In an Interview, Morgan Kruse Speaks About her Experience, Learnings and How This Summer’s Construction Management Internship Impacted her Career Aspirations
Morgan Kruse is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Prior to her anticipated graduation in December of 2021, Morgan was looking to understand the inner workings of a commercial construction office. She spent the summer at Spiegelglass Construction Company as a construction management intern, supporting the owners and project managers on several quick turn projects including cannabis dispensaries, restaurants, laboratories and more.
Morgan, tell us about yourself.
I am originally from Columbia, MO, and attend the University of Missouri. I’m studying mechanical engineering and plan to graduate in the fall of 2021. In addition to my studies, I really like to volunteer and have spent a lot of time working with Relay for Life and First Robotics. Family is also really important to me; I have a brother and a sister, and recently became an aunt.
Why did you seek out a construction management internship?
I was looking to gain some experience in the commercial construction industry.
What surprised you most about your internship?
I knew there was a lot of paperwork involved in construction, but I didn’t really understand how much work needed to take place at the office for everything to run smoothly on the jobsite. There’s a lot that needs to happen behind the scenes to make sure everyone understands what needs to be done to complete a project on time.
What did you like most about your internship?
One of my roles was helping compile the weekly reports. They were stressful to do sometimes because I had to gather a lot of information from a lot of different people, but I liked seeing how things were going and watching the progress from week to week. With so many materials backlogged right now because of Covid, it was also really cool for me to see how quickly the project managers were able to pivot and change things around to get projects completed on time.
Tell us about something you learned that you’ll take with you in your future endeavors.
There are so many moving parts in construction, and between the subcontractors, architects, engineers and everyone else, I learned how key communication really is. You’re working with different health departments, materials, systems, and owners and everyone and everything really needs to work together for it all to come together in the end.
The executive assistant at the office does weekly meetings with the project managers and clients. I couldn’t believe how much there was to keep track of between change orders, submittals, requests for information, permits, inspections and more. And if one contractor doesn’t respond in a timely manner it could hold the whole job up, so the entire team needs to work together to figure something out, or the job could be put on hold until the pertinent information is acquired.
What role did technology play in the management of projects?
I can’t even imagine how everything worked before project management software existed. There is just so much that goes into these projects. We all have access to a single system where we’re able to manage the progress of a project and keep everything in order. I like to be really organized so it was great to have one system we could all use to share information.
What else did you learn?
I learned a lot of about RFIs, or requests for information, and submittals. I liked how technical everything is and how organized it needs to be so everything works together. For example, the specs on a plan might call for a specific door frame, so we request information from the vendor, get a sample, and submit details to the client. If the client decides on something different, we research additional options and make adjustments. And because of Covid-related backlogs, if a client’s first choice wasn’t available, we had to come up with another in-stock option pretty quickly.
I also learned a lot about the importance of checking paperwork to make sure it’s complete. Sometimes people won’t fill everything out that we need, and we need to go back to get the information.
Was the pace what you expected?
There is a lot of activity in the office and I love how fast-paced it is. The high number of projects going on at once helped me learn a lot in a short amount of time.
The project managers are in and out of the office based on their jobsite visits, so there are periods of quiet where those of us at the office can pound a lot of work out, and then there are periods of time full of meetings, laughing and loud voices.
In general, things moved pretty fast and I had to be really flexible. Sometimes I’d be working on something, but I’d need to stop what I was doing and jump onto something else. Then there’s some hurry up and wait. It’s all about staying really organized so I could prioritize or change course as needed.
What was your favorite part of the summer?
Overall I just really liked helping out our team members onsite. It could be as simple as compiling a subcontractor list so our superintendents had everything in one place, or making life easier for our project managers by helping research materials. It was a great way for me to learn how things work in commercial construction.
I also liked how many different projects I got to support. I didn’t realize what a wide range of projects can come out of one office, and I’m glad I got to see how many of them work over the course of one summer.
What advice would you give someone interested in construction management?
As a mechanical engineering student, I thought I wanted to work in a construction office, but I really wasn’t sure until I had this internship. I would tell anyone who thinks they might be interested in construction management to get an internship to figure out if it’s what you want to do. Now that I’ve spent 12 weeks working with a general contractor, I know a lot more about the industry and it makes me more confident in my career choice.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Morgan. We appreciate the work you did this summer and hope you learned a lot.
It was my pleasure – it was a great place to work. I learned a ton and am grateful for the opportunity!