Published on November 21st, 2016 | by UC&D Magazine0
Utah’s A/E/C Industry Teeming with Young Superstars
Editor’s Note: Each year Utah Construction & Design has the privilege of interviewing a handful of young professionals within Utah’s A/E/C industry. These ’40 & Under’ stars have been making significant impacts within their professions for many years, and are key contributors to their respective firms. This year we’re aiming our spotlight on six talented individuals from various professions: Robert Stewart, Engineer for Quality and Materials at UDOT; Troy Gregory, President of Hunt Electric, Monique de Boer, Executive Director of Intermountain Electrical Association; Vinnie Figlioli, General Manager of Harris Mechanical; KayC Jolley, President of Red Rock Demolition; Jessica Chappell, Associate/ Senior Engineer for Reaveley Engineers + Associates.
Robert Stewart, 41
Engineer for Quality & Materials, UDOT
Robert Stewart – who turned 41 August 12 (UC&D’s ‘cutoff’ date is August preceding this issue) – has been making his mark at the Utah Department of Transportation for 16+ years, including leading a new division the past two years where he oversees all materials aspects. His father Kent owned a small general contracting firm and as a kid Stewart would spend weekends and summers helping his dad on jobsites. That experience “gave me my blue collar identity and helped me transition into this world. I know what contractors are going through and it helps me relate to the people building our projects. You’re always in this realm of trying to adapt.”
After Stewart graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Civil Engineering, he thought he’d pursue a similar type of general building job, before ultimately being hired on at UDOT.
“When I graduated, I had no interest in transportation – I’m a construction guy,” he stated flatly. “I applied to all major vertical builders, but since I didn’t have any engineering experience I couldn’t find a gig and applied at UDOT. After they hired me, mentally I said to myself ‘they went out on a limb and hired me, I’ll give ‘em six months’. But I got here and have enjoyed the hell out of it.”
Stewart was a key member of UDOT’s team on I-15 CORE, which was completed in December 2012 in a whirlwind 35-month period – a staggering feat by all firms involved in the revolutionary $1.7 billion project. Stewart was involved in the development of the procurement, but also served as a jack-of-all-trades.
“There wasn’t an element of transportation that I didn’t have to deal with (on I-15 CORE) – planning, traffic control/MOT, design, materials – all of it,” he said. “That experience was like (working) in dog years. Everybody you worked with on that team was an all-star – they don’t bring scrubs to a billion dollar project. There were times I’d look around and say ‘how do I fit here?’ Sometimes you’re just trying to fit in.”
He also learned a ton about various construction processes, which has helped him in his current materials position.
“There is an extra level of control on something of that magnitude,” he said. “When you get to that size of a project the necessary controls change. The key is to take the lessons learned from CORE and incorporate those into daily DOT life. It’s like the Matrix (movie) – when you swallow the pill, you can’t go back. You have a level of understanding you almost want to forget. It makes it a fun challenge to try and convince somebody who hasn’t seen it, that it will work.”
Stewart also spent two years immediately after I-15 CORE as a District Engineer for Region 2 before taking over his current position.
“Robert is one of our senior leaders of the Department and sits in an appointed position – he has a vast knowledge and experience in construction, materials and quality management,” said Randy Park, Project Development Director for UDOT. “One of the things that sets him apart
is that he’s a common sense guy that is always looking at the outcome and result. Robert is incredibly likeable and trusted by everybody he works with. He’s somebody everybody wants on their team.”
While Stewart is content in his current role within the 1,600-employee Department, he has more ambitious long- term goals.
“Even since I’ve been here my goal is to be Executive Director of UDOT,” he said. “I have certain ideas…that said, I’ve got (time) to learn more. I’ve got professional ‘ADD’ – I don’t like being stagnant at all. That’s what I love about UDOT – today it’s engineering, tomorrow its geotechnical, the next day it’s maintenance. I love moving around like that. I bleed orange – I’m with UDOT until the end.”
