Interview with Clinton "Brooks" Herman - Construction PM

November 03, 2020 Walt Sparling Season 1 Episode 2
Interview with Clinton "Brooks" Herman - Construction PM
Show Notes Transcript

In This Episode:

 In this episode, I interviewed Clinton "Brooks" Herman, a construction project manager and certified PMP from Texas that works in the education sector.

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  • What is a Cyclotron?  - Link 



working, projects, construction, pmp, project managers, buildings, project management, francesca, called, texas, retail, utilized, cyclotron, outlook, helped, lab, email, world, brooks, walt


Walt Sparling, Intro, Brooks

Intro  00:12

Welcome to the PM-Mastery podcast. This podcast is all about helping you master your project management skills by sharing tips, tricks, tools, and training to get you to the next level while sharing the stories of other project managers on their journey in project management. And now here's your host Walt Sparling.

 Walt Sparling  00:36

Welcome to episode number two. Today we're interviewing Clinton Brooks Herman, who is a construction project manager in Texas. Welcome Clinton. So your name says Clinton Brooks  Herman. Do you prefer Clinton or Brooks?

 Brooks  00:52

I typically go by Brooks, but I understand I have three first names. So it's kind of a, I'll take what I get as long as it's one of the three of them.

 Walt Sparling  01:01

Good deal. Yeah, I get called Mr. Walt a lot. Okay, so I'm gonna go with Brooks. So Brooks, tell us a little bit about who you are.

 Brooks  01:09

Great. No, I appreciate it. I'm a fighting Texas Aggie, class of 2009 with a construction science degree, actually recently got married in May of 2020. And we've got two dogs, Ali and Stella and we live in the Houston Metro. 

 Walt Sparling  01:25

Good deal.

 Brooks  01:26

I started my career and kind of internship and starting K through 12 General Contractors back in 2009. That was in between the DFW Metro Marble Falls and Longview, Texas area, so kind of all over the state. Both were privately held commercial contractors, but one of them was family up. During the recession, though, though, it was a little delayed recession was roughly 2008 months initiated, but it took my job in 2010. So that put me on the road for searching, which led me into the retail world smart, small box with Francesca's women's boutique in 2011, which I never thought I would jump into retail, let alone a women's boutique. But it was definitely an amazing experience. I got to manage over 100 new relocations, outlets, and even some of their corporate projects throughout the nation. The company went publicly traded early on in my career there. And we helped grow to over 400 stores during my three and a half year tenure. And they helped me go from having been to eight states on a personal level to I think I have eight left.

 Walt Sparling  02:40

Can I assume that Hawaii and Alaska are two of them?

 Brooks  02:43

Hawaii is still on the list to go. I have been to Alaska, though.

 Walt Sparling  02:47

Beautiful up there.

 Brooks  02:49

Yes, it really is. I was fortunate though, during this time, I was appointed and asked to join the commercial construction renovation magazine, editorial board. And then I kind of got a call and wanted to jump from small box retail to the large box retail. And I jumped over to Academy sports and outdoors in 2014 managed a little over 20 of their ground ups, expansion projects, and they're mostly out in the southeast. The company had been family owned until a few years prior to my arrival. And definitely was interesting as this became a new slowed down the pace with the larger projects. I think we were doing eight-week turnarounds at Francesca's and we're doing three to six months with Academy. But this provided tilt-wall new experience, and well helped them to grow to 200 stores, which was definitely another small feat.

 Walt Sparling  03:44

Yeah, a lot. A lot of buildings here 400 stores 200 stores, a lot of projects,

 Brooks  03:50

Definitely stayed busy, then completely changed directions from retail and jumped over to higher education with UT Health when they called in 2017. I was able to acquire promotion with that to the senior facilities construction project manager working with roughly 2,000 faculty members and 5,000 staff to keep this Public Health Science Center running and active in the Texas Medical Center, which is the world's largest. We have roughly 11 members in the project management department including a director, project managers, administrative, and inspectors. And my reasoning to kind of jump over here was actually to see the inner workings of these institutional buildings.

 Walt Sparling  04:34

And you think they're much different than when you were working in the commercial retail.

