It’s Important to Joke Around with your Coworkers!

I think that those who laugh together will work well together and since I’ve been here at Turner, I’ve had many laughs with my fellow coworkers. This has created a relationship between us that allows us to have a sense of humor at work and gives us the ability to joke around with one another. It’s also important to know your audience and where the line is at all times so you don’t cross it. I would like to give an example of a recent laugh that we had that involved bringing sweets into the office.

Every Friday at Intel, there is an employee that brings doughnuts for the team and this is all expensable through Turner so you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket. The person who is suppose to do it every week is working nights so he won’t be able to do it, so he sent out an email asking for others to help. Here is the following email that he sent:


The time has come to decide who will acquire the single largest responsibility for the Turner Intel Team: Doughnut Duty. Unfortunately I am working nights this week, Calvin has Friday off, and Tyson has Jury Duty. Therefore, the torch must be passed on. Somebody will have a chance to show their greatness, their leadership, their courage, and most importantly – their dedication to Building the Future. The question is – who is ready to step up to the plate!?

It’s a task that nobody wants to bear on their shoulders but someone has to do it, so I decided it was my time. So I made this meme and then I hit “reply all”.

The #1 Rule to Follow as a New Hire: When in Rome, Do as the Romans Do

One thing I’ve discovered about working at Turner and Intel is that if you want to fit in then you must do as the Romans do. This ranges from all aspects of your job from the way you dress, the hours you show up to work, the main form of communication, how to greet one another, the level of “closeness” among coworkers, the boundary between personal life and professional life, and everything else. As soon as you get started with your company keep your eyes open for how everyone conducts themselves because these will be pointers on how you should act. With time you will learn what is appropriate for your company and what is not. When you’re unsure then err on the side of caution until you get confirmation either from your supervisor or empirical observations that your behavior/choices are acceptable. Time is the best teacher but there are other ways that you can prepare yourself like reading the company handbook. Your human resources manager will also be a great starting block as well. For example, before my first day I asked the HR manager what time should I report to work and what the dress code is. These small questions allowed me to come prepared for the first day without looking foolish like wearing a full suit onto the job site. Here are a few tips to getting adjusted as a new hire.

Follow the Dress Code, both informal and formal. One thing I’m always worried about whenever I enter a new place is dress code because that can lead to embarrassment and make you uncomfortable in your surrounding. From my previous experiences, when you’re not comfortable in the clothes you’re wearing then you have a more difficult time opening up and relaxing. As I mentioned before, ask your HR manager what the dress code is before you get on the project site or start your first day. If you want to get some first hand experience, ask them if your able to come in real quick to introduce yourself or perhaps if she can send you some pictures of your future employees at work in their normal attire. If your working for a big company and visiting a different office, realize that their dress code can differ from yours even if you are part of the same company. For example, employees at Turner’s New York business unit is expected to wear a tie, no exceptions. That is not a requirement in the Portland business unit but it’s little things like these that can really create a strong first impression. Look around at what your coworkers are wearing and dress to that level. I’ve heard people say dress for the job you want to have, but be cautious because if your boss dresses in a suit but nobody else does and you begin to then that might make you look bad in your coworkers eyes. Just always be conscious of your surroundings.

Always ask questions if you’re unsure of the norm. When I started working at the Intel campus I started to come in at work around 7 AM, take a half hour lunch then leave around 3:30 PM to hit my 8 hour limit; as a level one, we were only allowed to work 40 hours per week as part of a new hire policy Turner incorporated. I thought this was fine until I started getting some weird looks from my supervisor when I was leaving at 3:30 and luckily one of my coworkers told me that she was asking about my hours and suggested that I talk to my supervisor about my schedule. So I spoke to her the next day and told her my reasoning behind my current schedule. She explained to me that engineers usually get in at 8 AM then leave at 5 PM with a one hour lunch but she let me know that since it was slow I could keep my current schedule. She also warned me that when things picked up, I will need to adjust my schedule. This short conversation cleared up the air between us and now she knows why I leave early and I found her expectations. Over time I’ve come to understand that it doesn’t matter what time I leave as long as I get my work done and I let her know ahead of time if I’m going to leave earlier than usual.

