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Spotlight of Self-Directed Learning

When we talk about the Manson Learning Network, we’re talking about all the ways learning happens at Manson and how all of us in the company participate and contribute to it in ways both formal and informal.

It’s easy to think that training at Manson is all contained within our main programs like Safety, Project Management & Operations (PMO), and other compliance programs like Cybersecurity or Preventing Workplace Harassment. But it turns out that there are a lot of people who recognize opportunities to grow professionally and then take the plunge to make it happen, oftentimes above and beyond their usual duties at work. Here are just a few of the folks and the fascinating things they are learning to improve their capabilities and, in turn, make a bigger impact for Manson.

Troubleshooting Electrical Systems

A mechanic on a jobsite.
Outside Mechanic Ryan Van Hoose has been learning to troubleshoot electrical systems on the ROBERT M WHITE. Photo credit: Robert Ricardy—Welder

If you want to know about troubleshooting electrical systems on the cutter suction dredge ROBERT M WHITE (RMW), just ask Ryan Van Hoose. Ryan is an Outside Mechanic on the RMW who has been on a mission of self-study to better understand the Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) used to operatethe renowned vessel. “The electrical side always interested me because something as simple as one input or output missing from the PLC can shut down the whole dredging operation,” Ryan explains.

As Ryan says about his extracurricular learning, “I think it has helped me tremendously in my job and hope it helps me to keep excelling at Manson.”

Mental Health First Aid

If you’ve ever met Melanie Erdman, an Office Manager for NW Ops, then you know she cares deeply about mental health and the inherent challenges we all endure working in the construction industry. Melanie’s passion for the subject was recognized outside of Manson when she was invited to join the AGC National Mental Health Committee. This drive to make a difference moved her to earn a certificate in Mental Health First Aid from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. “My hope is to grow my own knowledge and helping others to understand the challenges of mental wellbeing in our industry, and to help promote the great resources that are available to us,” Melanie says.

Vessel Networking

We can all agree that building a computer and communications network onboard marine vessels is a rather complicated endeavor, especially given Manson’s sizable fleet. Undaunted, IT Network Engineers Aquiles Castillo, Dirk Bush, and Edgard Bobarykin are collaborating in their own peer-learning course. Aquilles has developed a course called Building a Vessel Network from which he coaches Edgard and Dirk toward achieving the NS1, NS2, and NS3 network certifications.

“I like to share my knowledge and experience with my teammates,” relates Aquilles. Dirk agrees, “The culture here in Manson IT is for us to help each other and distribute learning to any who have aligned interests. This tribal knowledge will help make us more effective and valuable employees.” Their course comprises five sessions over five weeks and covers topics related to Fortinet firewalls, static routers, and network troubleshooting. The result, as Edgard describes it, is that “we will be able to provide assistance throughout the day to help vessels with any issues in regard to connectivity and communication, which are both very important with the technology being used.”

Three people at a celebration
Hannah Huezo (left), Project Engineer Ilias Sgourides (middle), and Chris Price (right) attending the 2019 National Maritime Celebration in Port Arthur, TX. Photo credit: Hannah Huezo—Engineer/C&I TWA

Project Management Fundamentals

“This class teaches you the basics of how to run a project from start to finish from the role of a Project Manager,” explains Kurt Dever, a Project Engineer in Manson’s Northwest region. “We encounter issues just like we do on real-life projects and are taught to work through these issues and think outside of the box to come up with creative solutions in order to reduce costs and stay on schedule.” Kurt and Project Managers Drew Paup and Jeff Garcia have taken an eight-week, 64 hour project management class offered in Seattle.

“Discussing construction management  , from the class material and other people in the cohort, identifies common challenges across the industry and effective ways to manage them,” Drew adds.

Underscoring the importance of continual learning, Kurt reminds us, “We are in an industry that revolves heavily around what you know and how to manage things that you don’t, so the more you can soak in throughout your years of employment, the easier it is to manage work. I’ve never been one to turn down training opportunities.”

Construction Management

Professional learning opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Hannah Huezo, Engineer/C&I TWA, dedicated six months to earning her Construction Management Certificate from Florida Atlantic University. The program was intensive, requiring completion of a module every 2-3 days. Topics of study included risk management, business management, strategic planning, and estimating, among many others. When asked what motivated such an effort, Hannah says, “I saw a gap in my knowledge when it came to the financial planning and management of a project. A construction management certificate seemed to match the output I would be able to give while still working full-time.”

Speaking to the benefit she is experiencing after such an in-depth course, she says, “The Construction Management Program at FAU provided good foundational knowledge of the whole picture of project management. It covered budget creation, contract structure, how to interview, insurance, submittals, how to plan scopes, and more. It tied all the pieces and tasks together to view it as one system. While I think the content would have been more appropriate for me earlier in my career, I’m glad to have the experience.”

The Spirit of Learning

These stories highlight the terrific benefit that comes to us when we are motivated from within to create our best professional selves. Melanie perfectly sums up this spirit of learning. “Anytime you can get more learning, you should, especially if it’s for something you are passionate about. If Manson is willing to help someone extend their career and their interests, it’s a win-win all around and can only create a better work environment for everyone.”

A group of people standing next to a salvaged ship.
Project Engineer Kurt Dever (center, front) and the DERRICK BARGE 24 project team and crew pose with the commercial fishing boat, ALEUTIAN ISLE, after salvaging it from 250-ft. deep water in the Salish Sea. (L-R): Frank Blakely, Frank Pineda, Josh Mitton, Graydon Bennett, Kurt Dever, Jim Heather, Memo Castellon, Robin Winsley, and Gordon Hill. Photo credit: Ben Tornberg—Project Sponsor

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