Engineer pens book about the ‘human side’ of construction
Angelo Suntres took his lessons from 17 years in the industry and put them onto the page.
After spending 17 years honing his technical skills as a mechanical engineer, estimator and manager, Angelo Suntres wants to talk about another side of construction: relationships.
He recently took it upon himself to write a whole book about the subject, “The Human Side of Construction: How to Ensure a Successful, Sustainable and Profitable Career as a Contractor, Project Manager, Estimator or Superintendent”.
The goal is to help construction professionals be the best they can be through developing the human principles of connection including effective communication and fostering healthy relationships.
Getting into the industry by accident
His own journey started back when he was studying to be an engineer.
“I never saw myself getting into construction,” he said. “Like most people back then, through high school and university it wasn’t presented as an opportunity for a viable career path. Even now we have a marketing problem. The general population doesn’t have an appreciation or understanding of what we do.”
During school he began to hone in on HVAC as an area of expertise and became determined to be the best HVAC engineer the world had ever seen. But soon after graduating, he ran into challenges.
“Life doesn’t always work out how you planned,” he said. “When I graduated there was a recession and jobs weren’t easy to come by.”
Suntres was living in Halifax applying for consulting jobs and wasn’t getting any bites or interviews. He was running out of money but ended up finding work with Black & McDonald.
“I ended up in construction by fluke but I am glad I did,” he said. “I love working with people and solving problems and to me, that’s the essence of what construction is.”
Going beyond the technical side of construction
The first decade of Suntres’ career was spent honing the technical skills in estimating, planning, budgeting and more.
“I realized early on that it was a very technical industry,” he said. “But you never take classes on how to communicate effectively or how to solve conflicts. That was never part of the curriculum and it was always brewing in the back of my mind.”
Part of his own education with people skills developed while working at his family’s restaurant.
“I realized that the people who came in could have gone anywhere in town to get a burger, milkshake or coffee,” he said. “But they came to us because it was like a community.”
Suntres saw how customers spoke with his dad. People who were having a hard time would share their struggles. There were relationships that had been formed.
As his career progressed, Suntres found himself in leadership roles where more of his time was spent managing teams and dealing with people.
“We do lots of things right but there is lots we can improve in, especially on the human side of construction,” he said.
After hearing from others in the industry about a desire to change how business is done and trying his hand at getting his thoughts out in social media posts, Suntres decided to channel his passion for leadership and the industry into a book.
“My goal is to highlight the good and bad and ugly about construction,” he said. “I am putting it all out there: what’s good, what I think works well, and challenges I’ve encountered. My hope is to validate people’s experiences and get them to think critically about how we can all improve. This is a great industry but there is a lot of work needed to bring it up to 2023 standards.”
Forming a foundation of real connection
He explained that one of the book’s major themes is forming real human connection beyond firm handshakes, grabbing drinks or exchanging business cards.
“Before you can layer on the complexities of money, stress or other aspects of a business or romantic relationship, you need to connect on a fundamental human level where you develop trust and respect for each other,” he said. “If you express that and they express it back, you have a foundation. You can layer on issues. Without that foundation, once you apply pressure, it is going to crack.”
The book also highlights what Suntres believes are the industry’s main challenges:
- The gap between design and construction
- Diversity, equity and inclusion.
- The Generational divide between younger and older workers.
The book can be found on Amazon.