Don’t rock the boat until you are the captain. Coming in as a new hire I know you want to change things up and show that you can make an immediate impact to the team. But for the first months or maybe even year, it’s best to sit back and just observe how your coworkers and bosses conduct themselves. Don’t be a know-it-all when it comes to changing processes or making suggestions. You will find out that many of your coworkers have been doing things the same way for years and they have a certain way they like to proceed with tasks. Follow their instructions and if you want to deviate from their plan, make sure you have a more valid reason than just wanting to try something new. I believe this piece of advice is very important because you don’t want to upset your supervisor. Demonstrate to them that you can follow directions and when you start to fully understand the workings behind the process then you will be in a better position to make suggestions.

New hires will always be eager to impress their new employers but sometimes it’s just best to sit back and observe and put your best foot forward when you’re asked to. Be prepared before you enter the job site and always be looking around at your coworkers and surroundings. Learn how to conduct yourself in meetings, informal discussions, how to greet others, and how your office is run. When you start your career just remember that you are in Rome and you should do as the Romans do.

The Importance of Email Etiquette

The first time I was introduced to emailing professionally was on my Sears internship and I thought I was doing things correctly but I still had a lot to learn. I would think other students don’t get experience with communicating through email with a professional until they enter college when they start discussing with their professors and teaching assistants about assignments. But even at that stage, it is still very informal and student’s don’t see the importance of rereading your emails for corrections and picking precise words for brevity and to convey the right message. That’s the reason I stress the importance of internships and other similar professional experience because it gives you an opportunity to see what it entails to write emails to customers, supervisors, high-level management, and other team members. Before I had internships, I knew the basics of email etiquette but when I worked on my internships is when I was really taught about the importance of using words to be concise and portray the message you want. For example, during my internship with Clark County I was writing an email to a contractor to make sure that he got his DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises, there are many different names for it but it’s basically to develop minority education) training in. There was a set date on when he had to have 100 hours of DBE training in, so I write in an email  “The Contractor should have 100 hours of training completed by 07/16/11.” My boss then tells me that it is too wishy washy and told me to change “should” to “will” that way the wording is more concrete. One piece of advice he told me was whenever I was having any correspondence with another professional I need to write like a lawyer and make sure that I’m absolutely clear because you never know when it can come back to you so you need to have your butt covered. So with that, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way regarding email correspondence and etiquette.

Before you hit SEND, remember that ANYONE can read your email. My supervisor would tell me horror stories about emails that have come back to haunt people and led to their termination.  Therefore, double check your grammar, words, punctuation, and if it makes sense or not. One thing I found that is really helpful is reading the email out loud; it really helps with finding mistakes and making sure you are using are instead of is when you’re suppose to. In our day and age, nothing is ever private so don’t send out something unless you don’t mind your mother reading it. One thing Turner tells us is that “You’re always wearing Turner Blue” so remember that when you send out an email it reflects not only you but your company as well; if you don’t represent your firm well then you soon won’t have a firm to represent.

Make sure you are CLEAR & CONCISE and get a second opinion before sending out any contract related emails. We talk to a lot of subcontractors about schedule, cost, and work and since we are their “bosses” and they take our word very seriously. This can lead to them misconstruing what we say and go against our wishes on purpose or by mistake. For example, it’s easy for miscommunication when you state that the project will be funded tomorrow and the contractor might mistake that for a green light and he starts work the same day but you must inform him that he cannot proceed until he gets a contract from you. There are a million examples of simple email exchanges that have lead to catastrophic mistakes because one person said one thing but the other interpreted it in a different way. Getting someone else’s opinion is extremely helpful because they can look at it objectively and provide a new pair of eyes to your email. For example, one of my coworkers asked me to look over his email and I saw that he used the word “scrambling” when referring to trying to make schedule so I told him to change that. He asked me why and I told him that it made us seem weak and unsure of what to do so we changed it to “working diligently.” It’s little things like that can make a huge difference in the eyes of your clients because this email was being sent to subs, the customer, and their bosses.

