Celebrating DPR Interns: Who We Build is as Important as What We Build

In 1992, DPR was barely two years old and Mike Humphrey, a senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, was impressed by a conversation he had with DPR representatives on campus. Although two other companies had already made him offers, he showed up at DPR over winter break and asked to help in any way that he could, whatever it took.

And that’s how DPR hired its very first intern.

At DPR, who we build is as important as what we build. In a very competitive market for talent, DPR has attracted and retained a highly motivated workforce by fostering a unique, empowered company culture. All this starts with our interns, the best and brightest construction management, construction engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering students from around the nation.

Interns across all regions go on getaway/decompression days, which include activities such as zip lining, river-rafting and hiking. Here, DPR’s SoCal interns go on an adventure along the treetops at Big Pines Ziplines. (Photo courtesy: Maisie Gwynne)

DPR college champions return to their alma maters (currently over 35 schools across the country) and engage students with 25-minute interviews, before second-round interviews take place in a DPR office location. The internship itself is like a three-month interview, in which both the students and the project teams get a chance to see if this would be a long-term fit. The DPR intern program has grown to include sophomores through seniors, so by the time many returning interns are graduating, they are able to fill open project engineer positions.

“College recruiting is instrumental in finding our new talent. It has a tremendous impact on DPR because we are building for the future. We are looking for people who embody our core values and have a genuine passion for construction, even if they don’t have a lot of experience yet,” said Rocky Moss, DPR’s national college recruiting champion.

And it’s working. One-third of our business unit leaders started their careers as DPR college recruits. In 2015, 83 percent of interns offered a full-time position accepted, and less than 1 percent of our 2015 college recruits involuntarily separated from DPR. 9 percent voluntarily separated, for reasons like returning back to school or moving to another state where DPR is not currently located.

“If you can do Class-4 rapids together, it really shows you that you can solve problems together in a real-world environment too. When they go back to their work lives, teams that have gone through these experiences feel more enjoyment, have each other’s backs and more camaraderie than when they left,” said Mike Humphrey. (Photo courtesy: Daniel Berson)

After Humphrey became a full-time project engineer on DPR’s first ground-up project, he continued to grow with DPR, becoming a project manager, preconstruction manager, part of the San Francisco Regional Management Team, regional manager of DPR’s San Francisco office and now, member of DPR’s Management Committee focusing on talent management, HR, training and recruiting.

“All we have is our people; we don’t sell a product. It starts with identifying them, hiring them, taking care of them as whole people, and tailoring opportunities to the individual, not pretending everyone is the same,” said Humphrey.

DPR’s Orlando interns organize a “Roast This” BBQ to raise funds for DPR’s Build a Backpack school supply drive. (Photo courtesy: Taylor Duffy)

The intern program is a large part of DPR’s culture of development. Not only does DPR want its employees to better themselves through constant self-development and learning, but we want them to learn how to develop others. The intern program offers second-year engineers a chance to grow their own leadership, listening and mentoring skills with interns, resulting in a culture driven by honesty, feedback, and decision-making power at the front lines, with interns receiving the same experience as engineers.

DPR is now filled with people who have the same persistent and bullet-smart self-initiative that led Humphrey to create a spot for himself at DPR 24 years ago.

“DPR used to just mean Doug, Peter and Ron, but at some point it transcended the names and became an idea, a point of view, a culture,” Humphrey said. “And through our hiring and talent development, we will protect that culture for decades to come.”

DPR’s Houston interns hit the racetrack in a go-kart racing competition. (Photo courtesy: Matthew Aversa)