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'Future Leaders' model mentorship, tech integration

'Future Leaders' model mentorship, tech integration

by ROB McMANAMY | Oct 15, 2014

When the Chicago Building Congress this year decided to give out its first-ever 'Future Leaders' Awards, it could not have imagined how similar its separate male and female winners would end up being. In fact, they even work with each other in the Chicago office of  Mortenson Construction, a division of Minneapolis-based M.A. Mortenson Co.

"Totally a coincidence," said a smiling Barbara Krause, CBC executive director. Added Mortenson VP and General Manager Greg Werner, "When we heard the news, we couldn't believe that we had gone two for two."

By that, he meant that CBC's Future Leaders committee had independently chosen Andrew Stapleton and Jennifer Suerth as recipients of the awards, both because of their shared drive for excellence, their record of achievement on complex projects, their leadership in integrating technology across teams, and their commitment to mentoring, both on and off the job. 

"The criteria for the award included strong leadership skills, exceptional magnitude of growth, adherence to ethics and fairness, active in their community, and mentoring," explained CBC President James Sikich, CEO of Naperville-based J.A. Sikich Construction Guidance LLC.

Coincidentally, Stapleton and Suerth also are both technology leaders within Mortenson, and not just locally, either. Suerth, an "integrated construction coordinator" who holds separate engineering and architecture degrees from the University of Illinois, will be a featured speaker later this fall re BIM at the ENR FutureTech Conference in Atlanta. For his part, Stapleton's simple title of "construction executive" belies his own energetic influence within all of Mortenson. In 2005, he founded the firm's Chicago Integrated Delivery (CID) team, which includes Suerth and four other full-time coordinators who oversee Virtual Design and Construction (VCD) services.

Andrew Stapleton

Andrew Stapleton

The CID team now even trains Mortenson personnel throughout the country in helping them prepare for LEED AP certification exams within their regions. When they are not training others, the coordinators support project teams with integrated work plans (IWPs), for self-performed concrete, 3D MEP coordination, 4D models for job sites and business development, as well as quantity verification for preconstruction services. Stapleton admits that he first became hooked on 3D modeling and VDC while working on the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall project in Los Angeles 15 years ago.

Yesterday, he told the CBC luncheon audience that "construction is in my blood," noting that his grandfather for decades had operated the Stapleton Hardware store in Des Plaines IL. "The motto was, 'If We Don't Have It, We'll Get It," he recalled. His father's daily dedication remains a constant source of inspiration for him, as well as the popular leadership parable, The Servant, by James Hunter. "I try to be a model every day," he said. "Because I've learned that the only consequence in life comes not from what you say or think, but from what you do."

That zeal manifests itself in everything Stapleton does, even coaching his daughter's 5th grade basketball team. Noted an amused Werner, "I once heard him tell the girls, 'We play one kind of defense -- suffocating!'"

Regarding his professional life, Stapleton added, "This is an exciting time in our industry. Taking things like 3D modeling and 'augmented reality' and getting them out into the field is really going to be something. There are just a lot of things for us to be excited about today."

'What can I do to not just blend in?'

For her part, Suerth was introduced by Nancy Hamilton, now HOK's director of engineering services in Chicago, but a former colleague and boss at Arup.  She recalled Suerth as "incredibly dedicated" and an early advocate within Arup of incorporating and utilizing technology as much as possible. "Eight years ago, I remember her producing entire shop drawings that were paperless and in 3D," said Hamilton, recalling their work together on the world's tallest control tower project for the new Delta Terminal at New York's JFK International Airport.

Said Suerth, "When I was hired by Arup, I remember my professor and mentor calling me into his office and telling me that I was the only one of my classmates whom they had hired. So, he told me to remember, 'You will be representing the U. of I. there.'"

Jennifer Suerth

Jennifer Suerth

With that in mind, when she started the job, "I asked myself, "What can I do to not just blend in?'" she said.

Since then, she seems to be answering that question every day. One continuing theme has been service, both to her profession and her community. Suerth has been particularly active as volunteer and team leader with the ACE Mentorship program, and she is one of the original members still serving on the City of Hope Future Leaders Board, which this year raised more than $100,000 for medical research.

For more about Suerth, read her interview with HardHat Hub from earlier this year:


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