What got me started working on Construction Problems

My dad was a Civil Engineer and worked for CalTrans. So as a child I was exposed to being a survey monkey holding the stick in the backyard as my dad word survey fence lines, drainage, concrete pours. My dad taught me trigonometry when I was in 3rd grade. At the time I didn’t think that my dad wanted me to be a civil engineer too. When it came to deciding what I wanted to be and study my choice was Industrial Engineering where skills in science, mathematics, finance, and operations came together. 4 years at CAL. 26 years at HP, Apple and Microsoft where I could use the IE degree. Don’t know what I would be doing if I was a Civil E. Maybe working on construction.


My first exposure to data center issues came when i met Mike Manos over breakfast and he wanted me to work for him. And that got me started working on data center issues that needed to be communicated. This is when I was developing the media role. Next i met a general contractor executive who was working on the first eBay data center and they needed help on the media strategy. This is when I got an inside look at how a GC worked. Taking trips to HQ, sitting in meetings, listening. And figuring out that this a completely different world where words meant different things. Or what the GC considered technical leadership was not in the world of technology.

One example is when the GC was excited to show its integration with Sharepoint and Office products. I told them NO. This is eBay. The data center team is anti-Microsoft. It is about open source software. What’s that? OK. Talk about the building problems you are solving, but don’t say Microsoft. Got it.

After I felt like I learned enough at the GC I switched to work with eBay as a consultant for Olivier Sanche. Olivier passion for green data centers is where we spent a lot of time, and we chatted about his going to Apple his dream job and asked me what it was like to work there.

Going to conferences I met all kinds of GCs, AE, commissioning companies, electrical, and HVAC companies blogging about how they fit in green data centers. While doing this i was understanding each of how these pieces fit together. Next it was the real estate companies and developers. With a picture of how the all the pieces interact including servers, networking, software, Cloud, IOT, AI, ML. etc I could see the problems.

Things like why Lean Construction doesn’t work near as well as as how Toyota Way impacts Toyota. Revit should be the big enabler for BIM, but when you dive down deep into how the Revit data format works you find critical flaws. Stuff that are like the file format nightmares in the Mac OS and Windows OS which is part of what I got exposure working as a project manager on System 7 and program manager on Windows NT.

Just like the GC who wanted to talk about technology to sell how good they are, the issue is people don’t see the right problem to solve.

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were phenomenally good creating Apple and Microsoft because they prioritize the right problems to solve.

I can thank Mike Manos, the eBay data center GC, and Olivier Sanche for getting me started to understood construction. The nice thing is working on solving the construction problems has expanded what I look at beyond data centers. Navigating getting PR approval to discuss projects is not easy. It is what I used to do as part of a media strategy. So talking about projects that are over 8 years old is what I can do for now.

What I can do is write about general issues not specific to any current project.