Troy Gregory, 40
President, Hunt Electric
Troy Gregory’s introduction to the construction industry wasn’t exactly scripted. As Gregory recalled, “my good friend’s dad had a small business (then Spanish Fork-based Olsen Electric)…he claimed he ‘offered’ me a job; it was more like he threw a tool belt at me and said ‘let’s go’.”
His career ascension to current President of Hunt Electric – one of the largest electrical contractors in the Intermountain region with 400-plus employees and offices in Salt Lake City and Littleton, Colo. – also didn’t follow any typically prescribed path to the top as the 40-year-old father of five got married right out of high school at age 19 and worked for a handful of firms before landing at Hunt 14 years ago. Gregory, who said he wanted to be an architect originally before being drawn to construction via his interest in design, spent time early in his career at Westech Electric in Orem, moved to Morris Electric of Springville, then to Taylor Electric. A Taylor-Hunt merger helped him get to know people at Hunt, and when Hunt Electric founder Richard Hunt re-opened up Hunt Electric, he ended up going to work as a Project Manager/Estimator, something that was completely new to him since he had spent virtually his entire career working in the field.
“I had been in the field for awhile and felt like I was on top of what I was doing – I didn’t know jack about (office work),” Gregory said. “It was a major stretch for me.”
He credits Mark Porter, Hunt’s VP of Estimating, for showing him the ropes of working in the office, and Gregory quickly learned the nuances of that side of the industry.“I didn’t know how to turn on a computer,” he laughed. “Mark taught me estimating and project management – my strengths are more as a PM so I gravitated to that.”
Gregory served as Project Manager on the massive City Creek development in downtown Salt Lake, a $20 million+ electrical contract that is one of the largest projects Hunt has ever worked on. Gregory said his field experience has helped him be a better PM, and a better company executive overall.
“I came through that progression of working in the field and was exposed to a lot of different types of work,” he said. “I could easily visualize what guys in the field were dealing with, and I could contribute to what they were doing and plan for that job. It’s important to be able to see all the different processes. (Field) superintendents tend to move up faster than guys who are just in a (Construction Management) program – they can visualize the installation method and it all comes easier. I also feel like I have good communication skills and I can relate to (field) guys and get on their level…it’s still an advantage of mine today.”
In January 2011, Gregory was named President, while Richard Hunt moved into the role of CEO. Hunt said Gregory brings a lot to the table and was a perfect fit for what he thought a President should be.
“He’s well-rounded, has great trade knowledge, and is good with our customers,” said Hunt. “He’s also the next generation – he relates to our younger people well. He’s been able to work his way up through our company, including being Project Manager of City Creek. There was a lot of coordination on that job with three general contractors and the other subs and trades. Having someone like Troy, with his trade knowledge – everything is about the customer. If somebody hasn’t been in the field, they don’t have that same reference of serving the customer.”
“We don’t have a lot of big egos here – the strength is knowing what people’s strengths and skills are. Richards has always been a good mentor,” said Gregory. “He gives candid feedback and how I can grow and empowers me with my strengths. We’re on the same page. We find humor
in the fact that he’s old school; I’m new school. We agree on all big things, but we’re not afraid to disagree on some things.”
Monique de Boer, 39
Executive Director, IEA
The construction industry is renowned for children following in their parent’s footsteps, so Monique de Boer’s ascent to Executive Director of Salt Lake-based Intermountain Electrical Association (IEA) isn’t totally uncommon, as father Klaas DeBoer (she spells her last name differently based on family heritage; her grandfather immigrated to the U.S. from the Netherlands with his mother and brother in 1951 at the age of 16) – started at IEA in 1980 and has been Chapter Manager of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Intermountain Chapter since 1990.
de Boer started her career as a receptionist 20 years ago and moved up to Member Service Coordinator before being named Executive Director in October 2007. She is focused on IEA’s growth, particularly as the industry transitions into the next generation of workers. de Boer also serves as the Chair of the Personal Development of Education Committee for the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Chapter 90, in addition to being involved with a Young Professionals focus group that aims to transition from the ‘Baby Boomer/Gen X’ generation to the ‘Millennial’ generation. She is also Past President of the International League of Electrical Associations, a 7-member group overseeing some 30 associations in the U.S. and Canada similar to IEA.
