October 2021 Staff Spotlight: Isabelle Nguyen, Senior Estimator
Before Eastman Cooke breaks ground on any construction project, Isabelle Nguyen leads our team through the conceptual process. As a Senior Estimator, Isabelle helps to oversee Project Development and Preconstruction, playing a critical role in the success of many projects. She brings more than a decade of estimating and project management experience.
While preparing bid packages and developing and maintaining budgets, Isabelle’s outstanding expertise propels us though every Project Development and Preconstruction phase. Among the many Eastman Cooke clients Isabelle has worked with are New York University, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Central Assisted Living, Greystone, and our extensive array of healthcare clients. Isabelle is a proud member of numerous professional organizations, such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), the American Institute of Constructors (AIC), and the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS). She graduated Summa Cum Laude from CUNY New York City College of Technology, earning a Bachelor of Technology in Construction Engineering, and she holds a Master of Science in Civil Engineering from the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.
What are some of the key responsibilities of the Estimator position?
An Estimator’s role is to prepare bid packages and win projects. However, before this can happen, there are many moving parts before an Estimator can submit a bid. For each bid request, there are hundreds of pages of bid documents, drawings, and specifications that need to be reviewed. The main trades and scope of work will need to be identified. A site visit to assess existing conditions is necessary at times to verify that the drawings reflect the actual space for construction. All the bid documents will need to be distributed to the subcontractors and vendors for pricing. For a ground up construction, this can be over a hundred subcontractors and vendors. After that, there will be hours of calling, follow ups, and RFI clarifications. Once we receive all the subcontractors’ proposals, we then need to review and level them. Finally, the bid submittal is prepared and submitted to the client. In addition to preparing bid packages, an Estimator should establish and maintain a long-term relationship with key vendors and subcontractors.
What are the driving factors that help to ensure a winning bid?
The driving factors for any project award are cost, schedule, and quality. I set it in motion by preparing a bid package to showcase the company’s product. The cost of construction must be aligned with the client’s budget. Always ensure that you’ll be delivering a quality product, and that all deliverables meet the client’s expectations. In the event that we are awarded the project, I lay the foundation for success by onboarding the project team and selecting the right subcontractors and vendors from the get-go. We deliver a successful project by staying ahead of the curve.
Can you take us through the collaborative aspect of the job and the importance of teamwork in project delivery?
Since a construction project is a team effort, I am the first person in a relay race. I initiate the momentum and pace for the project and ensure that when I pass the baton to my project team, they carry it all the way to the finish line. When an Estimator drops the baton or trips along the way, it places the burden on the project team to overcome obstacles to be successful.
One of the major factors that have contributed to Eastman Cooke’s success is the firm’s Work Smart System. Can you give an example of how this innovative system has fueled successful outcomes for your clients, particularly during the conceptual process?
To deliver a successful project – whether it starts from conceptual design or construction – Eastman Cooke developed the Work Smart System, a series of processes that enable us to focus on project delivery that is on time and on budget. Weekly updates, meetings, and meticulous document management ensure that transparency is maintained throughout the course of a project.
When a client has an idea or a space that they are interested in, we assist them by providing Project Development/Preconstruction Services. During this process, if a design team has not been established yet, Eastman Cooke puts together a high-level budget based on the client’s design intent and scope of work. In doing so, this allows the client to assess initial costs and determine if the space and budget aligns with their needs and expectations.
How do Project Development/Preconstruction Services help the company stay ahead of the curve?
By providing Project Development/Preconstruction Services to our clients, we’re able to guide them with strategic planning while helping to navigate them through the construction process. No two projects are alike; each one has its own footprint and challenges. In order to optimize Project Development/Preconstruction Services, my colleagues and I tailor Eastman Cooke’s services to meet the needs of our clients, engaging with all decision makers to understand the requirements of a project. We understand that the more issues we can resolve or address before we build, such as cost, scheduling, logistics, and value engineering, the more we are able to minimize delays on a job, which saves time and money for our clients.
What Eastman Cooke projects are you most proud of and why?
I am proud of all the projects that Eastman Cooke has built. Each project is unique and has specific challenges that we must tackle in order to deliver the project successfully. Most recently, Eastman Cooke was awarded a large job with a national used car dealership on Long Island. This will entail a ground up construction on a lot adjacent to an existing shopping center. The project has an aggressive timeline, and the location poses a challenge as it’s near an area with heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic. However, our project manager is a veteran, and I have complete confidence that we will deliver this job to the client successfully.
What do you like best about working in construction, and what tips can you offer to someone starting out in the field?
I love working in construction because it calls for honesty and integrity with every detail. Knowledge may come from books and reading, but quality work comes from experience.
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