Graduate of Contract Management Program has long history with San Diego State University

Steve Wood

Steve Wood, estimator/project manager with A.M. Ortega Construction.

From his undergraduate degree, to preparation for certification as a Project Management Professional, to meeting continuing education requirements, Steve Wood accomplished it all at San Diego State University.

Following his graduation in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature — and experience as an instructional assistant in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies — Wood focused on a career in education, but found employment opportunities limited.

“As a result, I began to widen my search to include administrative and clerical positions that would use my skills in technical writing and editing, skills acquisition, and team management while allowing me to meet my financial needs,” said Wood.

During the search, he accepted a position as a dispatcher for PAR Electrical Contractors of Escondido, and thus began the journey to his career today.

“As I became familiar with my work as the dispatcher, I discovered that my personality and skills were a good fit for project management in the construction industry, and that I had more opportunities to use the skills I enjoyed most — writing, editing, and leading diverse teams — in the construction industry than I ever had (or would likely ever have) in an education-related position,” said Wood.

Determined to continue to pursue a career in construction project management, Wood returned to SDSU in 2012 to take the Project Management Professional Certificate program through the College of Extended Studies. He also earned his Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential through the internationally recognized Project Management Institute.

With his newly advanced skills, Wood was promoted in 2012 to project coordinator, and was the onsite project manager for the construction of the Centinela Solar Interconnection Facilities Project in Calexico, Calif. When the project ended in 2013, he moved to PAR’s headquarters in Escondido and continued to work in project management and cost estimating for a variety of projects of varying size.

In July of 2014, Wood accepted a position as an estimator/project manager with A.M. Ortega Construction Inc. of Lakeside, managing projects in Southern California and Arizona.

As a certified PMP, Wood is required to complete 60 credit hours every three years, so he once again returned to SDSU, this time for the College of Extended Studies’ Contract Management Professional Certificate program. He answered a few questions about his experience.

What was your contracts experience prior to taking SDSU’s Contract Management program?
In my role as a project manager, I negotiate and administer contracts with our customers and suppliers on a daily basis. I’m familiar with the processes and best practices for work in the private sector and on public works construction projects.

What were your top three takeaways from the program?
1. There’s a customer service side to everything – even the contract writing process.
2. The FAR is your best friend when you’re working with the Feds.
3. Anything goes in the private sector – so you must get it in writing.

What do you think are the program’s biggest strengths?
I think that the diversity of the faculty and students is the greatest strength of the program. It’s really great to get to meet new people across industries, and to learn from each other’s experience. I think this might not be apparent to a lot of folks, but I noticed it especially because I didn’t follow the course pattern with the same people, so I had different folks in each class section.

Can you give an example of where you directly applied something you learned?
Immediately after I took the Effective Proposal Writing course, I had an RFP from the Department of the Navy that exactly followed the format that we had studied in class for U.S. military procurements. As a result, I was extremely familiar with the format and the rules for submitting our proposal.

How important was it that the instructors actually worked as contract managers in local companies?
I enjoyed learning from Bob Borntranger (who works for the county) as much as I did from any of the industry experts. I think that what’s more important is that the instructors are experts in their material — no matter where they earned their expertise.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a pilot or an aerospace engineer. In high school, I thought I would be a doctor.