HB Project Manager Charles Rolison recently took the time to discuss his career and work habits. A native of Honolulu City, Hawaii, Charles shared how his early construction experiences continue to shape who he is today.
Q: Charles, can you tell us about your background in construction?
A: When I was 15, I started working for my uncle’s HVAC company in El Paso. I made four dollars an hour at the time. I also worked at Labor Ready while I was taking college classes. I was jumping in the back of pick up trucks to go to work. Up until I was 23, I was doing that type of field labor full-time. I still do skilled craft work to this day.
Q: How do you think that experience shaped you?
A: It cut in my teeth and made me tough. Even for a job like sweeping floors, I tried to sweep better and in less time than the guy next to me. I still try to take that mentality into every project.
Q: How did your career evolve into project management?
A: In 2005 I started working for a contractor at Los Alamos National Labs. That was when I really began to learn about every single trade. As I gained more experience, I started taking on any job I could. It didn’t matter if I still had to learn how to do it.
When I first started as an Assistant PM, I had no idea how to read drawings or what a submittal was. So, I took the plans home and studied them all night. I went through them page by page. As I put in the work, I was able to fill estimating, superintendent, and management needs as they came up. At the time, I wasn’t afraid to work seven days a week.
Q: If you could change anything about our industry, what would it be?
A: I think there’s an over-reliance on technology to communicate. E-mail, texting, and social media are all very convenient, but they also make it easier to pass the buck or delay decisions.
I would also put greater emphasis on spending time in the field. You have to establish a base knowledge of how a building comes together before you can move on. Mastering the basics can make you so much more effective, then you can get creative and take the next step. There are no shortcuts.
Q: How do you fight against the over-reliance on technology?
A: I pick up the phone and call people. Calling someone helps develop a personal rapport that you’re not going to get with e-mail. For a Project Manager, a phone call can be the difference between a project that’s stalled out or a project that’s moving ahead.
Q: What else does a high-functioning Project Manager do?
A: As you gain experience, you learn how to initiate tough conversations instead of avoiding them. After you establish open, up-front communication, you can work through any challenge the project throws your way. This also creates a level of mutual respect and trust that you can’t put a price on.
Q: You’ve worked with a lot of federal Owners. What has that experience taught you?
A: You have to keep your project moving. This starts with understanding the regulations and requirements you’re working under, especially at secure facilities. There is enormous potential for gridlock, so pressing forward is key.
Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in project management?
A: I told one of our younger Project Managers recently to try to put yourself in an awkward position every day. Don’t avoid challenges that take you out of your comfort zone. Those are usually the situations that you’ll get the most out of.
Charles Rolison serves as a Project Manager at HB Construction with a specialization in Government projects. His experience includes facility delivery for Los Alamos National Labs, Department of Defense, FBI, USACE, GSA, State of New Mexico, and other organizations/agencies.