 Brooks  04:39

It is definitely a unique experience. I used to just have to worry about putting the house AC on for Francesca's or rooftop unit for Academy and now I'm working with chillers and making sure there's chilled water coming in. So it's just on the air handling piece. It's been completely different.

 Walt Sparling  04:57

Cool, good exposure.

 Brooks  04:59

Definitely, they've also, I don't want to say push me, but really helped me to strive for my continuing education. The leadership really wants us to jump in there. So I've actually acquired my project management professional certificate from PMI PMP. And I think that's how Walt and I got to know each other.

 Walt Sparling  05:21

 Yes, it is.

 Brooks  05:22

 In preparation for that.

 Walt Sparling  05:24

Yeah, we did a boot camp,

 Brooks  05:26

Yep, and then I've also received my certified educational facilities professional certificate through APA. And I was accepted into an MBA program started back in May of 2020. I think just about done on course, number three, so I'm really looking forward to this. And then, while here, I've actually been able to join the construction Owners Association of America, and really gotten involved really enjoyed the group. And they've actually recently appointed me as the vice president of merging professionals for their Texas version, Texas group.

 Walt Sparling  06:03

Nice. So you've done your PMP. You've done your APA. And you're in your MBA program, which sounds like it's getting pretty close to near the end. You're on the editorial board for CCR, and you're a VP for at least the Texas group for the Construction Owners Association. 

 Brooks  06:28


 Walt Sparling  06:29

That sounds like a lot of paddles in the water there. So when you're not doing all that, what do you actually do every day?

 Brooks  06:38

So every day is honestly something new. We could be moving people in cubes to I've decommissioned a cyclotron replace and air handlers right now. And I've renovated some lab research space, and honestly, everything in between. So it's constantly something different and definitely a unique experience.

 Walt Sparling  07:01

Okay, so give us a little more about some of the projects that obviously you're they're very diverse, but you got any specific examples.

 Brooks  07:09

I have a couple. I'm actually working on a couple of research lab projects for our Department of Neurology and Department of microbiology and molecular genetics. These are two separate projects, but they're both pursuing breakthroughs in their respective fields. And these research projects are definitely unique. Lab research requirements in construction are a completely different ballgame from just a regular office space or retail space. So it's, it's been unique. Cool.

 Walt Sparling  07:40

So now, you mentioned earlier that you have 11 folks in your pm team.

 Brooks  07:47


 Walt Sparling  07:47

What other I mean, do they or are they doing the exact same stuff you're doing can tell us a little bit about the how that goes?

 Brooks  07:54

Definitely. So we have 11 members, we're kind of all over the board. We have mid-cycle renovations for our 1970s buildings, and we're replacing air handlers switch gears working on the indoor air quality and many other items in between. We also have deferred maintenance projects throughout our campus buildings. We're replacing pumps, chillers, light fixtures, and roof projects. And those random roof leaks that might come up, knock on wood, they don't come but we all have them. We're also working on our energy conservation opportunities or ECOS. And this is just trying to see how low we can get our energy consumption but still maintaining the proper atmospheres for our labs, offices, and classrooms. Were recommissioning buildings for current use, some of them might have been office space before and are being converted over to lab or vice versa. Mostly we're trying to gain lab space prices. Space is of a premium in the Texas Medical Center. We're also working on the offsets run schedules, economizer mode, which is utilizing the free cooling when outside temps and humidity allow which knock on wood, it's been some great weather recently here in Texas. And we have the nation's largest behavioral health academic center under construction right now called the UT Health continuum of care campus for behavioral health, owned by Texas Health Human Services and built and operated by UT Health

 Walt Sparling  09:24

Now is are all of these buildings. Obviously, you have some buildings that go back quite a ways which isn't uncommon for academics. Is this all one large campus or do you have any satellite campuses?

 Brooks  09:36

There are some satellite campuses to our School of Public Health and we also have something down in the Rio Grande Valley. But for the most part, the buildings that our project management team works on are here locally to the Houston or Texas Medical Center area. Okay,

 Walt Sparling  09:56

Cool. So you've done a lot. You do a lot Why do you do it? What drives you?