Create a professional looking signature. This is very important because it is usually a person’s first perception of how you conduct yourself and how professional you are. I’ve seen some horrible signatures with multiple pictures that adds clutter/attachments to the emails; you must remember that many people look at emails in more than one way so formatting that works over multiple platforms is important. I’ve found the best emails are very short and concise usually consisting of a person’s name, title, company, email, and cell. One advantage of having a signature is you don’t have to waste your recipient’s time by writing “Hi, my name is Khang with Turner Construction…” instead you can get their attention right away by stating the facts and what this email entails. If they wonder who you are, then they can look quickly at your signature and quickly figure it out. Remember, little things make a big difference.

Only cc the necessary people and contact the PROPER person. I didn’t know what email overload really was until I started working with Turner and on a typical day I can get over 100+ emails and even more when bids are due. I’m sure that the higher you are on the ladder, the higher your average daily email count will be. So if you want to get a prompt response then you need to learn to contact the right person or else it could get lost in their sea of emails. You’ll find that some people are very diligent with their inbox while others are stuck in a cluster**** and have a very difficult time responding to emails in a timely manner. So be courteous to your recipients by only sending them an email if it is pertinent to them and make sure you contact the person who is the decision maker or can get you into direct contact me that person.

These are only a few things I’ve learned throughout my internships and my short time with Turner. You will learn quickly how important email correspondence is to you being a successful employee and company representative. Practice it and make sure to be diligent, organized and also professional because people will take notice. Remember, when it comes to email, it’s the little things that make the biggest impact.

Being Receptive to Constructive Feedback

One great piece of advice I’ve heard from Randy Pausch (late professor at Carnegie Mellon) is “when you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.” This was a thought that came to me when I was driving back from a foreman’s meeting with my fellow engineer and he decided to give me some constructive feedback about my behavior. He was been a great coworker/teacher because I can truly tell he’s looking out for me through his many actions and the way he goes out of his way to teach me things about building construction; I truly believe that hereally wants to see me succeed. Before he started the conversation, he told me about a training he went to called “Training Young Leaders” and he said that it was necessary to give constructive feedback to help people grow or else they will get complacent with constant positive feedback. He then proceeded to tell me that he could see I really want to work hard and that I had great potential and will go far with Turner. After he built the cushion to drop me down on, he started to tell me about a few things I did that made me look unprofessional and also things that my immediate supervisor didn’t like.

First, he told me about a habit I’ve developed in college that I wasn’t realizing I did in meetings. I learned how to do a pen flip in college and that was what I would constantly do in lecture without ever realizing it. It seems that this habit transcended into my professional career and I was doing it during meetings without a thought. He told me this excessive movement made me seem nervous and it can be annoying to some people. Further, it made me look unprofessional by making it seem like I wasn’t paying attention. I never really thought of it that way before and I felt embarrassed when he told me but was also very grateful because it’s really difficult to see sometimes when you are stuck in the middle. It’s nice that somebody from the outside can pull you aside and tell you what the problems are because they have an objective view. I really appreciated him telling me about this because now I can be more conscious about what I do at meetings. As strange as it may seem to me still, I am a professional now and everything I do will be scrutinized by coworkers, subcontractors, clients and customers, my supervisor, and everybody else who is making a judgement about my character with every action I make.

The second piece of feedback had to deal with the same issue but this time it was more directly related to my supervisor. I sometimes make a clicking noise, similar to a beat boxing when I get bored and my coworker told me that this annoyed my supervisor. She had subtly mentioned it before but I never knew how much it really bothered her until my coworker told me she said to him in passing how it makes her really tick. Once again, I became more conscious about what I do in “down times” so I don’t seem unprofessional. It gets really difficult because when your mind starts to wander then you don’t pay attention to the little nuisances that consume your everyday life.

