am also a pretty introverted person and I knew I wasn't cutting it, so when they let me go I wasn't shocked. I was fortunate that I had some good clients working on my side design work. For the past 2 weeks I have been a full time contract designer. I mainly work on high end residential work, custom homes, multifamily and remodels. My point is, even though people say to reach for the stars, sometimes you need to focus on what you are good at. I was never good at construction management. My calling was always residential design and I am very good at it. Also, I am making more money right now as a full time contractor than I did at my previous job. Do what feels right to you. Don't listen to all these other negative people on here saying architecture/design is no good. They are bitter because they are failures and are probably in the wrong field like I was. Whatever you chose to do good luck!

Feb 8, 18 10:47 am
shji

arivas208, thanks for sharing! I am trying to switch out because I am one of those negative people who do not enjoy working in architectural design haha. I did guess that it might take some thick skin and assertiveness to be successful at construction management which I lack... well you confirmed it does. It's great that you found what's right for you tho. Good luck to you too with your design works!

whistler

Designers don't make very good general contractors! Typically we want to over design the solution and most contractors are working at the other end of the spectrum so you will constantly be fighting others in your work place and your own design ethos.  Very rarely do designers have the skill and experience to perform the role well.  Getting the job done on time and on budget means you are going to loose a few design battles.  If you can distinguish between which battles and the wars that are important to win then you might have a chance.

Alternatively doing more specialized work for interior work might be a more appropriate target market as high end interior fit outs require a higher degree of specialization and design sensibility, but only in higher quality work environments.

Rarely are designers good at working on a tight target budget that most folks would find acceptable i.e. lacquer coated plywood cabinets might be great for the latest Dwell magazine cover but most clients don't see this as  high quality design, it seems more appropriate for their garage.




Feb 8, 18 7:38 pm
shji

whistler, thanks for sharing. I agree that designers and contractor often work on two opposite sides of the table.

fabisco

from my experience working for a CM it is definitely not cozy since usually you will be onsite in less than ideal conditions, especially compared to the comforts of any architectural office. it does require you to interact with many many people on a daily basis, and usually you are pushing them to give you something towards some goal of completing the project, whether it be delivering material or coordinating certain work. you're always pushing, asking, verifying that people did their job, and need to be able to confront them when they don't. That's been the toughest aspect of the job for me, especially since it seems like most people go about it with utter lack of respect for others. I certainly did not take that path, and things have gone quite well for me, which I take as an indication that the prevailing "way" isn't the only way to do things, but that doesn't mean you wont find yourself in very difficult interpersonal situations. 

i work as a project manager, the company i work for mainly builds boutique hotels, and from procurement, to analyzing the design and sending rfi's, coming up with a schedule to complete the work, coordinating the work and sequence with the subs, verifying the work is being done correctly onsite, managing the cost of the project and the payments to each sub are very typical aspects of my day.

i'd say im both an introvert and a people person, somewhere in the weird middle, and working and coordinating with so many people onsite can daunting and overwhelming but it can also be very exhilarating and rewarding. if you like the technical aspects of architecture you may very well enjoy being a CM since you can see everything come together. this has been my first job after getting my MA, and previously ive worked for architects and designers. I am also deliberating making a move to an Arch firm or perhaps design-build, which seems like a happy medium but honestly I don't know enough about what a role with a DB firm is like. hopefully can get some answers on archinect!

Feb 22, 18 11:24 pm
shji

Thanks for sharing your insight fabisco. I worked for a small design build firm briefly as a designer. The firm I worked for was organized as if an architecture firm had a small team of construction managers that exclusively worked for them. So the firm had an office for accounting staffs, designers, and project managers. On sites, they had site managers on pay roles who sourced and managed construction crew. I imagine the tasks of a construction manager must be very similar from a design build company to a construction management firm except that you'd be more open to the whole process from inception and design to completion in a DB firm.

fabisco

as a designer at that DB firm, did it feel any different from a design role at a typ Arch office? Yea i agree that being a CM at a DB firm would likely be very similar, but how much exposure, and what type of exposure, did you see between the CM's and the designers at your firm? Since I wouldn't have a design-role im wondering how much I'd actually get to influence the design process. but even simply being in the same office or having those designers as my coworkers may be a valuable experience. being a CM @ a DB firm sounds pretty good to me.

shji

In a DB firm, I did have a little more exposure to construction. I went to site regularly for very light construction administration. But since construction team was in house and the principal of the firm oversaw both design and construction, the coordination between the two was smoother. The principal was extremely busy and probably had hectic days doing that. But overall, the design role was very similar.

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