 Brooks  10:03

Well, that's an interesting question. building and designing honestly, it's been ingrained to me from a very young age. I've used to go and pre-K. And they asked me to stick around or come in early. So, not myself, my parents, I did get a choice in the matter. I just got to go and have fun, but build different items prior to parents night or the open houses. So kind of always had that thought. But I thought I wanted to become an architect after doing all that in the adult years, but more power to all of you that are, it's not my cup of tea. I was very fortunate when I landed in the construction science program, and loved all four years of it and still loving it to this day. Good deal.

 Walt Sparling  10:47

Yeah, I was going to be an architect as a child to way up through high school. But

 Brooks  10:53

I did an internship right at the end of high school thinking I was going to go be an architect.

 Walt Sparling  10:58

It's interesting how our lives change, 

 Brooks  11:01


 Walt Sparling  11:02

So what else about it? You know you said you really love it. So that's cool. And now you went to school for a construction science degree? Yes, sir. Was there a target was that program targeting you to be a construction manager or just give you general construction knowledge, what was the intent of that program.

 Brooks  11:23

So I know, the intent has changed since I was there, it definitely felt like they were more focused towards the project management side than, say, a superintendent. But I think they've really opened the doors over the years to broaden their horizons and development of upcoming individuals. But, most of my focus was definitely on project management, and it just seems to come naturally. 

 Walt Sparling  11:49

Okay. So you enjoy doing it. So it's, would you say you're famous, you make a lot of money, you got a lot of power, any of them?

 Brooks  12:01

I don't feel like I, maybe somebody out there thinks that, but I don't feel like I'm there. And I don't strive for any of these, I just, I want to be happy in what I do. And I really just enjoy construction and knowing how the systems work. So going for the money, the fame, and power, but that's not what it is for me. So.

 Walt Sparling  12:22

Okay, so that's good. So, you know, asking the questions about the school. And what you do and where you're, where you're from, and how you've changed over your career is important because the audience is - we have all levels.  You and I are both in construction. So we project manage construction projects, or I don't even actually manage the construction, I manage the people that manage the construction. It varies there, there are jobs out there that project managers can do that are completely separate; IT projects, health projects, a variety of things. So you got it definitely helps if you enjoy what you're doing. 

 Brooks  13:00

Mm hmm. That's for sure.

 Walt Sparling  13:02

So let's see, in order to do all this, and you've obviously grown you've you've done your PMP, which is like you said how we met, your gal with the editorial board in a magazine and our construction Association. I assume, though, somewhere in there, especially since you have to have your or keep up your PMP registration. What do you do to keep on top of your education and learning?

 Brooks  13:27

So glad you asked. at UT Health, we actually have access to a couple of items, one of them being a program called "Learn to Succeed", and another being LinkedIn Learning. I think everyone's probably more familiar with LinkedIn Learning.

 Walt Sparling  13:40

That used to be

 Brooks  13:42

Correct. And honestly, both these are great resources. And they've really helped me to kind of knock out some of those CE credits and keep moving forward. So don't have to worry about it when it comes up three years time at the PMP. 

 Walt Sparling  13:55

And there's a variety of ways that so LinkedIn is good, actually some podcasts Not this one, but some actually offer PDUs for listening to them, reading and do you actually get some credit? Because I know, by being a project manager, you actually get a credit or two just for having the title. And then if you write or participate in some, I would say after school things, but after work organizations, you can get additional PDUs use for doing that. Have you looked into that?

 Brooks  14:29

Yes - So I don't actively write articles or anything like that, at least I have not yet. But obviously, I do take advantage of the credit hours or PD use that they give you for just being in the role that is the same as what they're offering. So if it's project management professional, it's being a project manager and truly managing projects. And it doesn't necessarily mean you have that title because everybody manages projects. You just have to be able to implement it properly.

 Walt Sparling  15:00

Right. All right. So LinkedIn, then work. What about do you do any other to do conferences? You obviously, you're getting your MBA? And what does that MBA that's just a part of me, I don't have an MBA or even a Bachelor's for that matter. What is there a specific focus in there? Or is it just for general business?

 Brooks  15:23

So the MBA program I'm going after is a focus on international business, but they're just short seven-week courses. And these actually, I believe, each credit hours worth 10 PDUs. Don't hold me to that, though. I know for my CEFP does allow me, so each course is roughly three hours. So I usually get 30 credits towards my continuing education for those.

 Walt Sparling  15:50

So that's awesome.