The Young Professionals focus group is of particular importance to her, with an impetus of having older generations understand that Millennials are bright, intelligent and wanting to work – not some mass of unmotivated kids who expect the world to be given to them.
“The (YP) focus group is to get ideas about moving forward – it’s a big transition from Baby Boomers to Millennials,” said de Boer. “I’ve been going to various industry conferences; it’s something we all need to learn about, it’s good for everybody. Millennials have valuable input – we need to utilize their skills and use their input. You have to get them involved and talk to them. They’re sick of being called lazy because they work differently or have a different outlook.”
IEA is comprised of 90 member firms, including contractors, engineers, suppliers, and manufacturer representatives. During de Boer’s nine-year tenure as IEA Executive Director, she concentrates much of her efforts on the association’s Scholarship foundation, its Hogs for Humanity charitable program, and looking for ways to grow chapter membership. IEA’s Scholarship Foundation has awarded $912,000 since 1987, with an average of $30,000 per year (typically $1,000 scholarships for IEA member children).
Klaas – whose son Klaas Jr. is the Executive Director of the Oregon Pacific NECA Chapter in Eugene – said perhaps Monique’s greatest strength is in communicating her positive ideas to people in a way that helps them buy in to her message and foster results.
“She’s very capable in her interpersonal skills, in her ability to relate to (IEA) members and board members, said Klaas. “It’s about getting members to maximize their commitment and value to the organization. She has amazing people skills.”
Klaas expressed his pride in IEA, an organization that was founded in 1920, and the fact that his daughter is carrying the torch he started carrying 36 years ago.
“It means a lot… this is an organization nearly 100 years old. It’s having to put in all the years I did,” said Klaas. “IEA means a lot to me. It was my start and it’s an important organization to the industry and community. For non-profit organizations it’s hard to be successful. (Founders of IEA) saw a willingness to come together as a group, saw value in networking and socializing. Monique has done a good job with everything, the awards banquet, and the humanitarian efforts. She’s really expanded on what had been done prior. She has taken IEA more into the community.”
Vinnie Figlioli, 38
General Manager, Harris Mechanical
By an early age Vincent James Figlioli III (Vinnie) had cultivated an interest in how things work, particularly on the mechanical side, with a goal of one day running his own shop.
“Ever since I was 14 I wanted to run my own mechanical company,” said Figlioli, a native of Marlborough, Mass. (32 miles west of Boston). “I remember playing with Matchbox cars as a kid and having my own mechanical shop. It was just something I was always interested in.”
One early experience that stands out was when the family’s dishwasher broke when he was 12, and he watched his mom shell out $75 hard-earned dollars to have it repaired. When the washing machine went south shortly thereafter, Figlioli asked his mom “do you want me to do it? I went down and fixed it.”
Figlioli attended a vocational high school where he studied HVAC and refrigeration, and during his junior and senior years he split time between traditional studies and shop work. Upon graduation he attended the Universal Technical Institute in Chicago where he finished at the top of his class and worked as a service technician. While in the Windy City, he took the opportunity to serve as a volunteer for his church, which introduced him to the Provo area.
“I came to Utah and fell in love with the people and the mountains,” he said. “After my service, I met my wife in Boston (she is a Sandy native) and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
Figlioli did light commercial and residential work when he initially moved to Utah for a couple of firms, dabbled in advertising consulting for a year, then worked for two significant local commercial mechanical firms before being recruited to work for Harris Mechanical’s Salt Lake office in March 2012. He also earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Utah in 2008.
He said his current role as General Manager is fulfilling and allows him to be involved with all aspects of the mechanical contracting industry, which is exactly what he envisioned 25 years ago.
