Interviewing for a project management position

Landscape Architecture for Landscape Architects Forums GENERAL DISCUSSION Interviewing for a project management position

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    Jonathan Smith, RLA

    I’m interviewing for a PM position with a high end design build company in Seattle next week.

    I own a design build company but have never worked for anyone else.

    What would you ask me?

    Eric Gilbey

    Jonathan, Good to seek feedback on this. I would ask what you would miss most about your role as owner, while transitioning to project manager. For example, do you expect to find it more fulfilling to focus your role on projects (specific sites, crew, clients and design teams), rather than on the wider, less intimate, role of owner?

    Jonathan Smith, RLA

    I’ll give you my initial response and maybe you can help me formulate a better one. 


    I’d definitely miss the drive that comes from hard work that results in benefits to my bottom line.

    I’d miss the flexibility that being self employed allows me (though this is only true in theory)

    I’d miss implementing my designs.  It’s very rewarding.


    What I won’t miss:

    Being the only person that has to deal with difficult clients.

    Doing everything.  Being the person who has to worry about all the books and state witholding reports, unemployment, workman’s comp, scheduling, materials estimation, fickle clients, etc. etc.


    Let me qualify this:  I have never worked for a design firm.  I live in a relatively small town that provides me with small budgets and inflexibility in material selection but a very educated population that is open to out of the box ideas. 


    I want a job that allows me to play one role ( though I know being a PM is complex ) of the design/build process, and work as part of a team.

    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    Project Manager is a very general term. Landscape architects generally equate it to meaning “contract administrator”, but it is a term that means tons of different things to different people, different professions, and different situations. A design/build landscape contractor could use the term for a construction crew team leader, or a designer/sales/logistic/client relationship/quality control person … or anything in between. What is the job description?

    Jonathan Smith, RLA

    Here’s the job description:



    Project Manager/Construction Manager Job Outline


    This position will be responsible for profitably running the construction division of. The construction division consists of two crews (3 people each), the truck and truck driver, and the special project/warranty technician. This position reports to

    Create project budget — Excel worksheet

    o Develop construction details and specifications as necessary with

    o Review budget with

    Write project budget, budget notes and contract – Excel worksheet and Word

    o Review with

    o Give to office for formatting

    Develop written project order of operations and schedule

    Safely manage multiple construction projects

    o Create necessary project documentation

    § Laminated plan package

    § Crew field book

    § Change orders

    o Conduct crew pre-construction meetings

    o Coordinate utility locates

    o Maintain up-to-date job binders and documentation

    o Attend site meetings

    o Schedule and coordinate all types of design required for construction

    o Generate and communicate necessary information/plans/details prior to these items being needed

    o Site visits as necessary to communicate information with foreman, solve problems, approve layout, check work, meet client, assure job is on schedule

    o Coordinate crew, truck and tools so each job is staffed properly

    o Coordinate and order job materials and machinery via  truck or vendor delivery

    o Schedule sub-contractors. Inspect sub-contractor work. Enforce sub-contractor jobsite rules.

    o Ongoing communication with  to resolve problems, detailing or pinch points

    o Ongoing review and approval of time sheets and job receipts

    o Weekly review of job time reports and job material reports and adjustment of schedule and construction methodology to keep project on-time and on-budget.

    o Ensure safety rules are followed

    o Monitor compliance with set regulation

    o Compile and present as-builts, manuals and operating instruction to client during final walk-through.

    o Monitor call-backs and warranty work

    o Maintain pro-active client –and project — communication via email and telephone


     Project Manager/Construction Manager Job Outline continued

    Manage work with foreman to make sure job progresses on budget and on schedule

    o Develop and present weekly crew schedule/goals tied to budget

    o Ongoing communication and planning with foreman to understand information and material that will be needed in the near future.

    o Clear communication with foreman assigning specific action items to project manager or foreman.

    Manage warranty/special projects technician

    Maintain up-to-date job board and schedule board

    Enforce and adhere to company policies, standards and safety guidelines

    Participate in construction staff reviews

    Identify area of weakness and work with  to develop a plan for improvement. Aid in implementation of plan

    Promote landscape maintenance services offered by company

    Aid in making  a safe, collaborative, place to work

    On-going communication with owner

    Eric Gilbey

    How many crew members did you manage as owner? Sounds like you were the sole designer…I also came into a new position about 4 years ago where I had to give up creating real designs that were pulled from the printer/off the desk to be immediately installed (still miss that so I know what you mean). The last statement probably is one that you can sink into a little more…as you admit it is complex. They might want to get your perspective on what you think you will be in for (aside from what the job description entails). For example, you may have the idea that you are narrowing your scope, while they may see it as a broadening of responsibilities merely because of the difference in the size of projects you implemented in your firm to the ones they are accustomed to handling. I think you have an advantage in that you have developed an understanding of the aspects of business that PMs do not traditionally get into, and that can help you as you coordinate your efforts with those who are managing the other sides of the business outside of your new scope.

    It may also serve you well to ask them questions about processes that you know are quite different, that both you and they know you will have to grow into. Though you have owned a business and managed that business, this is still professional development for you in your career as a landscape architect, and if they see that you will recognize this and appreciate the opportunity to grow, this will be received as a mutually beneficial situation. I think you already know some of this, so maybe I’m not handing out new perspectives.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    I’d want to know that you had direct experience in the construction of the types of projects that you would be about to manage. … mostly to know that the work crews and subs would respect your management.


    I’d want to know how, how much, and how many people you have directly managed in construction in the past.


    I’d be pushing a few buttons to see how assertive and confident you are as well.


    It almost sounds like the parent company is a retail nursery because they leave you everything beyond design/construction sales to the person/people in this project manager position. That leads me to think that they have a built in source for prospects such as a nursery. Prospects are empowering.

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