Todd Rider, Senior Project Manager, has been with C.W. Driver Companies for over 11 years working on a variety of projects including higher education, K-12, and civic/cultural facilities in the San Diego region.
What originally attracted you to the construction industry?
Construction has always been in my blood. My dad was a developer and started teaching me how to use construction equipment starting at 5-years-old. I always knew this was the industry for me. My first job ever was a laborer for a friend’s family-owned custom home building company. In high school, I had the dream of becoming a framing foreman. I ended up going to college for construction management since I could not get a degree in framing at Chico State. Before I had even graduated from college, I had worked at four different construction companies. I started at C.W. Driver unsure if I should take the superintendent route or the project management side.
Looking back on my career, I feel like I have a unique perspective of the construction industry. I understand the hard work and manual labor that goes into construction. This enables me to understand and appreciate everyone’s role on the jobsite. Additionally, working for many construction companies early in my career helped me discover what I need to be happy in my own career. C.W. Driver allows me to grow and explore an industry that I am passionate about.
What is the most rewarding project you have ever worked on? Why?
I have found a passion for Design-Build projects. While each project has its own challenges and rewards, this delivery method gives me the freedom to explore creative solutions daily. The collaborative nature of the Design-Build delivery method allows the project team to work alongside the architect, design partners, and subcontractors in a way no other delivery method allows for. To-date, I have been fortunate to work on four Design-Build projects. When challenges arise, we work together as a team, with limited barriers, to come up with the best solution for the betterment of the project. Having a collaborative approach in every aspect of the project from start to finish not only makes the project more successful, but it also makes the project more enjoyable.
Most recently, I worked on the Mission Hills – Hillcrest Library project. This Design-Build project involved design and construction of a 15,000 SF library space with two levels of underground parking. Some of the challenges that we faced included a tight budget, constrained site, and unforeseen subsurface utilities. Through collaborative problem solving and working as a team, we were able to provide an enhanced design, while still completing the project early and below budget. I am proud to say that the project had huge support by the local community at the grand opening, it has been recognized in several publications, and received multiple industry awards!
How does the delivery method of a project impact the way you do your job?
There is no one-size-fits-all delivery method. Each have their own pros and cons. Regardless of the delivery method, our general responsibility at C.W. Driver as a General Contractor/Construction Manager stays the same. We are responsible for constructing a building on time and on budget, while maintaining positive relations with the owner and subcontractors. The delivery method just changes the process of doing work. For example, under the CM – Multi Prime delivery method, the Construction Manager does not hold the subcontracts, pushing more construction related decisions onto the owner. This delivery method ensures the owner has control over every project decision. Additionally, the owner holds all of the risk and potential cost involved with construction challenges. On the other hand, the General Contractor leads the project under the Design-Build delivery method and holds all of the risk. All in all, the delivery method should be selected based on what degree of risk and level of involvement the owner is comfortable with, as well as what is being constructed.
As a DBIA Designated Design-Build Professional, what traits do you need to successfully complete a Design-Build project?
The ideal Design-Build team must be knowledgeable, trustworthy, and collaborative. Since all the risk on a Design-Build project falls onto the team, it is important all parties are well-versed and knowledgeable in their areas of expertise. No one person or company rules a Design-Build project. A strong team utilizes everyone’s expertise and is open to new ideas and approaches. It is also important that the Design-Build project manager is a strong leader who is actively involved in all aspects of the project. It is important that the project manager helps foster a collaborative and open environment. I personally prefer Design-Build projects even though we have more risk. Compared to other delivery methods there are fewer owner change orders and a more collaborative environment. The construction process becomes more about the design and the building itself rather than focusing on budget and numbers.
Who inspires you professionally?
Over the last 11 years, I have had many mentors at C.W. Driver. Norm Gilstrap, Senior Superintendent, was my first mentor. At first, I hated his guts. He would call me out and give me the run around about what I did wrong. Even when I had the right answer, he would challenge me in order teach me to be confident in the answer I gave. Over time, I came to appreciate his feedback. I understand now that he does not pick on just anyone. He saw something in me and desired to make me a better employee and person. The biggest lesson I have learned from Norm was that no matter how hard a project might be, everything still must get built at the end of the day. Scope gap is a big deal. Just because you cannot figure out an easy solution, it still must get done.
It is important to surround yourself with mentors and learn as much as you can. Strive to be the most knowledgeable person in the room but be humble enough to understand you are not. Take the high road, even when you do not want to. The construction industry is small, and you do not want to burn any bridges. Lastly, enjoy the people you work with and build them up. Pass on your lessons learned to the next generation. You can make a bigger impact in your career if you help your coworkers succeed too. At C.W. Driver, we have each other’s back and stand up for one another.