Interview with Andrew Stefanatos, Project Engineer,
Buildcorp Contracting Team
The three-year Buildcorp Cadet Training Program provides a mix of formal training and practical experience across several areas of the business, equipping participants with a broad construction management understanding and skill set. Andrew Stefanatos graduated the program in 2015, and is credited by his peers as a success story, whose problem solving skills and motivation make him a valuable asset to the teams he works with.
Describe your current role and what it entails.
AS: I’m currently a Project Engineer working on Buildcorp’s redevelopment of St Vincent’s Private Hospital Sydney. It’s my job to coordinate the construction planning and facilitate team meetings to identify the best way to achieve outcomes and mitigate risk. I spend a lot of time liaising with consultants and subcontractors to resolve challenges, particularly in the pre-construction period before work happens on site. I also work closely with the Project Manager on the short term programming to ensure our sequence of events remains on track.
I enjoy providing advice to the site team to help deliver their scope of works and overcome challenges. It’s essential that we prepare and plan out everything and stay alert to unforeseen issues. For example, we recently planned to build an operating theatre wall in such detail, we had everything programmed hourly. However we couldn’t account for a key materials supplier announcing the day before that they had delivered the materials to the wrong site many hours away. Through quick thinking we organised another delivery overnight and we were there at 7am to accept it. The build went ahead as scheduled and even finished early to an exceptional quality level. This high risk job was successful was due to careful planning, team buy-in, quick thinking and passion to get the job done.
How did you come to take part in Buildcorp’s Cadet Training Program?
AS: I first completed another cadet program with a competitor that was heavily focused on site skills and running trades. I got to see how sites run and how buildings got built, but I was missing experience in estimating, pre-construction planning, and the full scope of what a building business is about.
Buildcorp’s Cadet Program exposes you to the complete spectrum of functions across a business, and I got to be involved in everything from how a job is priced, to developing the design solutions during an Early Contractor Involvement period. I even worked on bid processes with experienced Design Managers whose alternative value-engineered solutions helped our tenders to stand out.
What are some of the memorable moments and skills you gained from the Program?
AS: The estimating experience came as a surprise; it was my least favourite subject at University but somehow it was a completely different experience. Being part of the Estimating Team, I got to see firsthand how a price break-down worked and how they figured out a number that covered project costs and mitigated risks. Understanding what’s behind the numbers really helps me in the site based roles as well. These days, it’s one of my more enjoyable tasks- working together to develop a project cost plan in a short period of time! I enjoy building a job figuratively in my mind to imagine how it might come together.
Another by-product of the program was developing my interpersonal skills. You deal with so many different personalities on projects and sometimes people have different goals, so it’s important to learn how to find a common ground that still achieves the project outcomes. I’ve been lucky with my current project because everyone is pretty passionate and works hard to get the job done.
How are you now using your experience to help the next generation of graduates?
AS: One of my favourite parts of the job is helping others and having a chat about what we’re building; communication is really important on a site. We have a new Contracts Administrator on the project and I tell him to get out on site as much as possible and really learn the process behind each trade, to get firsthand experience to let that trade in future.
More recently I was able to host a group of Construction Management students from my old alumni UNSW to show them the St Vincent’s Private Hospital site and explain some of the methodologies we’re employing.
I think many people, including myself, can also learn a lot from Buildcorp’s approach to safety systems. Previously, I may have been doing things that are the industry norm without realising the safety implications. It’s great to work for a business that prioritises safety and supports you to put worker wellbeing before a project outcome. One of the best things about Buildcorp is the online safety dashboard, which communicates the real time data of each project’s safety stats and audit results; I look over this daily while having breakfast. In a high risk business like construction, these tools are important to help us learn from any mistakes and constantly strive to make things work better.
What are your other favourite parts of the job?
AS: I really like working with collaborative teams to talk through solutions on a job. You have to have passion for this work; it’s not a 9am-5pm industry so it’s important to be flexible and love what you do.
I’ve recently been managing the delivery of Buildcorp’s new quality app Onsite on my current project. It’s a 360 degree data capture and quality management tool, and rolling it out requires working closely with our trades and stakeholders to show them how to use it and regularly guide them through it. The app changes and improves how they work for the better, but I still need to support their behavioural changes to apply it. This process is really interesting and I’m learning a lot from it, including an understanding of how insights from the app’s data can help us continually improve our processes and delivery.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BUILDCORP CADET TRAINING PROGRAM HERE.