December 22, 2020
A group of builders talk about their project.
Jonathan Quezada, Lina Ortiz and Paul Dooley have different roles on this Florida Cancer Specialists project in Orlando, but their commitment to teamwork and communication allow them to learn from each other every day. Photo courtesy of Robert Andrescik

In Orlando, Florida, a team of DPR builders is hard at work on a new Florida Cancer Specialists location at the recently repurposed University of Central Florida Lake Nona Cancer Center facility, a comprehensive, one-stop cancer research and treatment center. Jonathan Quezada, Lina Ortiz and Paul Dooley each have a different role on the project, but like everyone else at DPR, consider themselves to be one team. They learn from each other every day, and their easy communication allows them to keep their projects moving forward.

Q: What are your roles at DPR and describe the paths you took to get there?

Ortiz: I’m a project engineer; I’ve been with DPR for about two-and-a-half years. I initially went to school for architecture, and while I was doing a Masters in Construction Management at the University of Florida, my school held a career fair. DPR was one of the main sponsors, so I did a lot of research on them. The projects DPR built really interested me.

Quezada: I’m a labor foreman in charge of some of the safety efforts we carry out on our jobsites. Before coming to DPR two years ago, I did maintenance in a hospital, and I’ve mainly worked on healthcare projects here at DPR. I do whatever I need to do to help keep projects on track.

Dooley: I’m a drywall foreman. I’ve been at DPR for five years, but I’ve been in the trade for 21. I started as a drywall hanger in 1999. After I had learned what I could about installing work, I wanted to take on more responsibility. So, I started reading the blueprints, and in 2008 I became a lead. By 2014, I was running my own jobs and have been doing so ever since.

A drywall foreman gestures to work being done overhead at a construction site.
Dooley credits being able to get along with people, helping them and asking them for help, with making his projects run smoothly. Photo courtesy of Robert Andrescik

Q: Why do you think being a self-performing general contractor makes a difference on a project?

Ortiz: It makes a lot of difference because you have people from your own team and from different trades working together on one project. We can start planning ahead since we’re the first ones on-site doing layout. That ultimately saves time and money because communication is easier.

Dooley: The customer knows we’re on-site actually doing the work and they know we have the resources we need to complete it. Everything they expect from us is 100% going to happen. We’re able to push the job. We’re one team, and that gives us flexibility. Look, I have a DPR hardhat. I have a DPR vest. I have a DPR mask. I pull up in a DPR truck. Even though I’m a drywall guy, someone will ask me a question about plumbing, and I’ll help them if I can. Since we’re all on the same team, we can help each other without jumping through organizational hoops, and things happen quicker.

Q: Was this experience different from other projects you worked on? How?

Ortiz: Jonathan and I worked together for this owner on our last project at The Villages. We performed well there, so they wanted to work with us again. This project is a bit smaller, but there are a lot of similarities. The customer was happy that the same team was going to work with them again and execute the project as well as we did for them in the past.

Two people consult at a building app on iPad while working on a construction site.
As a project engineer, Ortiz sees herself as the bridge connecting planning to work being done in the field. Photo courtesy of Robert Andrescik

Q: What did you learn from each other on this project?

Ortiz: I’m constantly asking questions. As a project engineer, you’re the bridge that connects to the field. A lot of solutions and new ways of doing things happen in the field. For instance, I had heard about a new way of framing one of our team members came up with, without having the door frames installed; you put a temporary wood template in place and frame around that. Then, when the frames are delivered, you just swap them out for the templates. That's just one example of the on-site innovations that happen all the time, and it allowed us to save a couple of weeks of schedule.

Q: Talk about a time in your career where you intervened to make the work on-site safer.

Quezada: I was working on a project that had some hard-to-reach areas. Some of our finishers were having a hard time getting to them and were standing on top of scissor lifts. When I noticed them, I intervened. We had a meeting with our Safety committee to come up with a better system that allowed for them to be tied off while doing the job. That’s how we do it at DPR; we work together as a team to come up with ideas together.

Q: What is one thing everyone can do to make the industry safer overall?

Ortiz: Safety starts on a personal level with wanting to keep yourself safe, but also with not wanting to cause harm to others. It’s not just about you; it’s about everyone else on the jobsite. One unsafe act can lead to other people getting hurt, and everybody deserves to go home to their families safely.

Quezada: One of the most important things is to make sure you really look over the work you’re doing. Don’t rush. Think through the work and consider any potential risks. Just be aware and pay attention every time, even if you’ve done the task a hundred times. It only takes a second for an incident to happen.

A group of construction workers take part in a stretch and flex exercise at a jobsite.
For Quezada, project success comes down to having a good attitude and being understanding of the diverse backgrounds of people on every project. Photo courtesy of Robert Andrescik

Q: If there was a language barrier, how did you overcome it? What were some things you did to help others overcome that barrier?

Ortiz: We all come from different backgrounds—I’m from Colombia—and even though we may speak the same language, we have different accents and different ways of speaking. You have to be open and ask people to explain things when you don’t understand. Otherwise, you might end up doing something you don’t mean to.

Quezada: Yes, that’s true. I’m Puerto Rican, so even though many of us speak Spanish, there are differences. Some pieces of equipment have different names in different regions. You just have to be open minded and understand that you’re working with people from different backgrounds.

Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?

Ortiz: Number one is communication. You have to be willing to ask questions—more than once if necessary—and to make sure everyone is on the same page. As long as there is open communication, if you can ask for help or offer help when needed, and be open and honest, you can solve any problems.

Quezada: A good attitude. If you’re dealing with people from different backgrounds and different countries, attitude has a lot to do with how well you work together. Be willing to work with other people, make sure everyone is on the same page and work with other trades.

Dooley: Teamwork. Being able to get along with people, helping them and asking them to help you, that really makes these jobs go a lot smoother. If it weren’t for the folks we have out there doing things right and caring about their work, we wouldn’t be able to turn out a good product. They’re everything. You can’t build a job by yourself. That’s all there is to it. We’re one team.

A construction worker finishes framing with a drill on a project.
Dooley, Ortiz and Quezada all express pride in their work, emphasizing that if you work hard, you can do whatever you want in your career at DPR. Photo courtesy of Robert Andrescik

Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?

Ortiz: No matter your level of education, you’re always able to make progress and learn every day. This is something I say to Jonathan a lot. There are so many things he knows from his past experiences that I have no idea about and would love to learn. And there are things I went to school for that he doesn’t know. If you’re passionate and willing to put in the work, you can move through the company and do whatever you want to do. Just work hard and you will see the end results.

Quezada: People notice when you put in the time. I can say, “See that place? I worked on that.” You have pride in what you do. You’re building things people notice. In this company, they want you to progress and become better. Right now, I’m taking blueprint reading and safety courses within DPR and I’m also doing a carpentry apprenticeship. These things just show that DPR cares. If you want to move up, they will not say no.

Dooley: It’s important to be reliable and hardworking. As long as you’re hardworking, the knowledge will come. And be open to learning experiences. You have to be willing to teach the next builder who might not know as much, and you never know who will teach you something. We’re one team, and I learn from the others on the jobsite all the time.