Professionals who join PCL Construction are empowered to write the plans for their own futures – which is exactly what Bobby Youngblood has done since joining the company in 2008. The director of Engineering for PCL Industrial Construction Co. is known for bringing his talents and passions to work every day, and was recently named to the Engineering News-Record (ENR) Top 20 Under 40 list – a prestigious group of construction leaders across the country selected from more than 400 entries. In his current role, Youngblood assists in the operation and management of PCL’s industrial construction projects from the Gulf Coast to the Canadian North.
Youngblood will be honored at the ENR Top Young Professionals Conference, February 23-25 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Below, the construction innovator shares his advice for young professionals entering the industry, why he’s proud to work for PCL, and what’s next for industrial contractors.
Tell us about your role at PCL Construction
I’m the director of engineering for the PCL Industrial Construction Co. (PICCo). Our projects include energy and power, oil and gas, chemical plants, solar plants and a limited number of commercial projects.
A big part of my role is the mentoring and training of the younger engineers that join the company. There’s a lot of hands on training involved - I spend one-on-one time with new engineers on the job site and guide them through their day-to-day responsibilities on a project.
What drew you to the construction industry?
I had multiple family members in the industry – my uncle was a vice president of subcontracts for Fluor and my dad worked in the paper and pulp industry. My uncle was always located somewhere new for his career, which got me interested in the ability to move around. I liked that after graduating from university, construction offered the opportunity to explore a new place every 18 months to two years – that was a catalyst for joining the industry.
What advice you would give to someone just starting out in construction?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. As a mentor, I’ve seen younger engineers who won’t ask a question because they don’t want to be looked at as if they don’t know something.
In construction, you don’t know what you don’t know, so ask as many questions as you can! Your question or knowing the correct way something should be done can affect the safety of the site and can prevent injuries, so speak up if you don’t know something.
One of the pillars of the PCL culture is, “I built that.” What is something you’ve built at PCL that you’re especially proud of?
Something I’m really proud of is my first project with PCL. As a young field engineer, I helped build the Ash Grove Cement plant, which at the time was the tallest building in Arkansas. It also brought new jobs and opportunities to the region. This project was special because PCL Construction works to leave communities better than we enter them. At the completion of the project we built a new park for the community. I’m very, very proud of that project.
“Beyond the build” is another pillar. What organizations/causes are you involved with outside of PCL?
I sit on the board of advisors for the University of Houston, so I have a lot of one-on-one contact with young students to give them insight into a career in construction and help with career planning.
I also work with a community outreach program that works with at-risk youth that often don’t have a strong role model in their life. I serve as mentor, helping them find opportunities that keep them out of trouble and providing support to encourage them to maintain a positive lifestyle. The program works closely with the Boys and Girls Club to find youth in need of a mentor.
Finally, PCL is always focused on “the path forward.” What trends are you following in the construction industry that you think professionals should pay attention to?
I do see a shift in the industry to move toward solar powered products, so we need to pay attention to trends in solar power to make sure we’re constantly progressing in that field. I think in years to come, that will make up a large majority of our business.
My next career goal is to potentially shift into an operations manager role that closely focuses on special projects and business development where I will recruit more work for PCL. The company has always been a great partner as I pursue new challenges and build a plan for my future. With PCL’s support, I’m currently going through executive leadership training to make sure I can continue to be successful as I grow my career.