In This Episode:
In this episode, I interviewed Nacole Caputo, a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Project Manager from Tampa, Florida. Nacole is an experienced project manager in the environmental industry.
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Did you Know?
people, reading, project management, asbestos, industrial hygienist, led flashlight, project managers, interview, hazardous materials
Walt Sparling, Nicole Caputo
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
All right. Welcome, everyone to the current edition of pm mastery. Today we have a special treat. We have Nicole Caputo, Did I pronounce that right, Nicole?
Nicole Caputo 00:46
Yes, you did.
Walt Sparling 00:47
Awesome. Nicole is in a slightly different industry than most of the folks we've spoken to. She is an industrial, certified industrial hygienist. She is from our grew up in Pennsylvania. she now lives in Tampa. And she's been married for 20 years and has a five-year-old son. So I am going to kind of turn it over to Nicole and Nicole, we're going to start out with a little bit tell us what it is you do.
Nicole Caputo 01:18
I am a certified industrial hygienist and a lot of people get that confused with a dental hygienist or something similar to that. But basically, I make sure that other people at work are safe. So that's the industrial part of it, and hygenist being the, you know, safe working environment. So that can process a lot of different facets, a lot of different industries, one day I can be in an office, very clean environment, another day can be at a school, another day, it can be out of power plant or, you know, at a welding facility or some sort of manufacturing facility. So I get to see a lot of different places, and I have to learn on the fly and make sure that I'm doing everything that the client requests to make sure that their workers are safe.
Walt Sparling 02:07
Awesome. So and I know some people are going okay, what does this have to do with project management? So you and I have met a few times, actually. And part of your job is project management because you do a lot of projects. In fact, we met because you work on projects for my customer.
Nicole Caputo 02:31
Walt Sparling 02:32
So tell us a little bit about your company, and maybe a little bit about how you deal with Project Management. Sure.
Nicole Caputo 02:39
I work for a company called the Vertex Companies is an AEC firm headquartered in Weymouth, Massachusetts. It's an employee-owned company with about 600 employees across North America. We do have a Health and Safety Department in there, and I help with that, but that's not my job. My job is actual project management. And I had the parts of the project that need to be safe. And that can be a wide variety of things again, but yeah, generally has to do with hazardous materials. So our construction department might be dealing with something where they are going to be building on a lot, and that lot has really dirty land. And depending on where you're doing that in the state of Florida, there are different departments and cities and counties that will require that land get tested, if that test comes back. And the land has a certain type of hazards in it, say heavy metals or poly carbonated or polychlorinated by fennels or different types of hazards. When they're digging up, that dirt that could get into the air. And so the whole one certified industrial hygienists to make sure that that's not getting into the air, we had a project that actually was being built like that, and it was right next to a daycare. So you can imagine the daycare was concerned that they wanted to make sure that dirt didn't get over to their site, and cause a problem. So that's just one instance. But it could be with the forensics team, they could be investigating an insurance claim. And the insurance claim, you know, they might be worried about the structure of the building. But if the structure of the building has some mold on it, then they need somebody that knows about mold and that hazardous material. And maybe the building's too old or old enough that it has asbestos in it, or lead-based paint. So we have to look at it from that perspective. So I manage the project on that side. And so I'll have to schedule the resources. Sometimes I do it myself because it requires somebody with more years of experience. Sometimes I have a technician-level person do it. Sometimes we write specifications on how to remove it. Sometimes we hire subcontractors. So there are so many different parts of project management that I have to touch on just depending on the project and I have to coordinate with other departments in the company to get that done.
Walt Sparling 05:00
Awesome. And yes, we've actually worked with you for quite a few years, even though we've only met a couple of times. And you've helped with all of those things, testing materials, giving us remediation plans. So you're an important part of our team.
Nicole Caputo 05:20
Nobody likes to have hazardous materials on their project site. But it's the world we live in. We probably manufacture them today. And we'll learn about them 1020 years from now, and then have to remove them all over again. But it's just the way that the world works. And I always say that people would rather run into me at the grocery store I have been having on their project, but it is a necessity.
Walt Sparling 05:42
Yeah. A perfect example of that is asbestos.
Nicole Caputo 05:45
Walt Sparling 05:46
You know, that was a fantastic material back in the day, all the things that it could do until I found out about the bad stuff. Now, we spent a good chunk of our time making sure it's gone, or that we don't have it.
Nicole Caputo 05:57
Yes. And the interesting thing about that is that the products that have asbestos in it actually last longer than the newer products. So I've had some clients that would prefer to keep the asbestos, keep it in place and save, rather than remove it just because it lasts longer.
Walt Sparling 06:13
That's an interesting industry. Why? Why do you do this? What drives you?