So my advice to you is to ask a close worker to give you candid feedback on any nuisances you do that tick them off or if they heard about things you do that tick other people off. It will be difficult to hear and you might just think those people are being anal but you must realize you are a professional and you should conduct yourself in that way. Nonchalant things to you might be a pet peeve to someone else – as I found out. Take one of your trusted coworkers aside and ask them for some constructive feedback and be prepared to receive it because in the end it will make you a better professional. Also, don’t forget to tell other people if they do things that you find annoying because you are probably not the only person being annoyed. Just do it tactfully and never embarrass  your coworker in front of others; have this conversation in private and explain to them your doing this because you respect them as a coworker and want to see them succeed. I believe these little things will truly help your career in the long run, I know it has already made a tremendous impact for me.

Financial Accounts Every Young Adult Needs ASAP

It still comes as a surprise to me when some of my friends don’t have checking accounts! I thought that was a basic financial account that everybody would be had but you would be surprised at how many college students and even graduates don’t have one. I believe that if personal finance was taught throughout high school then it would provide young adults with the proper tool to make decisions regarding college, credit card debt, and even their own retirement. Like many other schools, the closest class that my high school had to personal finance was economics classes. If you’ve ever taken an economics class in high school then you would know how ludicrous it would be to expect a teenager to use that knowledge and apply it to their own personal finances. I had to take the onus on myself to learn as much as I can about personal finance and I believe that has been one of the main reasons I’ve been able to handle my money so well. The only regret I have is not learning more about student loan debt and paying attention to that, but you live and you learn so I will definitely teach my daughters about student loans when her time comes. Below is a list of financial steps I believe every young adult should take just to get their foot in the door and also get some person experience about how the real world operates and runs.

Checking/Savings Account. I think I opened one at age 14 with my dad being the cosigner through US Bank. It was a checking/savings account combo and taught me a lot about interest rates and other basics like the information on a check, what an ATM was, loans, and direct deposits. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend opening a savings account with a big national bank because their rates are usually very dismal, for example my interest rate use to be half a percent of one percent… just think about that for a second. Your best bet would go through an online savings account like ING (where I currently have an account) or through a credit union. They usually offer better rates but you won’t see anything incredible like 2% or higher (my ING account is at .80%). But that’s okay because you shouldn’t be focusing your money in this account anyways because there are much better ways to grow your money. My ING account is for my emergency fund and is a great option because I’m getting some interest on money that I won’t use unless I need it.

Credit Card. This one is very important for your future financial knowledge and building your credit. I was very lucky that my mom  cosigned me onto a credit card when I was 15 and that helped build up my credit so that by the time I got into college I already had a credit history. It was also beneficial to my learning because my mom sat down with me and explained many things including APRs, minimum payments, rewards, cash advances, making minimum payments, and all the questions I could generate regarding credit cards. Building my credit history was the biggest advantage I had entering college because I could apply for my own credit card and build my credit further and at the same time I was responsible and knowledgeable enough to use the card appropriately. So explain to your parents or another cosigner to have trust in you and help you build your credit history as soon as you can.

Roth IRA. IRA stands for individual retirement account and there are two main ones which are the Roth IRA and traditional IRA. Their main differences is how the taxes are incurred and their eligibility is also based on your annual income. I chose the Roth IRA because the money you put in their grow tax deferred and will get taxed when you retire or at the age of 59 1/2 which at that time you should be in a relatively lower bracket rate. You can do more research on the two options but I would go with the Roth IRA due to it’s tax advantages. I opened my account at 16 with my dad as the cosigner and my main goal was because I wanted to invest in stocks but I didn’t want to pay taxes on capital gains or dividends. So I went to my local Scottrade office and opened a Roth IRA and started trading the same week. Once again, this was a great learning experience because it introduced me to the stock market, mutual funds, stock options, different ways to buy stocks, dividends, share prices, P/E ratios, how a company is run, and so many other things. For a high school student, I was pretty savvy about the financial world and I took great pride in that so I kept reading more books and doing more research on the topic. As a young adult, it’s difficult to be thinking about retirement at such a young age but it needs to be done and has to be done consciously. The sooner you start the better. I’ve been maxing out my IRA for the last 2 years and then contribute to my employer’s 401K so I have retirement in mind and would like to contribute more but I need to pay off my student loans first.

