This month’s employee spotlight is focused on Riley Paul, Project Assistant for J2H Partners. Riley tells us about how construction is in his blood and how having a big family has carried through to his career. Growing up on construction sites and looking up to his grandfather led him to his passion for the A/E/C and his career with J2H. Here’s what he had to say:
Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
I went to High Point University, which was great. I majored in Business Administration with a Sales and Marketing Minor. It was quite broad, but I took a few construction classes and that’s where I started to feel like I was pointing in the right direction.
Was there anything from college that you use daily and leverage in your career?
Yes – the sales department at High Point was awesome. They had CEOs come in and teach students not just how to sell, but how to interact with clients. They weren’t just teaching to a textbook. We were taught the five-minute speech which is essentially your elevator pitch. It’s who you are, what you do, and how you can help. This is handy when talking to clients and sub-contractors knowing the goal is to be as efficient with everyone’s time as possible.
What led you to J2H?
John Sadlik, Principal of J2H, has worked with my family’s business for years. I sent John my resume asking for coaching, and to my surprise, he invited me to start an internship with J2H Partners. I felt incredibly lucky for the internship knowing I could learn from three great industry leaders.
Tell me about your internship – what was that like?
It was a great learning experience – I was able to see all angles of the business by working directly with all three Principals. No day way was ever the same, which I enjoyed. I did everything: assisting with project management, administrative business tasks, shadowing the project team on-site, and meeting with clients. It gave me the full picture of where I could take my career if I joined J2H full-time.
Before I graduated college, I had another offer from a different company, but I knew I wanted to join J2H because the ability to learn and grow was far above the experience I could get anywhere else.
What’s the culture like within J2H?
I’ve always worked with people who are at least ten years more senior. I’ve felt disconnected in the past, but when it comes to J2H, I’ve never felt that way. You hear the word Principal, President or Partner, and usually, you’d be scared right out of college to talk to them.It’s not that way here. They have created such a family aspect within the company that you’re not afraid to talk and learn from each other – no matter where you are in the business.
Now that you’ve become full-time, what’s a day in the life of Riley look like?
I wear a few hats, but a major one is being an Assistant Project Manager. I work with different project managers and directors to help document meetings, keep track of project milestones and updates, and ensure everyone is on the same page. I’m also communicating with vendors and performing bid analysis to make sure we’re recommending cost-effective solutions for our clients. I support Marketing & Business Development as well, which is interesting because I get to see projects go from an initial RFP and proposal to being fully built out in their physical environments.
What types of projects are you working on?
Right now my projects range from commercial interiors to more technically complex agricultural grow facilities or data-centers – ranging anywhere from 1,000 sq. ft. to 200,000 sq. ft.
What are you learning the most about right now?
Data center projects are new to me. I’m just starting to grasp all the different security and compliance requirements, as well as all the unique lingo from PUEs to rack densities.
What would you say you leverage the most in your career now from your family owning a construction business?
I’m big on punch lists and the nit-picky guy that likes to make sure even the last 5% of a job is done well and closed out. I’m all about the details and making sure the client knows that things should be done a certain way and here’s how to fix it.
10 years down the road, where do you see yourself?
I see myself in commercial real estate, it runs through my blood. I’ll stay in construction and I hope to grow into a project director someday where I can run projects and work directly with clients.
Since your family is very entrepreneurial, do you have any aspirations to own your own business someday?
I do, but my true passion is cooking – I love cooking. I always wanted to open a little restaurant or a food truck. Maybe I’ll be able to project manage and then open one in my spare time.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
Chicken Alfredo is my most famous dish, everyone loves it. But my favorite, and probably the hardest, is paella.Getting the rice right is hard!
You’ve got a big family – tell me about them.
I’m the youngest of 4, but I have a brother-in-law and a soon-to-be sister-in-law - getting married in November, a nephew, and 3 nieces. We see each other 3 to 4 times a week and talk to each other every day. We have Sunday dinners with everyone – friends, family, everyone. Our table could fit 25 if we wanted it to. Being from an Italian family, you just know how to open that door and treat everyone like family.
I think that’s what made us so successful in business. A client isn’t just a client for 9 months – it’s the relationship that’s most important. We’ll continue to check in to make sure everything’s okay. That comes from my family. Relationships are most important and that’s what I hope to bring to this business.
Tell me more about your grandfather. I understand from our conversations that he’s your role model.
Yes, he’s my role model and best friend. He started his own contracting business 63 years ago. He works six days a week and only takes off on Sunday. He’s always worked so hard to make sure his family was taken care of and that is something that has stuck with his grandchildren to make sure we can provide the same opportunities for our families in the future.
He’s still working today at 84 years young. He’s up at 5 AM and goes home at 8 PM. He’s still on sites, he’s on ladders –it’s amazing. We all work so hard because he is such a role model for all of us.
Outside of work, we enjoy golfing on Sundays, and if we’re not on the course, then our family is all together in another way. It was all about family growing up and it still is to this day. He’s taught me a lot of life lessons that have applied through many things in my life.
What advice would you give someone starting their career?
Ask questions. Your teammates are there to help you. They want to see you succeed and no question is too small or too dumb to ask. The only way you’re going to get where you want to be is by asking questions. And the key is picking a company that you feel comfortable asking those questions.