Having grown up in a small agricultural community in southern Colorado in pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree fresh out of high school, construction management alumnus, Matt Powell, is grateful to have realized, after two years, that his ideal career would include technical challenges along with a strong focus on teamwork and communication. That’s when he researched top Colorado institutions and discovered the Construction Management program at CSU.
“After one summer info session, it was very clear that this department and the construction industry was where my new career would begin,” said Powell. “Construction Management is an industry that has a great balance between office and field responsibilities in addition to fast paced, daily challenges. Having little exposure to the construction industry growing up, I was unaware of an industry that had the right balance for me. Had I known more about this amazing industry, I would have immediately started college in construction management at CSU.”
CM degree supported career
Asked if he felt his CM degree prepared him for his career, Powell responded, “Travelling across the country and interacting with graduates from many different CM programs, I have been able to understand what made CSU’s program so unique, powerful, and exemplary: high caliber faculty focused on real world application, current trends, and industry involvement/access/integration in the program. Because of the heavy, constant industry participation, students have the unparalleled opportunity to intern with and explore several facets of the industry before they even graduate. The industry support for hiring interns and graduates is easily summed up by annual career fair booth registrations. When you can sell out a career fair in a few hours with companies attending from all over the country, you have empirical evidence that your program is successful.”
Feeling fortunate enough to have worked in several different areas of the construction industry, most of Powell’s experience is centered around industrial/hospital/lab/data center mechanical construction. He started in college with an internship that became a full-time position in the semi-conductor industry. He’s also spent some years in the modular infrastructure industry. He says, “I really enjoyed this position as I was able to work with so many individuals coast to coast, north to south. I learned the many ways to achieve the same goal, how to motivate, manage and be a contributing team member on an incredibly diverse set of projects, and how connected we all are despite geographical separation.”
Currently, Powell manages lab and higher education work within the mechanical business unit at RK. He feels privileged to be working with extremely talented field personnel that motivate him every day to improve, stay ahead, and stay positive. “The camaraderie that can be built on a project team celebrating the highs, working together through the challenges, and truly helping each other to always improve, is the aspect of this industry that I cherish the most,” he says.
Business during a pandemic
Regarding the Covid19 pandemic and its effect on the industry and workplace, Powell is glad to be working for a progressive company that takes these matters seriously. “It has reignited the focus on the individuals that make up our teams,” he says. “The added pressure of the unknown, potential project shutdowns and most importantly, the risk of getting each other or our family members sick, has renewed our efforts to take care of one another. We pause more now than ever to ask if a teammate is doing okay. Have there been challenges managing the social distancing rules when our scope of work requires team lifts for heavy materials and close quarter work areas? Absolutely. As a team we pause and address the environment and make changes that are functional and better protect the individuals. This daily collaboration strengthens the team and reinforces how important every member is in achieving the common goal.”
In fact, Powell’s company co-owner, Jon Kinning, posted on LinkedIn, “RK is doing our part to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to keep construction sites and employees safe during the #COVID19 pandemic. We are also highly focused on adding capacity to our healthcare systems through offsite hospital solutions and manufacturing much-needed #ventilators through our #rkmissioncritical business unit. We also have created portable hand washing stations for construction sites through RK Mechanical.”
Paying it forward
And what does the future hold for Powell? He is quick to respond, “One of my biggest, long term goals is to help shift the industry towards a more collaborative and positive approach to building. In an industry with daily challenges and obstacles, reasons many of us were drawn to construction in the first place, communication and working together is paramount. Through industry trade groups, committees, my own actions in building and working with my teams, and trialing new ways of delivering projects, I am spending more time working towards a healthier industry for the generations yet to come.”
Powell continues to be a partner to the CM department through support for the mechanical courses and CM Cares, as well as his involvement in the Professional Advisory Development Board. CM faculty Scott Glick shares that Powell’s support to the program is “fast and strong.” Most recently he helped develop some course material and served as a guest lecturer on mechanical contracting for the Mechanical and Plumbing Systems course. He also provided plans and specifications for projects that he has worked on to strengthen course content aligned with student learning outcomes for the department’s accreditation. CM assistant professor, Chris Harper said, “Matt provided us with slides of information, plans and specs for projects to use in the class; he was very excited and eager to help throughout the semester, even after we went all online in March.”
It’s no wonder Powell is singled out as an outstanding CM alumnus. With future leadership of Powell and others like him, the industry is definitely in good hands.