I think those are the three main financial steps every young adult should take to get familiar with the financial world and be more cognizant about how they spend their money. Just little steps like this will help snowball your interest in the topic and next thing you know you will understand all those jargon you hear from the credit card companies and banks. And once you get multiple cards and accounts then it’s great to tie everything together through one tool. I currently use and it’s fantastic because it provides me an overview of all my accounts in one webpage rather than having to log onto every account individually. If you’re serious about being on top of your personal finances then definitely use this tool. It also lets you create a budget, which I will post about later because you cannot financially succeed without a budget!

Great Things to Learn on Your Own Before Going to Work

After doing two internships and now working as a full time professional, there are a few things that has really helped me succeed and impress my supervisors and managers. The most important is your attitude but there are little things that can make you useful to your boss and your fellow coworkers.

Learn how to type accurately fast with the keyboard and 10-key. I learned how to use the 10-key pad in high school because I figured it would be helpful someday and spent a good two weeks perfecting my speed and accuracy on various websites. The skill has helped me tremendously because in my internships I had to do a lot of data entry whether it’s reports, change orders, RFIs, excel spread sheet with information, and just various paperwork. With the ability to enter data quickly, I was able to push through the paperwork faster than others and this was noticed because when you are a new hire people will use every interaction with you to create your foundation; you definitely want it to be a strong foundation! The ability to type accurately fast will pay for itself in leaps and bounds because no matter what job you have, you will be answering emails and writing various letters or whatever. I’ve spent a lot of time practicing typing accurately, fast, and also spelling correctly; this has made my life tremendously more efficient and I can complete more work at a faster rate. Spend the time to practice these skills because they are invaluable!

Become a master at Microsoft Excel. Without a doubt, Excel is the most powerful tool you can have in your arsenal when it comes to data entry, reporting, and anything that has to do with numbers. You need to learn all the tips & tricks of Excel to truly understand its usefulness. It might take a few months/years to learn the more difficult stuff like macros and writing scripts but when you need to simplify your data and make it presentable, it will truly come in handy. One way I’ve helped my boss and coworkers is by showing them Excel tricks they never knew about and believe me, there are a million short cuts to doing things in Excel that people just don’t know about. Once again, it all comes down to building a foundation for yourself as a new hire. Everybody uses Excel so if you are that person that people go to when they need help with it, then you will be highly regarded and valuable to your fellow coworkers and bosses.

Synergize yourself with Outlook Mail. I used Outlook on my internship with Clark County and it’s the mail service we use here at Turner Construction. For personal email I use Gmail but when it comes to the professional world, you will find that Outlook is king. It’s extremely helpful if you’re familiar with Outlook before you get on the job because everything is communicated through it and it has a lot more functions than your regular email service. It might take some tinkering because your inbox can get bombarded if you don’t know how to organize your emails correctly. Learn all the ins and outs of the Outlook Calendar from setting dates, recurring dates, setting up meetings, sharing your calendar, syncing your calendar, and anything that would help people be informed about what’s going on. I’ve come to rely heavily on my Outlook to plan out my day and I can tell you that everybody has done the same. With the frantic stuff that goes on in the day, Outlook helps you to focus everything together and let you know what you have going on from hour to hour. Learning how to tactfully respond to emails quickly will definitely give you an upper hand among your peers and get recognition from your managers.

These are just a few little things that you can do to make your transition to the professional world a strong one. Remember that you can only make a first impression once. Within the first few months, your supervisors will look at how you perform the small tasks to gauge your ability and if you can swim instead of treading water then you will see yourself getting more responsibility! Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!