“I really enjoy building a team locally here and enjoy working with owners and developers to find the best solutions for their needs,” he said. “I love doing design- build, where we can think outside the box and find new ways of doing things.” He said 70% of the firm’s work is from design-build projects.
“He’s got a nice balance of leadership, business and technical skills,” said Darrel Bugel, Senior V.P. for Harris Mechanical’s St. Paul headquarters, one of 11 Harris locations nationwide. “He’s very motivated – more as a visionary than just a tactical leader. Our business in Salt Lake City was a start up essentially and he’s built it up to where it is today. Our relationship is more about working together than hierarchal, which is refreshing.”
Figlioli has worked on dozens of interesting jobs in his career, most recently on projects like the Salt Lake Int’l Airport expansion buildings QTA and RSS, the Stein Eriksen Residences in Deer Valley, the Clift Building renovation in downtown Salt Lake, and various projects at Hill Air Force Base, including avionic cooling systems for F-35 aircrafts.
Under his watch the past four-plus years, he has taken the mechanical division from a virtual startup to a firm that is doing more than $20 million in revenue annually.
“I really enjoy my career at Harris and working with the teams we have,” he said. “It’s a remarkable group of people. I love being able to push myself to new levels and find new things the learn and ways to grow.”
KayyC Jolley, 38
President, Red Rock Demolition
KayC Jolley has never been one to shy away from hard work – an obvious prerequisite for someone working in construction demolition. That work ethic was spawned as a youth initially working on family farms in Nephi, and then at TID Demolition of North Salt Lake for 15-plus years as a laborer, estimator and project manager.
This past May, Jolley and partner Nick Martinez, 43, started Red Rock Demolition after considering making that leap the past couple of years. As co-owner of a business, Jolley has found himself wearing myriad hats the past six months – including getting back to working ‘in the trenches’ and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.
“I spent a lot of time on and around farms growing up…my assumption through watching my dad and uncles was you keep your head down, you work hard, you learn,” said Jolley. “From a young age I always wanted to start my own business and do my own thing. I started a family and had young kids…just kept putting it off. My wife came on board a few years ago and finally my youngest got to first grade, so we did it.”
He admitted it was “a little unnerving” going from the security of working for a good, stable company to basically starting over, although the experience thus far has been nothing but positive.
“To go out and do it on your own…you’re not sure if contractors are going to look at you as the same person and give you the work,” he said. “It was a stressful, scary situation to jump off and see what happens. Everybody else had way more confidence than me. I’m very conservative about certain things, cautious how quickly we hire people and grow.”
“He’s always been a hard worker and is really good at what he does,” said Martinez, who helped Jolley get a job at TID initially in 1997. Both men also spent two-plus years working on the I-15 Reconstruction project on cold weather protection/concrete crews for Wasatch Constructors before returning to TID. “He’s a good salesman, estimator…he takes everything he does seriously. I had no fear that he could bring in the work. He knows how to make friends all over the place.”
Things started out slowly for Red Rock, but quickly picked up steam and currently the company has six other full-time employees. Jolley said the firm is able to run 3-4 jobs at a time, depending on the size of the job. Beyond the physical nature of the work, being a demolition contractor comes with its own unique challenges.
“One of the tough things about demo is getting jobs to start when you want them to start,” Jolley said. “It’s easy to bid work… contractors don’t control start dates so it’s about how reactive you can be. It’s tough to forecast your workload. Somebody like a painter or a carpet guy, they can forecast three months in advance whereas a demo contractor can only foresee three to six weeks out. It’s a very nimble industry.”
“He’s one of the hardest working, most trustworthy people I’ve ever met,” said Scott Beck, CEO of CHG Healthcare Services, who met Jolley through the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah program when Jolley was 8 years old and has served as a mentor throughout his life. “He doesn’t have a formal college education so he’s learned and taught himself the business he’s in. I think what he’s done is remarkable.”