 Brooks  15:51

Yeah, no, I definitely getting in the MBA program, and needing the CES makes it a lot easier. But I will not say the MBA program is easy by any means.

 Walt Sparling  16:00

No, so what about challenges? Do you have any big challenges or maybe a specific challenge that you could talk to?

 Brooks  16:09

So I think COVID-19 has probably been the biggest challenge for everybody right now, I think we might be finally coming to find out what the quote-unquote new normal is. But it's definitely been very unique. And I'm hoping everyone's continuing to stay safe and keep their families safe. But honestly, in reality, my current biggest challenge in the new world of laboratory research projects, what we kind of discussed earlier, it's completely different terminology and challenges that come with the specific world of labs and research from negative and positive pressure, which you didn't necessarily have to worry about in the retail world or even office buildings you do to an extent but not to you don't want to cause an issue with somebody research while you're doing the construction or even after the construction. But I'm used to fast-paced projects. And there you have to slow down and step back and make sure you watch and catch every single detail.

 Walt Sparling  17:12

All right. And that can be challenging if you don't for some that don't have that mindset.

 Brooks  17:17


 Walt Sparling  17:18

So what about you are using some tools to do your job? So do you have any specific favorites?

 Brooks  17:25

Honestly, I don't have anything too fancy. Some people are probably hoping, oh, yeah, tell me something fancy here. But I mean, I've got an iPhone 10. I have a DELL Laptop that work provided. And everything I tried to do is get it digitized. As soon as I can. If I took handwritten notes from a meeting, I try to scan those in and get them typed up and issued out as meeting notes as soon as possible. And emailed out to everybody. I do have access to an iPad Pro, it does have its advantages. But most of the time, my cell phones right there sitting in my back pocket, and I can just knock around and get through everything that I need to get through for the most part. Okay, Microsoft Outlook has a feature that I didn't get to utilize at my last employer called flags. And it's been extremely useful that allows me to clear up my inbox every single day, assuming it's clear at 5 pm, somebody sends me something on the drive home. That's a whole other story. But I used to always have tons of emails in there. And that really can cause issues to turn around and just relax for a day or take a breather at the end of the workday. So.

 Walt Sparling  18:38

Yeah, I'm sure - Outlook is not a favorite tool of a lot of folks email in general. Outlook is pretty powerful. I love Outlook. I like some of the advanced features that it offers. I know that down the road, we're going to do some more discussions on, you know, process efficiency and organization. And there's definitely going to be some sessions that are focused on, if not interviews, also some blog posts that are on Outlook, because it is so commonly used.

 Brooks  19:10

And very feature-rich.

 Walt Sparling  19:12

Yes. All right. So you flag your emails, and you walk away with an empty email box.

 Brooks  19:19

It is a very nice thing. Definitely, something I've heard is not the norm, but I strive to do it every day. And I even use those flags to an extent where if I want to remember something, but I don't want to have to write it down or try and remember it tomorrow and 12 hours when I'm back in the office, I'll send myself an email, and then off like that as

 Walt Sparling  19:41

Right. I've done that as well. It's nice when you're sitting there and you want to get something out. You just send yourself an email, and now it's in your inbox in the morning.

 Brooks  19:50

Yep, doesn't have to be fancy. It's not like you're sending it to your boss.

 Walt Sparling  19:54

Nope. Sometimes it's just what's in the subject line. 

 Brooks  19:57


 Walt Sparling  19:57

So what about any other tools that you may have used in the past that you don't have a need for now that you really liked, because you've obviously changed jobs a few times and changed your, what you do every day.

 Brooks  20:11

So in the retail life, we had something a little bit fancier to be able to use, we could somehow figure out how to use it. But it'd be more on our maintenance team with UT Health, but I don't think we're quite there yet. But we use a used an app called Iauditor. And we unified all of our inspections among the PMs. So we all are looking for the same thing, if we had a rear exit door, we made sure that there was a crash bar, and then there's an alarm for that crash bar. So we didn't miss anything. And we could even send out our real estate folks, if we weren't in the market or available, we could send them with our Iauditor. And they could actually do the remote punch the punch list for us. And we even got to a point we're able to do remote punch lists via FaceTime, or Skype, or any other video platform that you can get your superintendent on.