Lessons I Learned From My Sears Internship

I spent the summer of my college junior year doing an internship for Sears Holdings Corporation as a college field intern for my local Sears store; it was located at the Clackamas Town Center Mall. The internship consisted of shadowing current assistant store managers with the hope that I will join their ranks when I graduated from college. My duties included approving price changes, handling customer issues, overseeing employee evaluations, support the assistant store managers, operations manager, and store manager, and anything else that the company needed. It was my first internship and it was a great experience that I will never forget because not only did I learn how to treat and handle customers, the internship provided me with the knowledge of what it’s like to work in an office environment. I learned what’s it like to work with coworkers who have different views; I also met good and bad coworkers and learned many things about the working world and life from them. There were a few exchanges that I had during the internship which stuck in my mind and made me think about how I should go about my career and life in general.

I had worked at Sears before but only as a seasonal sales associate during high school and my main job duties were just handling customer inquiries, working the cash register, and restocking merchandise. Therefore I remembered a little bit of how the register worked but I was still a novice at it so when I was asked to help with some “cash wraps” (the hub where the cash registers are located) because there was a long line of customers. I felt a little overwhelmed because I didn’t know how to look up prices if it didn’t show up or how to handle returns properly. So a customer line was starting to form behind my register so I asked a older fellow associate if she could help me and she responded “You’re young, you can figure it out yourself.” And I was shocked at her response because I thought she would help me. I later told a coworker about the incident and she told me that the person I asked for help doesn’t really like new employees and that was probably the reason for her rudeness. I was also wearing a blue lanyard which meant I’m a sales associate when managers wear red lanyards but I wasn’t given a red one because they had ran out. So a few days passed and that same sales associate came over to me and said she was sorry and that she didn’t know I was a manager. I wasn’t sure if I heard her correctly but then she followed up with some more apologies and asked if I needed help with anything… It definitely sheds a new light on how I viewed employees and how they treat each other and their supervisors. I was still very young at that time and I was surprised when she treated me completely different when she found out that I was a manager and not a regular sales associate. This taught me to treat all your employees the same no matter their position because you never know what they will achieve later in life or maybe that they already have that position but you just don’t know it.

One day I was eating lunch when a fellow coworker sits next to me and we start chatting it up. He sold shoes in the footwear department and has been working with Sears for several years now. He talked about his future plans and how he wanted to study architecture and also landscaping so that he could design every aspect of the building. I questioned him if that was a good idea since it might be easier to subcontract out one or the other and just focus on one field. His response was that he already had his mind set and believes this will help him become a better designer by learning every aspect. He then proceeded to ask me what kind of car I drive and I told him an old Toyota Camry. He said “Why is that I am only a few years older than you yet I drive a BMW and you don’t?” I was like WTF? Where did that come from but my response was “I don’t know man, I guess you got more style than me.” Lame response I know but I wasn’t going to say anything else because 1. I was a manager and 2. I really didn’t give a shit. At that point in my life, I had gained enough confidence in myself to know that I don’t need material possessions to validate anything in my life. I also knew I had a bright future ahead of me and if I wanted a BMW in the future, I don’t think I would have any problem affording one. As I look back on that conversation now, I have much more knowledge and I know the true cost of luxury cars. There are many people who buy them but they can’t actually “afford” them without sacrificing some part of their financial freedom. I’ve also read “The Millionaires Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko and learned the fact that the majority of millionaires spend around $32,000 for their cars because they don’t make good investment sense. I remembered my parent’s asking me what my dream car would be and I said a Honda S2000 and they asked me why I didn’t pick some grander car like a Ferrari. I responded that I really don’t need an expensive car to show people that I’m rich. All I want is the ability to be confident in myself so that I don’t need to rely on other people’s perception of me.

I really enjoyed my internship at Sears and especially the other managers I shadowed. The operations manager was my favorite and we got along very well; I would love to work with him in the future because we would joke around and gel very nicely. He also took me under his wing and showed me the ropes which I really appreciated. That was my first experience being a manager and it showed me what kind of people skills you needed to be a great one. It also required a lot of emotional intelligence and the ability to separate emotions from business. I hope that someday I can become a manager where others will respect me and be able to tell me what the candidly think so that we can make the business grow together.