Nicole Caputo 06:19
I love that question. I really do every time anybody asked me because I love what I do. And I don't know many people that can say that. The first thing is that I always had to be thinking, I always get to move to the next thing, the next project. But the main thing is that my job has a purpose. And I think you hear on the news, a lot of people, a lot of doctors and researchers, they're trying to cure cancer. But in some regards, in many regards, I'm trying to prevent it from happening in the first place. And I think that's really pretty cool thing to say, especially my mother has cancer and so much, you know, she's proud of her daughter when she says that. But I also saw firsthand how an occupational illness can hurt somebody I had, my grandfather works very heavily in the 60s and 70s, when asbestos and some of these heavy metals were very prevalent in many of the building materials and in automobiles. And he worked on all of that he built houses, he demolished houses, and a lot of them had asbestos in it. And they may not have specifically diagnosed him with asbestosis, but he died because his lung capacity decreased so much, that he couldn't breathe anymore. And I got to watch him take his last breath. And, you know, I truly believe that it was because of the working environment that he was in for several years.
Walt Sparling 07:40
Yea, and that's sad and unfortunate. There are so many people that have gone through that. And it's great that you're actually helping prevent that in the future.
Nicole Caputo 07:51
Walt Sparling 07:52
Now, keeping up with this stuff, and keeping up with not just the industry, but how to do your job. How do you continue to learn and stay on top of things.
Nicole Caputo 08:03
It's a never-ending battle. But it's not a battle that I prefer to necessarily win. It's just when I want to continue moving on with it, you have to stay on top of these things. I think in any industry, anything you do, I think one of the greatest pieces of advice is to continuously read, you know, even if you're just reading for leisure, that's fine. Usually, there are some tidbits of good information in there. But read on the topics that interest you, and maybe make a list of five to 10 topics that interest you doesn't even have to be about your job or read about them. Luckily, in industrial hygiene, there are so many different topics, you know, noise and hexavalent, chromium, and radiation. And, you know, there's a lot of it that I don't know everything about it. So I get to, you know, change course every once in a while and read up on something I don't know about. So I love that. But I've also been on the board for the Florida chapter of the American industrial hygiene Association for five years. I'm actually the current immediate past president. So this will be my last year. But I plan to move on to the National AIHA, the American industrial hygiene Association and do some volunteer work with them. So being part of that organization, we put on two conferences a year, last year was a challenge because I got to be the first one to do virtual conferences. So I learned a lot doing that, but we get the presenters to come on. So we usually watch them and were a part of those presentations. We learn about those each year. Not to mention just reading constantly reading the different magazines and programs. I give presentations back in that way, way day one in your client. I did give a presentation. I think about asbestos. So I'll do different types of presentations throughout the years. And presently I'm reading I like some of the self-improvement books. Not because I feel like I need to Huge self-improvement. But I think we should always improve ourselves. And I'm currently reading the seven decisions by Andy Andrews. I don't know if you've heard of that one. I have not. But they do have a decision. And they're one of the decisions is the guided decision. And that's basically the decision to seek wisdom is states the understanding that God moves mountains to create opportunity for us, but we must be ready to improve ourselves. And just keep reading. Got to keep reading.
Walt Sparling 10:28
Oh, absolutely. That's one of the biggest things I think I see it, and I'm disappointed in people, they go to school, and then they get a job. And then they stop. And they just do their job. And they, they might do training that's, you know, pushed on them at work. But so many don't continue to learn. And there's so much out there that you can learn and as you said, it doesn't even have to be work-related. a hobby or something or just I, I spent a ton of time doing self-improvement books. But about twice a year, I just take a break. And I read fiction, just to break it up some but I continue to read. So I think it's great. And I will definitely add that book to our show notes at the end and check it out. Challenges, every job has challenges, what are some of the ones that you deal with?