Beyond estimating and project management, Jolley has been acclimating back to being a “grunt” – the guy who busts down walls, tears out material, sweep floors, etc.
“Surprisingly, I forgot how difficult demo is,” he laughed. “I had a sore back and muscles the first few weeks going back in the field. All the paperwork and bid stuff is done in the twilight hours when the kids go to bed. I hunker down for 3-4 hours, do invoices, look at bids. The goal right now is to build the company up so we have enough foremen to do the 3-5 jobs we run at once. Long term, the goal is to build a company that employees are vested in, one they’re happy to work for and provide for their families. Finding and retaining employees is the challenge of our generation. This generation was told don’t be in construction – be a lawyer, be a banker. The best way to retain employees is to make them feel like the company is invested in them.”
Jessica Chappell, 34
Associate, Reaveley Engineers + Associates
Like many women who decide to make a career in the A/E/C industry, Jessica Chappell sees herself as a trailblazer of sorts, making significant inroads into a profession long dominated by men. An Associate and Senior Engineer for Salt Lake-based Reaveley Engineers + Associates (RE+A), she has spent her nearly 13-year career challenging stereotypes and proving that she is as capable, intelligent, and hard working as the next ‘guy’.
“We do face, as women, a different scenario,” said Chappell, who grew up in the Salt Lake Valley before attending college at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and graduating in 2004 with a B.S. in Structural Engineering. She worked for a small SoCal firm for eight months before moving back to Salt Lake to work at RE+A in January 2005. “I have a lot of good ideas. You have to get creative and recognize places to be more assertive or someone might look you over.”
Chappell is currently the lone female engineer at RE+A, and the first women tobeatthefirmlongenoughtobeona management track. She loves the profession and is committed to building a local network of women engineers who work in commercial design.
“I’ve had really great opportunities here – I’ve had to trail blaze a few things, but I really enjoy the people I work with,” she said. “I initially turned down a job with Reaveley and ended up hating the work. I had to call (former President) Parry Brown and say, ‘Parry, I made a mistake, please can you give me another shot?’ In Los Angeles I recognized the type of projects and caliber of work I wanted to do and recognized I would find that at Reaveley. I continually get gratifying work.”
Her aptitude for structural engineering has led her to work on several keynote projects in the health care market, and also for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including designing the steeple for the Cedar City LDS Temple. She performed a study of expected steeple behavior during a large seismic event including a nonlinear time history analysis, which led to a performance-based design utilizing viscous dampers at the base of the steeple. Her design reduces expected seismic damage while minimizing additional construction cost. The results of her study will be applied to future temples in high seismic areas throughout the world.
Regarding health care projects, one of Chappell’s first assignments at RE+A was serving as Project Engineer on the $102 million Riverton Hospital for Intermountain Healthcare. She also is managing design for a $33 million addition on the same campus, along with a $90 million expansion of Alta View Hospital in Sandy.
Chappell leads RE+A’s resiliency planning efforts and serves as Chair for a joint resiliency planning committee for the Structural Engineering Association of Utah (SEAU) and the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI). By the way, she also is the mother of two children, ages 7 and 3, which spurred her to write RE+A’s corporate maternity policy. All of these efforts, she hopes, will help other women realize they can thrive in a male-dominated field.
“In my mind the end goal is to provide a network where someone could ask how to deal with things,” she said, adding that she networks with a group of women that are primarily based on the west coast. “I follow them and try to keep tabs. I’m trying to make (networking) personal. You’re not alone out there, even if you are the only woman engineer in your office.”
“She’s one of the most dedicated people to her profession and career that I’ve ever seen,” said Dorian Adams, President of RE+A. “She’s a great change to that stereotypical introverted engineer. She’s fun to be around, intelligent – she’s got the whole package. If we could find more Jessica’s we’d gather them up. She’s able to juggle all the demands of her job and have a family life and take care of her husband and two kids. That’s very admirable to me, along with all the requirements and responsibilities she has here.”