 Walt Sparling  21:08

Yeah, there are some cool ones. I've seen some demos recently, on video of software just like that I can something, I know I just saw when a few months ago doesn't come to mind. But it's very similar to that where you actually have the superintendent walk around and show you items and you can flag them and it will mark it on the plan. It's pretty sweet stuff.

 Brooks  21:27


 Walt Sparling  21:28

So any final thoughts on the tools?

 Brooks  21:33

Honestly. So I've always prided myself on thinking outside the box. And I like to think how Bill Gates sees how to quote, he chooses a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it doesn't mean the person is lazy. This just means that they're looking for the best or fastest route to the end, I used Iauditor to figure out how to not necessarily have to travel and have some more personal time. And, on top of that, the employer didn't have to output as much capital, maybe a little front end costs with the Iauditor app and the iPad that was necessary. But it ends up working out because they don't have to fly me somewhere and spend $1,000 a trip or whatever the cost is per trip.

 Walt Sparling  22:21

That's cool, and the PMS that have been around a while and those that are going to be getting into doing projects, you're going to find little tips and tricks that are going to make your work go faster. And you'll appreciate it and so will your employer. Alright, so a lot of good information here. Construction management and you're involved in a lot of things outside of your job. So you don't just go nine to five and sit on the couch, which is good, you're still working on your future growth, which is what we stress here is you get you gotta, if you want to improve, you got to keep growing, you got to keep learning. So one of.

 Brooks  23:01

Definitely, I agree.

 Walt Sparling  23:02

One of the things that I like to do with my team is and it was something that I just fell on by accident. I had a little Did you know, slide something like to break things up? And it was just like a random fact. And I did it two or three meetings, and then I didn't do it. And then everybody's like, Hey, where's the Did you know? Oh, I didn't do one. Oh, we like that. We always learned something. So I started doing it all the time. So what I'd like to do is at the end of each one of these podcasts is kind of do the same thing, because you never know what kind of cool things you're going to learn about from someone you've never met. So, is there something that you can think of that you could say is, uh, did you know and, and educate us on something?

 Brooks  23:47

Well, first off, Walt, I think this is a great idea and actually something I'd be interested in implementing with my project management team. I'll be talking to my director about this. But earlier, we talked about the cyclotron decommission, most people probably don't know what a cyclotron is, I'll be the first one to say I really didn't know until I get done with that project. So, but, a cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator. And the systems have been used, currently in use. And they are obviously created in history. But they're particle therapy to treat cancer, or they get utilized for PT or pet imaging. These are very useful machines in the medical and research world. And I've actually got a link there if you don't mind sending that out, while about our Dr. Gould, who helped implement the cyclotron there at UT Health and got it there, as well as utilized it for all the research.

 Walt Sparling  24:43

Absolutely. So when I publish this, there'll be some show notes, and I'll include that link in there. Also some other links on maybe this Iauditor, and I love that quote that you put down there for Bill Gates. Yes, and other good tidbits. All right. That down there.

 Brooks  25:01

Oh - great.

 Walt Sparling  25:02

Well, I appreciate your time. And like I said earlier, the whole point of this is to kind of show what kind of jobs are out there in the industry as a pm. And we're going to interview a variety of folks, because of my proximity to construction management, there will be a lot of those. But I'm hoping to branch out and I'm hoping through the connections will meet more people that do different industries. I do know some folks in the IT world. So I'm trying to get some IT managers, we actually have an interview coming up with a referral from you. which his name is Shawn, I believe that's coming up later this week. So I'm anxious to chat with him about what he does.

 Brooks  25:45

Now. That should be good. And I've definitely enjoyed this and look forward to seeing how it develops.

 Walt Sparling  25:51

Well, I appreciate you spending the time with us. And I'm sure we'll have you back because we'll do some, maybe some special episodes on tools. And I definitely think when we get into doing the Outlook stuff that we need to maybe do a little more deep dive on your zero inbox because that is the dream of everyone. So I think you might have some tips that our listeners could use.

 Brooks  26:15

Yeah, we can definitely talk about that.

 Walt Sparling  26:18

All right. Well, that being said, Thank you for coming. And for everyone else. We'll see you in the next episode of PM-Mastery. Thanks.