Nicole Caputo 11:19
Well, right now, I don't want to make this a big political rant. But right now, I think a lot of other people are experiencing this challenge. And it's, it's hiring somebody. So I currently have somebody who this is their last week working with me. And I've worked with him for almost five years. And it's bittersweet because I'm really proud of him. He's a young professional, and he's moving on. Just he's just moving to another location that our company can't keep him on. So he's going, unfortunately, to a competitor, but he's not leaving for any will ill or anything like that. So it's bittersweet, cuz I'm proud of him, he's learned a lot. He's coming to his own. But, you know, now I'm going to be left hanging a little bit, but I have hired somebody. But that process is really difficult these days, I put out a position for a semi entry-level position, not completely brand new and green, but a couple of years of experience so that we could just move forward with this position. And I got both extremes, I got a lot of people with more years of experience than I have, that I've known in the industry. And they wanted to have this position. And I went through the interviews semi out of respect, but some I have curiosity. And basically, these people are, you know, I think they were let go during the COVID times, I also think that they are getting close to retirement, and maybe they want to keep their medical insurance. But I also think that they like what they do probably like I do, they want to have a similar position. But they don't want to make those big decisions anymore. Maybe they don't want to be the project manager anymore. And they just kind of want to be told what to do go out and do the job. And they were willing to do it for that entry-level, you know, maybe just a step above the entry-level pricing, right that I would normally hire for. And I thought that was so kind of sad. But I was really having a hard time understanding it. And then we had a bunch of young professionals coming in, that I hired that I interviewed. And they, they were expecting the same amount as these experienced professionals or maybe more. And they had way less experience and I was just baffled, I really had a hard time trying to find the right fit. And it wasn't that we were not willing to pay somebody. But what I noticed was that I felt like they were really requesting the higher pay and the benefits. And that's all they focused on. We talked about flexibility and we talked about some of the non-monetary benefits that the company provides. That didn't seem to pique their interest and I know that I can't personally motivate somebody who's only extrinsically motivated. If you have the intrinsic motivation I can help to bring out that spark in you but I can't do the extrinsic motivators that only last for you know, three maybe six months tops, you know, I can only give you a raise every once in a while. So that has been a challenge and not just with me, but I've noticed other colleagues in other areas of the US that have been trying to hire that it's been really tough.
Walt Sparling 14:35
Yeah, that is tough. And if you're not the first one to say that and have that same challenge Yeah, I don't look forward to hiring anyone anytime soon.
Nicole Caputo 14:47
Yeah, it's a tough market out there. And I guess I'm glad that I learned a little bit about it, but it's just different than I've seen. I really ever
Walt Sparling 14:57
Now - challenges you said you You had a five-year-old. And in an earlier conversation, you indicated that you're doing a lot of traveling.
Nicole Caputo 15:08
Yeah, there's always the personal challenge, of course, right? The work-life balance. And that is difficult because my five-year-old is awesome. He is so awesome. He's so cool. so strong and so smart. I don't want to miss a beat. I don't want to I don't want to miss any of that, because he is just so cool. And my husband does travel from time to time too, he has different times of the year that he travels a little bit more than other times. And so when we both have to travel, and we have to have that conversation, are you traveling next week? No. Okay, well, I'm probably you know, it does make it difficult. And I think in my family, most times, we have a pretty decent balance with it. But everyone wants a hug, it's really strained. And we have to remember that family comes first. I love what I do. But family is going to be there for me if something happens, right, they're always going to be there. I probably have some work colleagues that would be there mostly to but family will be there first, always every time having to miss any, any of those little milestones, or they're not even milestones getting right, the trivial things are what's funny. And you know, my five-year-old is at that point where he just remembers everything and helps remind me of something that was so silly from weeks ago that I forgot about, but it was funny to him, it was important to him. And so you realize that for a five-year-old, every moment is not trivial. I don't think I don't know when that happens when we all start having these trivial moments in our lives. And we just, you know, they start to be or we don't remember them as much anymore. But when you realize that every moment in a five-year-olds, life is not trivial. It's it's grand. It's something new, he's learning. It's tough to miss them.
Walt Sparling 16:52
So switching over now, your industry being so different, but you've got to have tools that you use hardware software, some technology, what would be your favorite tools,
Nicole Caputo 17:06
You know, I have a tool bag, I have different gadgets, especially I do a lot of mold and moisture and that type of stuff. Some that we ran some that we have, but my favorite has always been the infrared camera. Not everybody knows how to use it. I've had bosses even that would say oh, you can see through walls, that that's not really how it works. There's a lot of science behind its development its use, there are so many other things you can use it for. I use it generally to detect moisture. But it's really just looking at a thermal difference. It doesn't tell me that moisture in there is just telling me that there's a difference a brand difference in temperature. So then I have to figure out the building and know what I'm looking at have some experiences from and why is that a thermal difference? Why is that happening? And it's just cool because you, it's investigative it's fun and I mean even watching you know the ghost shows they use sometimes and it cracks me up because they use it for a different purpose. But I think it's a really neat tool and once you get to understand it and you can use it properly. It's pretty cool. Not to mention I have the smallest one and it attaches to my phone. And it has an owl Yeah, it was like I think I got the $300 one to attaches to my phone. It's just the battery runs out a little bit quicker. But besides that, I can use it on a normal survey. It takes great photos it does a picture in picture it tells me it has a good resolution so I can really get down to some of that nitty-gritty with a small cheap infrared camera
Walt Sparling 18:47
Hm yeah, I've never seen it used in that type of scenario but I've seen a lot in the electrical industry for looking for hot spots possible faults equipment that's gotten too hot things like that. But yeah, that's interesting.
Nicole Caputo 19:05
Yeah, I definitely know a lot of electricians that use it, anybody, in the electrical field people who work in roofing use it a lot of times too so it's it's a nifty little tool Not to mention the flashlight that's I get upset if I lose my favorite flashlight.
