Meet CBC 'future leader' honoree Jen Suerth

Meet CBC 'future leader' honoree Jen Suerth

This week, the Chicago Building Congress honors Mortenson Construction's Jen Suerth as one of its 'Future Leaders.' In June, Hard Hat Hub interviewed Suerth and published the following Q&A as part of its ongoing blog series, 'A View From My Hard Hat.'

HHH: Describe your current role and the path you took to get there

Jen: I am currently an Integrated Construction Coordinator for Mortenson Construction, and I’ve been with them for two years. My path started with receiving my undergraduate and masters degrees in Architecture from the University of Illinois, with a focus on structural engineering during my graduate studies.

I then began working as a Structural Engineer at Arup. Being one of the younger engineers in the office and one of the few with an architecture background, I found myself leading multiple discipline coordination during design and pushing the use of Revit on projects.

I did a lot of networking while there and am very involved in the ACE Mentoring program. Through that, I often crossed paths with my previous supervisor at Mortenson. That connection lead me here to my current role.

HHH: What’s your specific expertise?

Jen: I left the design side, but I still feel comfortable there and have that expertise. I also have experience in facility management, which allows me to understand the entire building cycle from design through construction to the end user. I’m confident in dealing with the structural side still, but like being a part of all stages and phases of a project.


HHH: What would you tell our readers that may have background in BIM or 3D modeling, but on the design side…Why work on the builder side?

Jen: Well, you get to touch all aspects of the building, whereas designers are primarily involved in the beginning stages of a project for their specific discipline only. People think that we (Integrated Construction Coordinators) just sit and model, but we do much more. We have to have knowledge of the building systems, as well as understand the model and technology enough to be able to leverage the information.

HHH: What’s the project you’re most proud of?

Jen: I would say the project I am currently working on is the one I am most proud of, which is the University of Chicago North Residence Hall and Dining Commons. Not only are we working with a very high profile architect (Studio Gang Architects), but we are also leveraging a new software, SysQue, and processes that have never been used in Chicago and is new to the industry. SysQue is an add-on to Revit that now allows our MEP trade partners to be able to model, detail, and fabricate directly from Revit. Before SysQue, our MEP trades needed to re-create a separate model in another software because Revit wasn't able to model at the level of detail they need and it didn't speak directly with their fabrication software. Using SysQue, we can now use ONE model for both design and fabrication. Since our project is design-build, our trades are working directly with the design team and creating the models that will not only be used for fabrication, but will also used for the Permit and Construction Document drawing sets. At the same time, we are reviewing and approving submittals before construction documents are even complete. Because of all of that, we are able to do full 3D building coordination before we even start construction and create construction documents using the actual equipment and layouts that will be installed in the field. It’s really great for us, because we see the industry heading in this direction, and since we are the first to use SysQue and this process in Chicago, people are looking to us for insights.

HHH: What three skills are most important to your role?

Jen: The first skill pertains to technology. I would say its important to have strong technical skills, but also an openness to new software and the ability to pick new things up fast.

Second, communication is a very strong skill to have. We interact with many different people on a project, and you have to have the ability to communicate to everyone - the foreman, architect, engineer - and so on. We also are involved with business development and training others, so being able to speak in front of various audiences, explaining processes, procedures and how tools can be leveraged for the project is important.

The third skill pertains to management. Although our title is not "Project Manager", we (Integrated Construction Coordinators) need to be able to manage ourselves and coordination on a project. Since we are all usually located on different project sites, being able to work independently and still follow through on deliverables is essential.

HHH: What’s the best career advice anyone’s ever given you?

Jen: I think the best advice anyone ever gave me was that too often, people spend time trying to determine a path. You determine your own path, no one else, and that path may change. My advice is to write your own description of a job you would love to have, and then go out and find a company that will let you mold that position.

HHH: When you’re not delivering cutting-edge technology to leading construction projects, how do you like to spend your time?

Jen: Right now, I am spending time renovating my new Chicago condo. I love to travel, check off things from my bucket list, and my friends know I am the go-to person for Chicago restaurant suggestions, so trying new places is definitely a hobby as well.

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