It used to be common for employees to stay at a job for twenty years or more. Today, the average length in one job is 4.4 years, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now consider that at Skanska, we have numerous employees who have stayed with the company nearly ten times the average – spending four decades with our organization. Here are some of their stories:
Making the most of an opportunity
Jack Carter, Superintendent, Virginia Beach
After graduating from the University of Florida in 1974, Jack Carter took a systematic approach to finding a job. He headed to Norfolk, Va., where he used the phone book to check in with the construction companies listed alphabetically. When Carter finally arrived at Tidewater Construction (which Skanska acquired in 1998) they were just letting an engineer go, creating an opening for him.
“I told the vice president that I had little experience and nothing to unlearn, but I could do work the Tidewater way,” Carter said. “He hired me – I got lucky.”
Carter went to work on projects ranging from paper mills to bridges to power plants, in places from Minnesota to Miami. He moved his young family nine times in the first nine years, until his son reached first grade. Now, he’s at home in the Norfolk area as a superintendent on the project of a lifetime – the $2.1 billion Elizabeth River Tunnels project.
He laments that construction has become somewhat bogged down, with so many emails and forms now needed to get things done. Years ago, he said, “I told you what I was going to do and then I did it, and you’d trust me to do that.” But safety is much improved, he notes: “Four people have not gone home from work in my career, and I share with the crews all the time how much better it is now with all the safety gear we have to keep ourselves safe – be sure to use it!”
He credits the mentorship of company leaders with helping him advance in his career, and says his favorite part of the job is mentoring today’s young engineers. “They are smart, eager to learn, and they share all the new technology with me so I can stay current,” Carter said.
He looks back on his Skanska careers with no regrets. “I wouldn’t want to change any of it.”
Teaching another generation
Tom Maxwell, Project executive, New York City
In his 42 years to date with Skanska, Tom Maxwell has built subways, power plants, tunnels and foundations from Boston to Atlanta. He has been part of reconstructing the World Trade Center after the 1993 attack and creating New York’s Second Avenue Subway.
Maxwell is able to guide such projects in part because of the Skanska mentors he’s had over the years: they were eager to teach young engineers how to build challenging infrastructure projects. Now, Maxwell hopes that the lessons he has to share will prove to be at least as valuable to his mentees.
He sets high expectations for his engineers. Book smarts don’t cut it on his team – you need to know how to build. When young engineers know about all the items of work – mechanical, electrical, structural and so on – that it takes to build a house, that’s when an engineer is truly ready to work for Maxwell.
“A trade worker only has to know the rules of his union – we at Skanska have to know the rules of all the unions,” Maxwell said. “A plumber only has to know about plumbing parts – we have to know the skills of all of the trades. These young engineers have to be the whole package. They have to know everything to be a superintendent running a jobsite.”
Focused on Boston Mike Donovan, Purchasing director, Boston
There are two ways that Mike Donovan explores the buildings that Skanska constructs in Boston. The first is with the half-size set of drawings that he colors to help understand the designers’ intents. The second is with his Canon camera, which he uses on his regular jobsite visits.
He takes the photos not only to record how Skanska is transforming the skyline, but also to see and preserve how each building is assembled to help him develop better bid packages. Building technologies and techniques are always improving – greater use of high-strength concrete, chilled beams, rain screen assemblies and destination dispatch elevators are just some of the recent advances – so he needs to capture them.
For his entire 40 years with Skanska, he’s been photographing our projects, and his collection fills some 30 photo albums and numerous gigabytes of storage. Without a doubt, Donovan is Skanska’s unofficial Boston historian. Teams come to him when they want to know such details as how a wall was assembled on a previous project.
“My wife tells me, ‘Maybe when you retire you can do talks on how Boston has changed over the last 40 years,’” Donovan said.
But such talks will have to wait, as retirement isn’t on Donovan’s radar. Having been in purchasing for more than 25 years, he’s too busy sharing his love of this side of the business, both in helping project teams buy out their projects and by being a Skanska instructor on subcontracts, purchasing and ethics.
“I’ve found that I succeed when the people around me are successful,” he said.