It’s been three years since Brian Cameron joined us as an assistant construction manager. When he first donned his Van Pelt Construction Services hard hat, he was fresh out of college with the limited amount of work experience that’s typical of a 24-year-old. But we saw in Brian something special: the sort of enthusiasm and integrity that we knew would complement our team well. What we didn’t see were the characteristics that have become an unfortunate stereotype for members of Brian’s millennial generation. This kid was no slacker.
We’re thrilled to report that he has proven to be all we expected and more. Brian becomes an increasingly reliable and important member of the VPCS family every day. We asked him a few questions about his work, his goals and his thoughts on certain assumptions sometimes made about people his age.
What’s your academic background?
BC: I graduated with a civil engineering degree from Chico State. The focus of my study was water resources and environmental engineering. I came to VPCS immediately after graduating in May 2015.
Did you always see yourself in the construction industry?
BC: While I was studying engineering in college, I pictured myself doing something in engineering or construction. Growing up, I always helped my dad with his landscaping business, and that was actually great practice for construction work.
What’s the best way to describe your job at VPCS?
BC: I’m currently helping with the East Side Union School District work in San Jose. I coordinate with the contractors on a day-to-day basis and make sure they’re on schedule and on budget. I also interact quite a lot with the school district and the high school staff to make sure they’re getting what they want and need from the project. That’s actually one of my favorite parts of my job: now that I’ve been here a while, I’ve built a lot of good relationships with staff members at the school sites, the district office, and the maintenance and operations people.
What’s it like being the “new kid” at VPCS?
BC: It’s been fine – just a big learning curve. In college, I worked mostly on design. But here, I do a lot of contracts and paperwork. So I’ve had to get up to speed on those types of skills. But all of the managers I’ve had since coming to Van Pelt have been really helpful. And I’ve put a lot of time into learning what I need to know and doing whatever research I need to do to make sure I’m doing things right. I guess that’s paid off, because I’ve been given more responsibility. I really don’t mind being the young guy; it doesn’t intimidate me. I just know I still have a lot to learn.
What was it like to transition so quickly from college life to working life?
BC: I’ve always been pretty independent, so making this transition was fine. I do have to admit that moving away from home and family and friends was probably the hardest part. I come from an immigrant family and I’ve always seen how hard my parents have had to work to do well. So that’s what I do too. It can be stressful sometimes, but I just work through those tough days to get my job done.
Do you think the millennial generation is labeled unfairly?
BC: I think every generation has people in it who are lazy and others who aren’t. Sure, there are kids my age who may not put in as much effort. But most of the people I know understand that they have to put in the work to be successful. That’s especially true of kids who come from working class families like mine. I do think millennials get a bad rap for being lazy.
Has VPCS been a good place for you to start your career?
BC: Absolutely. I like that it’s not a big corporate structure. I can go to Mike [Van Pelt] or Kelli [Jurgenson] if I have any questions or issues and I know they’re there to help me. They nurture all the employees really well and I learn something every day. Eventually, I’d like to start managing bigger projects, but right now I’m just doing my job and hoping my work will speak for itself.
Any advice for other young people getting started in the work force?
BC: Put in the hard work and do the research. Look things up. Ask questions. Start conversations. Just do whatever you can do to put yourself in a position to be successful.
June 18, 2018