Kristina Sing, P.E., is Director of Engineering for McKinstry’s Seattle-based Energy team as well as our Portland office. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a previous life, I was a mechanical engineer working for a consulting firm. My goal was to become a principal in that firm—that was the path all consulting engineers followed. An engineer would spend years learning the craft, adhering to code changes, and designing projects—eventually moving up to managing projects and the ultimate end game: managing a book of business, developing a client base, and managing a team of engineers.
Around the 10-year mark in my career, I was managing projects with hopes of becoming a principal one day, when I was presented with an opportunity to change jobs. This company was a design-build mechanical contractor. In my experience, though, engineers were often at odds with contractors. The perception was that contractors tried to cheapen the project—they were out to find holes in the design and pine for change orders. Why in the world would I want to go work for the BIG BAD CONTRACTOR?
I struggled with this concept for months. I probably drove the company crazy with my indecision. Yet, this was my career. This was a fork in the road for my career and a major decision.
I went through the interview process and I liked what I heard from the contractor. I saw the collaborative teams and I witnessed the opportunity I’d have to coordinate and collaborate with the construction teams. This was an opportunity to really improve my designs by understanding HOW things were really built. Yet, this was also the BIG BAD CONTRACTOR!
Ultimately, I made the jump. I cut the ties with the consulting world and went to work for the BIG BAD CONTRACTOR. Ever since, I’ve never looked back.
I have now been at McKinstry for more than 11 years. I’m excited to come to work every day. I love the team of people with whom I work, as well as the collaborative and innovative team environment. Our engineers work hand-in-hand with the commissioning and construction teams to optimize the design, develop projects, and build a client base.
It’s not uncommon for the construction team to stop by to ask a question to clarify scope of work or design intent. It’s equally common for the engineers to seek out the construction team to inform the design—based on how something will actually be built.
Need to know how something really operates in the field? Just ask the commissioning agent that has seen what works and what doesn’t work. We can—and do—leverage the experience of our service team to understand the reliability and service life of various types and brands of equipment to further inform the design team. In my experience, at the end of a typical plan/spec project, budgets are exhausted, and everyone wants off of the job.
Yet, things just don’t work quite right. The “team” points fingers at the engineer, control contractor and the contractor. Something eventually gets done to fix the issue, but was it absolutely right? Are the systems really optimized? What does the owner get left with? Does the owner really know how to operate their building efficiently?
McKinstry’s tag line is “For the Life of Your Building,” and that’s no accident. Since we’re design-build-focused and we have design, construction, commissioning, and service under one roof, we have resources to really optimize designs and ensure they’re working properly—now and tomorrow.
So: Am I sorry I made the jump from consulting to the BIG BAD CONTRACTOR? Absolutely not!
It was the best decision I could have made. It’s allowed me to grow into a well-rounded engineer. I’m now producing well thought-out designs coordinated upfront with construction and commissioning to deliver an efficient optimized solution, “For the Life of Your Building.”
How about YOU? Are YOU ready to make the jump?