Madison Jackson, a full-time college student at Louisiana State University, is gaining professional experience of comprehensive construction management including billings, estimations, execution plans, etc. She currently serves as a Cajun Industries, LLC intern. Madison assists Josh Zumo, a Project Manager, on multiple occasions, being highly involved with T&M billings for both Shell Norco and Shell Convent. She attends job site walks as well as meetings when the opportunity arises and helps create smaller project schedules through Primavera. Madison also assists estimators with takeoffs and pricing requests as needed.
I had the opportunity to chat with Madison and learn what drew her to the construction industry.
RB: Tell us a little bit about what you're doing right now.
MJ: I'm currently interning with Cajun Industries and have been there for about eleven months now. I'm also in the construction management program through the College of Engineering at LSU and will be graduating in December. It's a really good program and I enjoy it. I'm actually finishing school early!
RB: Getting close to the end; that's great! What attracted you to the construction management program at LSU?
MJ: I was originally doing chemical engineering. Between my mom telling me that I should look into construction management (CM) and a couple of people I knew in the program, I decided to test the waters a little. I fell in love with CM and jumped on the bandwagon! I really enjoy it, even more than engineering because it's not as analytical. It's more hands-on and outside, and you're also working more with people than computers.
RB: What are a few of the things you've done during your internship with Cajun? What does it entail?
MJ: They start you off on the lower spectrum where you start learning the basics like how to read drawings. Once you start getting in the groove, show that you have potential and you're working well with them, they keep moving you up. I've done everything from estimations to creating schedules for smaller projects to T&M billings with one of the project managers, Josh Zumo. I do billing for both of his projects, which includes all of the invoices, materials and requisitions. There is so much that goes into it. You even write execution plans, which they review and give feedback such as this may be where you want to fix something or this is what we would do. We get a lot of pricing requests and assist the estimators.
I really appreciate that Cajun offers several opportunities to learn the different areas of construction management. In general, construction management doesn't just mean you're a project manager. You could do estimating, surveying, QC tech, or go out in the field and be an assistant project manager or even a superintendent.
RB: That's great that they are giving you a wide range of experience and an overview of everything. Have you had anything that was your favorite so far?
My favorite was working under a project manager. I get to go into meetings with him sometimes and he'll take me on job site walks. That's probably hands down my favorite because when you're in the field, you see so much more and learn so much more than you do reading the textbook.
RB: We talked about mentorship recently on the blog and I was wondering, have you had a mentor while at Cajun or through LSU?
I haven't had a mentor through school but when I jumped on the bandwagon with this internship at Cajun, they give you a mentor. Bill Bailey is my mentor and he basically showed me what everything was. He is still my mentor, I'm just assigned to an additional project manager that I work for. He has been there since I've started and has given such positive feedback and encouraging words. He's definitely helped me a lot.
RB: What would you say inspires you? Or, a moment that has really made an impact?
MJ: To be a better person and succeed. It's very difficult for a female in the construction industry because it's a very male-dominated culture. But, you know, I think that's what inspires me because I'm in competition with everybody. I know I can do the same thing they can. I enjoy it and it gives me that little extra hustle.
RB: For sure! It is a male-dominated industry, but women are making an impact. This is Women in Construction Week (March 1-7), and we celebrate it on the blog throughout March. I love hearing about the competition side because I think it can bring out that desire to be a little bit better.
MJ: Exactly! It influences you to work harder and be more detailed than the last person so you don't make some of the mistakes some else may have made.
I actually have a story that has been my gear grinder since I started. Freshman year I was on a banquet committee and I sat at a table with a company that does commercial construction. The superintendent at the company sat next to me and asked me similar questions. When we finished our conversation, he told me "good luck, we don't want you in our field. We don't like women in our field." My response was, well, thank you, I will see you in the future.
That's difficult to hear when you're a freshman and just starting but it's been very beneficial to me. Ever since that experience, I haven't let anything get in my way. I've been determined to do it. It was definitely a wake-up call too. You have people who are there and very supportive, like at Cajun. You also have the ones that are very old school and still think in the traditional ways.
RB: Wow. That's tough to hear but definitely had the opposite effect from what he wanted. I'm glad you could experience a different side of that at Cajun with your mentor. Based on that or your experiences so far, do you have any advice that you'd offer for women in construction?
MJ: Yes, they've been great! I would say, just don't let anyone get in your way or tell you that it's not possible because it is. Stick to your gut and go for it. If you feel it's right, then you can do it.