As a kid from the projects in Boston, Jimmy Grossmann had not envisioned a future for himself where he’d become National COO of a major construction firm. But when he was 18, he had the opportunity to work on a major renovation of the housing project in which he lived—and he loved it. “I really enjoyed going to work every day and being with the 150 other craftspeople all working towards one goal,” he says.
And just as Grossmann’s career progressed in the construction industry, so has the development and use of technology for construction. Watch Grossmann, National COO of Boston-based Suffolk construction firm, discuss his career and the importance of why and how he uses smart-building technology in construction.
Jimmy Grossmann, National COO, Suffolk: I grew up in East Boston. Growing up there I don’t think from a sense of community, none of us knew we were living in a low-income housing development. Our world was inside of that development. [Gestures toward a concrete wall.] The wall seemed taller back then.
As I started to approach 18, there was this dialogue of when you turn 18, guess what happens? You have to go out on your own. There was really nobody that I can remember that had gone to college, so it never really played into the mindset, so I didn’t really know what the next steps were gonna be.
At that same point, the housing development that I lived in was going to undergo a major construction renovation. As I was trying to figure out what was going to happen in my life, I had this opportunity to actually work on that construction project. I really enjoyed going to work every day and being with the 150 other craftspeople all working towards one goal. As my career grew, so did the complexity of the projects I was participating in and so did the solutions around me, started to grow with the industry.
The Smart Labs for us here at Suffolk are a way for us to harness all of the good work that our folks out on our projects are doing in a way that we can bring to the organization in scale. As we started to grow as an organization and started to do more work, and our people started to become more curious from an intellectual standpoint, we started to see a lot of good things happening out on our jobsites from a technology perspective. Things like really taking BIM or virtual design and construction to the next step. Things like design that was manufacturing-ready. And so we started to harness all of that, house it in the Smart Lab, test it, and then push it out and scale it to the organization, once we knew that there was a sufficient ROI on that investment.
Somewhere in the middle of my career, I started to recognize that technology was a facilitator for my ability to execute the work I was doing, especially from a superintendent perspective. As a superintendent, you’re living the work every day. Your life runs a tremendous spectrum of interactions. I think technology has absolutely enabled us to do more with less.
Starting my career in 1992, working on that construction project, and it was messy and dirty and very two dimensional. Today, we’re digitally building our world before we physically build it, and without partners providing that technology, we wouldn’t be able to build what we’re building today.
In my career, the most rewarding project I have ever been on was the Kroc Center here in Roxbury. There were significant community participation requirements of that project that really started to fuel my passion of where I wanted not just my professional focus but my personal focus to be within my profession. The exact spot I renovated 25 years ago is now getting rebuilt. I’m back in the neighborhood where I grew up. This allows me to give young people in Orient Heights the opportunity to participate in this construction project—similar to the opportunity I had 25 years ago.
When I look back at my career, I think the mentorship I received from the people I have worked with here in the industry not only made me a better professional but made me a better person. And technology has been a huge part of my growth, and of course, for the construction industry as well. So, hopefully I can be helpful to others—not by building the largest or most complicated jobs but by providing real opportunities for young people and having an impact on their lives.