A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Spotlight on Roofing: Learning Something New [VIDEO]

Earlier this month I had a chance to speak with Miguel Lopez, Roofing and Sheet Metal Superintendent at Chamberlin Roofing and Waterproofing.  I wanted to learn about his craft and how he learned about the trade.

Before he came to Chamberlin, Miguel worked installing track for a railroad company, but did not see a future for himself in that line of work.  There were no opportunities for advancement, so when the work at the railroad company began to slow down, Miguel looked for something different.  Miguel’s brother-in-law worked at Chamberlin and told Miguel about the opportunities there.

At Chamberlin, Miguel started out as a “laborer” where his duties included moving trash, setting out and covering material, moving materials, and readying equipment.  After a couple of years, he was given the opportunity to run a crew of four laborers who tackled smaller projects such as jobs which were only 1500 square feet.  He said, “Whenever I got [the jobs] done, Chamberlin saw that I could do it because I liked it, and they gave me the opportunity to grow more.”

That was 19 years ago in 1996.  Over those years, not only did Miguel receive “hands-on” training, but he also completed several other safety and skills courses.  These included the OSHA 10-hour Training, OSHA 30-hour Training, CERTA torch application, safety training in using scaffolding and ladders, forklift class, training in using a bosun chair (used for checking windows and the sides of buildings), and much more.  He has learned how to install several different types of roofing materials and several different methods for installing them.  A representative from Chamberlin’s marketing department helps each client choose which of these different materials and installations are best suited to each job, and installation crews such as Miguel’s see that the client’s preferences are carried out.  The selections depend on wind and hurricane regulations, type and use of the building, climate, and client preferences.  Miguel laughed as he said that before he came into this career, he thought of roofing as putting shingles on a house.  Now, even though he has learned how to do many different types of commercial installations, he feels that there is always more to learn.  He said:

“I don’t want to say that I do it all, because there is just so much out there in the industry that I don’t think anybody has done it all.  There are just so many kinds of materials, so many different ways of putting them on.”

In describing his passion for roofing, Miguel brought up a saying he learned years ago.  He said:

“When you do something right, when you do what you love [even] when you don’t want to do it, then when you want to do it you can do it even better.  Because that means that this is what you love – this is what you love doing.  That’s how I feel.  This is my passion: roofing.  I have worked with sheet metal; I have worked with waterproofing; I have worked with maintenance – but [there is] nothing to me, personally, like roofing.  This is my thing. I have found what I love: roofing.”

I asked how many people he typically works with on a job, and he explained that it depends on what the job is.  For a leak investigation, he only needs one or two people.  A big job in which the roof must be removed and replaced with a new roof requires a crew of ten or more.  He is currently working with a crew of 14 on a roof replacement at Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital in Houston.

When I asked what he would say to someone in high school who might consider a job in roofing, Miguel answered:

“Don’t be like me.  Don’t close your mind, saying: ‘Why construction?  Why work in the hot sun?  I don’t want to get my hands dirty.’  I don’t think it is about that.  It is about learning something new – learning something you never knew you were going to learn.

Miguel compared the concept of keeping an open mind which is willing to learn new things to visiting a city park.  Each different park you visit may have something new – something you have not seen before.  Each new roofing project he is assigned to is different from the others – there is always something new to learn.  He enjoys learning and he also enjoys working outside.

Miguel mentioned that his career has allowed him to travel to different places around Texas to work on various jobs.  He said he really enjoys working for the company, and that Chamberlin CEO John Kafka is a “great man” and easy to talk to.  “I just love the man.”

He said that working for a large commercial company has many advantages over owning your own smaller business.  He loves having the opportunities to work on interesting projects and to work with major contractors like Vaughn, Balfour Beatty, Hensel Phelps, and Tellepsen.  He said, “We’ve worked with so many companies.  And it’s awesome: you get to have relationships with those companies.”

You can watch excerpts from this interview in the 8½ minute video below.

Bonus video: If you want to hear Miguel talk shop, watch this 3 minute video of him describing the Cold Process his crew is using for the roof installation on his current project.