Gray Site Managers Turn Plans into Progress
A large, active construction site is not a familiar place for many. The coordination of man and material occurs at a scale that can be difficult to comprehend, and while the site’s bustling crews and massive equipment may seem overwhelming, each activity is driven by a meticulous level of organization and planning for safety and quality.
Nobody has greater insight into these inner workings than a Gray site manager. To get a better sense of what a career in site management is all about, we spoke to several leaders on Gray sites across the country.
“If you’re willing to work hard, the opportunity is there,” says senior site manager Brandon Ashley. “I started with Gray in 1999 doing concrete work. When a new project opened up in Alabama a few years later, Gray asked if I would be willing to travel. I jumped at the chance and have been busy ever since.”
The role is one of the most demanding in the industry—handling simultaneous complex tasks, constant status updates, and shifting schedules are everyday fare—but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
“Travel and constant communication are just part of the job,” adds Jody Boden, a Gray site manager currently on a large data center complex in Oregon. Jody has been with Gray for three years focused on site management in the Mission Critical market. “I’m always on the move, and I easily get 100 emails and 50–60 phone calls a day.”
“At the end of a project, all the hard work pays off,” says Brandon Melson, a Gray site manager for the last three years. “To see a finished facility and know that you were a part of it from the ground up is very gratifying.”
How would you define the responsibilities of a site manager?
Melson: You’re the name on the job; decisions are put onto your shoulders. You have to delegate responsibilities to the rest of your team members and follow up with them.
I started out as a field associate without much experience in the construction industry. I never realized how demanding site management could be; you have ownership of everything.
Boden: I manage all Gray team members on site and ensure that we provide a quality finished product for the customer that’s safe, on time, and under budget.
Ashley: There’s a lot of coordination and preliminary work, planning access into the facility for moving contractors around fluidly. I’m in constant communication with project managers and design managers. If we’re not talking at least three times a day, there’s something wrong!
What does your role look like day to day?
Melson: I’m currently on a project that’s going from start to completion in just 4.5 months, so things move fast. I chart a lot of tasks on whiteboards so we can understand our critical path for the day and meet with owners, project managers, and subcontractors to keep the project on schedule.
Boden: Gray projects tend to follow a normal sequence. But you have to communicate on a regular basis, because schedules shift and you need to be able to re-sequence tasks with everyone who’s affected.
Ashley: I start my day as the sun comes up. That quiet time gives me the chance to walk the job and plan what’s coming up in the next few days, weeks, and months before I meet with all my foremen at 6:30 a.m. to evaluate our plan of work and resolve potential subcontractor issues.
What do you like most about being a site manager?
Melson: I take pride in the responsibility and in helping my team members grow. It’s great to problem solve and see what we can achieve as a team in a fast-paced environment. It’s rewarding to look at a job well done.
Boden: You get to see everything happen on the project, from beginning to end. In between, you handle a lot of challenges and meet some great people.
Ashley: My favorite is the team building across the design, construction, and customer teams. I’ve been lucky throughout my career to work with a lot of good people. Many of them have moved up into site management. Being able to mentor them as they grow is a nice way to give back.
What are the greatest challenges of the job?
Melson: One of the biggest challenges is meeting schedules with aggressive schedules, which requires communication at virtually every hour; this constant contact took some adjustment.
Boden: You need the right people under you who can step in and not be afraid to make decisions. The challenge is learning about your people and trusting what they know.
Ashley: Every day is a different challenge, but when I solve a problem, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Across the company, supply chain delays and subcontractor manpower shortages can be difficult, but travel is probably the hardest part.
Why should somebody consider choosing site management as a career option for themselves?
Melson: It’s good to have camaraderie with your team members and to see a complex job come together. I enjoy building my knowledge with each new role and making sure we’re getting the quality execution we need.
Boden: If you like to be challenged, this is the right path. The process and end product are satisfying, and it feels good knowing that we’re sending people home safely each day.
There’s also room for growth. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it, so everyone has a prime opportunity to climb the ladder. I wish I’d have found Gray 20 years ago instead of three!
Ashley: It’s entirely different from an office atmosphere. It’s great to see a site go from being absolutely bare to housing a multimillion- or billion-dollar facility. If you like that kind of work and the effort it takes to get there, it’s a great, well-paying career to pursue.
What differentiates Gray from others in the industry?
Melson: They’re like family. When issues have arisen, Gray has helped take care of my family—no questions asked. I’ve received calls from executive leadership to see if there was anything I needed or to show appreciation whenever I’ve had to work a holiday.
Boden: They’re family-oriented. You’re not just a number; you have a name. It’s different than working for a larger company. Gray is growing fast, but they maintain their culture of taking care of people.
Ashley: Our safety culture is top of the industry, bar none. I believe that wholeheartedly. My uncles worked for Gray for many years; as a kid, I remember seeing t-shirts that touted zero lost time and the number of safe man-hours. We truly do live by our core values.
I often work with subs coming from other companies that say the same thing about Gray’s safety culture. That reputation speaks volumes for what we are and how we treat people.
What does it take to be a successful site manager?
Melson: You have to be well-rounded and understand how to adapt. Project tasks might not sequence exactly like you scheduled them, but you still have to hit that final goal.
Boden: As a leader, you have to provide opportunities for your team to learn and grow. I currently have two summer interns on site. We invest in them and show why Gray is a great company to work for by having them put pencil to paper, work with building plans, and learn through their mistakes. These aren’t opportunities that every company provides.
Ashley: When I first started, I felt like I needed to touch every single action item, but you have to put your trust in the people who are working with you. You’re going to get large, complex projects where it’s impossible for one person to hold all the knowledge and responsibility.
Beyond that, take pride in what you deliver to the customer. I’m proud to say that over 50% of my projects have been with repeat customers. It means a lot to have a customer that wants and expects to work with you again.
Gray is proud to serve our customers with the quality and speed they need to be successful, and we’re extremely grateful to our site managers who make it possible every day on projects across the world. Their dedication to delivering world-class facilities and developing strong, lasting relationships is a shining example of what makes the Gray Way stand out in the industry.