Walt Sparling 19:23
You have a little LED one?
Nicole Caputo 19:25
Yeah, but one with you know, the 1000 or 3000 lumens you know you can sign down the street and it shows you all the houses on your street when it's pitch dark.
Walt Sparling 19:38
Well, yeah, I don't have one like that. But I Derek and I, you know, Derek did a show or an episode not too long ago, we talked about tools. And having a flashlight is super important for many reasons. And I do recall you're talking about the neighborhood. I was hanging out with some friends and live out in the country. And the guy said, Hey, you want to go check out the property? And it's like, yeah, sure, but it's like black out there is I get some flashlights and I go, I got my own and I pull out my little three-inch long LED flashlight. He's like, Oh, dude, please. He brings out his flashlight and I turned mine on and it was twice past what he had with this big old honker. He's like, holy crap. So for Christmas, I got all the guys that were there little LED flashlights. That's all you need. incredible stuff is amazing. The tools, some, some that are so basic, and every day are so important.
Nicole Caputo 20:34
Yes. And then there's some that you can you know, buy at any Home Depot, and some of those are okay, but they just don't last.
Walt Sparling 20:43
Lumens is key.
Nicole Caputo 20:45
Walt Sparling 20:47
All right. So now the fun part. Every episode and this is something I started at work with presentations is doing a Digi No. So I'm hoping that you have an interesting, did you know that you can share with the folks.
Nicole Caputo 21:04
Well, I'm pretty proud of mine. Did you know because I think it's very relevant. And I also think it's fun. And as a woman in this industry, it's not always easy. You know, there's a lot of men around. But this celebrates a woman so says the world has entered into I call it like the industrial hygiene way of life. Whether you know it or not all of you people out there wearing masks and respirators, you are working in industrial hygiene, this COVID pandemic has made you realize the need for cleanliness and, and personal protective equipment. So I think it's really fun that a lot more people actually do you know, industrial hygiene is. But did you know that the end 95 masks, a lot of us are wearing them was designed by a woman? Her name was Sarah little Turnbull. And she was initially hired to design a model bra cup. The bra cup actually didn't get approval until 1962. But the respirator design was approved in 1961. So we got approved before the Brock of 10. And basically, that bubble shape that you see people wearing on their faces is a broad cup or was modeled after one.
Walt Sparling 22:16
Oh, I'm gonna use that in my next meeting. I love it.
Nicole Caputo 22:19
I think they will really appreciate it.
Walt Sparling 22:22
That's a hoot. Yeah, we got a mix. We've got about 50-50 splits. So they'll definitely enjoy that.
Nicole Caputo 22:29
I mean, if you could get some pink ones, maybe with some lace on it, it would be really comical.
Walt Sparling 22:34
I have seen some pink face masks. So maybe I'll do some shopping. There you go. All right. Well, I, this is so different than what we typically talk about. The one thing that's interesting is project managers are everywhere. And they're in construction. They're in banking, they're in it, they're in industrial hygiene. So becoming a pm and learning the traits and skills can place you in places you would have never imagined when you start out. So I think this was definitely a really interesting interview. Do you have any,
Nicole Caputo 23:21
I'm honored to be here, I really appreciate, you know, doing something different. This is a little bit outside of my comfort zone. And that's another thing that I think everybody should try and do is get outside of your comfort zone from time to time because you'll learn something new for sure.
Walt Sparling 23:36
And that is one of the things that's I hope people will take to heart because we started out gangbusters on these interviews because I had pre-arranged a bunch of folks. And then a lot of people did not want to be involved in any way because they were nervous about being interviewed and making mistakes and all that stuff can be edited out. But I've had so many people that were interested and then just said, I don't know, I'm so busy and busy is good for some excuses. But at some point, you slow down and it's really this is like an hour out of your life. And I think it's a really good experience. Like you said, step outside your comfort zone wasn't easy for me to start this whole thing. And I think you're going to be the county the now 13th or 14th, maybe higher interview. And I have another one scheduled in two days. So Well, I appreciate you.
Nicole Caputo 24:37
You make it very natural. So I think you've come a long way. Well, I'm pretty proud of what you've put on here too.
Walt Sparling 24:44
Well, I appreciate that. Do you hear that folks? It's very easy. very casual. Anybody can do it. All right. Well, I thank you for coming on. And if we ever get into a topic where we want to talk more about it hygiene will definitely call you back.
Nicole Caputo 25:03
Sounds good to me. Thank you so much for your time. I really do appreciate it and I've enjoyed working with you through the years.
Walt Sparling 25:10
Well, ditto here and I greatly appreciate you coming on and doing this. This is a big thing for me as well. Alright everyone, so thanks for joining Nicole and me and we'll see you on the next episode of pm mastery.
Thank You 25:26
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