Employee Spotlight with David Schmitz, PE, Manager of Project Management
October 26, 2022
From Civil Transportation to Renewables Project Delivery: David Schmitz Speaks to Diversity in Experience for Project Success
Having worked on projects spanning from construction in transportation to project management in renewables, David Schmitz, PE, Manager of Project Management at Ulteig has seen a wide range of project types, but one fact remains clear: effective collaboration and relationships are the keys to successful project execution.
Interestingly, David began his career as an intern at Ulteig from 2010 to 2012. Since then, he’s gained experience in project management at multiple establishments and re-joined the Ulteig team in 2018. Read the Q&A below to learn more about David’s interests, passion, experience and the Project Delivery Services (PDS) team’s growth throughout his tenure.
How has your team’s growth allowed you to take on new projects?
“Our team’s experience is vast, ranging from early-stage development through construction and project O&M handover. This broad experience base allows us to grow our team and provide insight wherever a client needs our support. Our team shines by demonstrating agility to the market and to client needs.”
“Many of our team members come from an oil and gas background and have flourished while working in renewables. We also have team members who have worked in commercial and industrial settings or even shipbuilding, and others who started their careers in renewables. This variety brings a robust understanding of the industry to our team, creating a dynamic experience for our clients. The limit of what projects we can support is undefined, which is exciting.”
“When I say our team is unique, I mean it. The perspective we bring to our clients, I believe, is part of our success.”
What types of projects are you excited to take on in the near future?
“I am excited for the opportunity to share our experience across new and emerging technologies in renewables. Seeing some of our projects combine battery storage with solar and wind is an encouraging development to diversify our power grid.”
“Our team’s work is not entirely unique to the market, but our client focused approach is what separates us from our competitors. I believe in healthy competition, though I’ll go to bat and say that our team is one of the highest performers in the industry. Without a doubt, there is going to be conflict on any given project, but to proactively manage these challenges with a level-head is important, and always a focus of our team. We understand that we represent our clients and Ulteig, and we take that seriously.”
What has your tenure at Ulteig taught you?
“I’ve said yes to opportunities earlier in my career that at the time were truly career defining. Ulteig gave me the opportunity to pursue renewable energy; I didn’t have a clue I would be so interested and invested in the industry as I was leaving school. There is a balance that we, as people, need to find and Ulteig has allowed me to learn how to balance my work and home life. I am thankful for the support and emphasis on building success at home and at work.”
Talk about your transition from the Ulteig Civil team to the PDS team. Why did you decide to make the transition? How does your Civil background provide value to PDS clients?
“I have always been focused mostly on the construction or delivery side of projects, which started on the Civil – Transportation team. When Ulteig was looking at starting a Renewables Construction team, I was approached with the idea and was asked what my interest would be. In the moment it was a tough decision to leave the comfort and success I had in transportation but ultimately, I said yes. I said yes because I saw the challenge, and that challenge motivated me as a lifelong learner.”
“My Civil background prepared me well, as all our projects start at the ground level, and it is important to understand the interaction between the soil and the various equipment installed on a project. Having an intense focus on the first work activity gives our clients peace of mind to know we are starting with a solid foundation.”
What do you like most about being on the PDS team?
“I really like our team. We have a group of true experts in our field, and I have confidence that any client we get to work with will have top-notch experience. Our people are what makes Ulteig great, and the PDS team is no exception. Beyond that, the projects that our team gets to work on are contributing to building for a better and cleaner energy future – how can you not be excited about that? We are actively working to leave this place better than we found it, and that is inspiring!”
“Beyond the exciting projects we work on, I appreciate that our company is focused on growth and doing it in a manner that allows each of us to be our best. While the COVID pandemic brought a lot of hard moments to our lives, Ulteig has persevered and provided a great experience for employees. Our company’s flexibility makes it a little bit easier to get to work every day. We all have our own passions and Ulteig lets us be our own author of that story.”
What is something that you often work on in your day-to-day, that you never thought you’d be doing while you were in school?
“When I was in school, I had no inkling that I would be working in renewable energy. Looking back, I have always had a passion to work on projects that impact my friends and family and make their lives easier or better, and transportation was a fit for me at the time. Now, I am proud that I am helping provide clean energy to thousands of people with each project we complete, and that’s pretty cool to say.”
“It could be considered cliché to say that I wanted to be an engineer because I wanted to be a part of a cleaner, safer, healthier future, but that statement reigns true for me. My grandfather was a brilliant engineer, and he influenced my interest and future as an engineer. When I started school, I never would have been able to guess that I would start my career in Williston, ND, make my way to Dodge City, KS (shout out to the Prime On The Nine friends for making it a home), spend time in Fort Myers, FL, Knoxville, TN and eventually find my wife and home in MN. It’s been a trip, but one I would take again.”
If you had to pick, what is your favorite piece of each project you work on?
“I focus my strengths to work with the team that is involved in a project. It takes a village to complete these projects. Bringing the various stakeholders together to create a harmonious group can be challenging, but if we work at it together, we finish with quite a beautiful symphony.”
“Working with people is incredibly rewarding, and the part I enjoy most. I get to learn every day from each of my colleagues and I consider myself lucky for that opportunity. The first “project” of sorts that I ever had an opportunity to work on was when I coached 13-15 year old baseball. I was 20 at the time so I knew nothing about anything, but I thought I knew it all. I learned so much those two summers, and I find ways to apply these lessons in my work today. One of my players struggled with confidence and in our time working together I was able to watch his confidence grow immensely; I knew then that I wanted to keep leading teams and people.”
What lessons have you learned that may have been difficult, but have benefitted you in the long run?
“Where do I start? I think the reality is our careers are filled with lessons, and we can continue growing because of those lessons. One of my earliest lessons at Ulteig came as an intern. One of my mentors, Marty Jenson, taught me that you always have the time to call and ask questions, or for a second opinion, before making a decision. Taking the time to do that has been extremely powerful for me.”
“I’ve continued to learn in each step of my career. Before I started college, my grandfather taught me a lesson about work. He would explain that you could push on a wall all day long, but technically you didn’t get any ‘Work’ done because the wall hadn’t moved. He explained it using the definition of Work that many engineers and scientists learned in Physics or Statics class in college, W=Fd. That short lesson taught me to be truly intentional about my work and as he would always say, “Just because you are busy, it doesn’t mean you are getting anything done.” Taking that lesson and adapting it to my daily work and team, we make a plan, work that plan, and if we get that plan done early, we enjoy the time we have off – because our team has certainly earned it!”
“I’ve been fortunate to have worked with, and for, a number of great mentors over the years. Each of those individuals has taught me something that greatly impacts me today.”
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