Builders at our Core: Nam Hoang
The City of Pasadena has long been home to pioneering scientific educational institutions. DPR Superintendent Nam Hoang is making her mark on the city by leading the build of one more—a Life Sciences project showcasing first class laboratories and office space geared toward the discovery and implementation of life-saving therapies. While taking on the daily challenges, she and her fellow craftspeople are showing how self-perform crews execute at a high level, tackling complex project elements in ways that drive value.
Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there.
Hoang: I’m a superintendent on a Life Sciences project in Pasadena. I got interested in construction at my magnet, polytechnical high school in Oregon. We rotated through different fields and chose one to focus on the last two years. I chose residential electrical house wiring on the construction track. That experience, wiring wood framed houses, made me realize I did not want to be at a desk all day. So, in college, I studied construction engineering management. I was part of the Associated General Contractors of America group and got hired for a summer internship with a big GC in 2011.
After college, I became a project engineer and eventually became an assistant project manager, but I always wanted to be working in the field more. After about five years, I started doing some research to find a company that had a reputation for being a supportive place for women. I wanted to become a superintendent, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Once I came to DPR, I connected with a female project executive on a DPR women’s retreat and told her my story. As soon as she heard it, she helped me create a path to move into a field role. To get my start, we found a small project for me to run, and after that I began taking on more responsibility in the field. DPR supported me the whole way.
Q: What are some interesting aspects about the project you’re working on right now?
Hoang: This project is 80,000 square feet, about half of which is office space and half lab space. It’s very MEP heavy—a lot of mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection, along with five huge air handling units. We’ve had some challenges to work through, including supply chain issues that lengthened our wait for electrical panel interiors, as well as some design changes. The entire industry is also facing shortages of manpower and equipment, so creating workarounds and adjusting timing to continue to move forward without those parts and smarts has made this a challenging project. The client’s lease is ending on their current facility so we’re really pushing to deliver when they need us to.
Our scope for the project includes interior framing and drywall, ceiling baffles, acoustical ceiling, miscellaneous accessories and specialty wall finishes. Our SPW team finished the drywall scope strong and accelerated the schedule by using prefabricated milled drywall to create a long run of soffit through the entire length of the building. The only conditions left to install are the specialty products and ceiling tiles. The entire team onsite has gone above and beyond in every way and has developed a solid and collaborative relationship to get the job to the finish line.
Q: Why do you think being a self-performing general contractor makes a difference on a project?
Hoang: Being a self-performing contractor is absolutely helping on this project because it gives us more flexibility with scheduling around material delivery and other trades. Our SPW crew has always been great. They’ve always bent over backwards to get the job done. They jump around when needed. At DPR, our SPW team and the GC side have really become one and work together as one body. That makes work much more streamlined and easier to plan.
Q: What have you learned from your team members?
Hoang: I think I got lucky there. At DPR, I’m surrounded by superintendents who have always supported me. There are always people I can call on for help. There aren’t many female superintendents across the country for DPR, but we’re trying to change that, and there is a lot of support.
Workwise, what I’ve learned is that if there’s an issue or if you’re not aware of something, always raise your hand. The team has such diverse experiences that others might have the answer. The people who have been in the trades and moved into leadership roles have so much hands-on experience we can tap into. Just don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everybody is learning every day—don’t ever stop learning.
Q: What is your proudest moment at DPR?
Hoang: Finishing and getting the final sign-off on every project is always my proudest moment. It doesn’t matter how small or large a project is, getting it done on time, on budget, and with everyone safe is what makes me proud.
Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?
Hoang: I think the most important thing is people skills. Obviously, you need to know construction and the sequence of how things are built, but I think when it comes down to it, construction is really a people business. It doesn’t matter how smart you are if you don’t understand how to communicate and work with people.
Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?
Hoang: The most important thing is creating awareness. I think historically there has been a stigma behind construction and people not understanding the opportunities that are available in the field. If people are introduced earlier, they see that there are many routes to explore—and we also get paid pretty well. It’s important to know that there are always options. If I didn’t want to be a superintendent, I could pursue a project manager role. Get out there and figure out what you actually want to do because the last thing you want is to wake up in the morning and go to a job you hate.
Posted on March 5, 2023
Last Updated March 6, 2023