If you were living along the coasts of New Jersey and New York in the fall of 2012, you remember the devastating superstorm Sandy. Wes Walwyn was one of the people who remember that day — but also the days he spent piecing the world back together that followed.
Wes just finished a four-year stint as field supervisor at a construction firm working on multiple rebuilding projects left in Sandy’s wake. As the construction manager for these projects, Wes coordinated a variety of people, from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to subcontractors and skilled tradespeople.Building in his blood
The intensity and complexity of post-Sandy projects might stress another construction manager, but Wes has building in his blood. “I’m third generation construction. My father was a contractor, and he was part of the big build-up on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He first took me to work when I was eight years old. I basically grew up on the job site. He had his own contracting company. My mom was the accountant and I helped her organize the projects and the business. I grew to love the construction trade. From the earliest days, I’ve been in awe of the integrity it takes to make it in this business,” Wes recounted.Cycles and seasons
We know from years of placing construction managers like Wes that the construction industry tends to run in cycles. Its busiest cycles are usually pegged to periods of economic growth. Traditionally, in the northern U.S., some projects take a break during the coldest months due to safety issues caused by the cold. We asked Wes if the unpredictable forces of nature and the economy hindered his career growth.
“At least here in the northeast, we’ve seen a fairly steady recovery from the 2008 bust. More and more, there aren’t any seasonal breaks for me. We had snow this past winter but on my site we worked right through. Safety is always a concern and if it’s too cold we use ‘winter concrete,’ where we apply thermal blankets to heat the concrete. Can’t let temperature get in the way of delivering on-time projects!”Construction as a promising career
With his background in the trade reaching back to his earliest years, we were curious to get Wes’ take on the current state of the industry. “What’s surprising to me is I find seasoned construction vets who aren’t eager to share all their untapped knowledge with the new generation of tradespeople. That’s not me. I tell them construction is a wonderful field — it’s exciting. It’s tech-driven. I think it offers a huge opportunity for young people. There are all sorts of projects to work on — highway construction, commercial building, landscape and residential construction.”
Wes continued his compelling pitch. “Once you get into it and learn its principles and processes you can take your skills anywhere in the world. Saudi Arabia, Africa, Asia. Here in the states some cities are bursting at the seams with new construction projects — San Francisco, Miami, Boston. It’s so diverse, a truly incredible opportunity for people entering the business today.”Career building in the building trades
We’re always seeking insight about how professionals like Wes build their rewarding careers. Especially in an industry like construction, where business cycles and seasons play such a wild-card role in work opportunities. “Well, I remember years ago I happened to find Aerotek through trial and error. And soon I’ll start work on my fourth job placement. Aerotek has been instrumental in my career progression and growth.”
Wes continues, “Back when I first got out of high school, I came into the industry with practically ten years’ worth of background, if not actual experience. Now I’m a construction manager making a great living doing the work I love. I’ve been able to have the career I’ve had because Aerotek was able to find me a position that matched my experience. They’re seriously good people, always wanting to help. They’re more than recruiters.”Focusing on what matters
As committed as Wes is to the work and the gratification it gives him, he explained that, “My focus is teaching my son, ever since he was a little boy, how to connect this part to that part. We used everything from LEGO to computers, always working together seeing how stuff fits together.”
“That little boy of mine is now twelve, and I bring him to the job site sometimes on his days off from school, just like my dad did. But I’m not one of those pushy dads that wants him to do what I do. I just love sharing my work with my son.”
“What’s important to me? I’m home every night no later than 7:30 because my son goes to bed at 9:30. Those two hours every night are some of the most important hours of any man’s day, week and life.”The future is bright
We asked how Wes saw his career progressing. “A project manager is mostly behind the scenes. But I’m a pretty hands-on guy, I like to the see the project and any problems that arise. I admit, I also love being outside. There’s nothing like seeing your work rise up from the ground over time, right before your eyes. For me, I’d like to own my own business within the next ten years or be an executive at a building firm. That would be a great outcome for my career in construction. Coming full circle from that little eight-year-old kid helping his mom manage the books.”