For Ramiro Maldonado, working in construction has opened doors to cities, communities, and climates that he could not have anticipated. He first cut his teeth in construction by working for his uncles in Minnesota, followed by a contractor in Chicago, learning to do everything from drywalling to roofing. That hands-on experience was riveting to Maldonado and opened his eyes to construction as a lifelong career path.
“It’s nice seeing the results at the end,” Maldonado says. “It’s awesome to see your progress.”
Maldonado made progress of his own in the years since he was laying roof shingles. He set a goal to go to college so he could take his passion for construction to the next level. His pursuit of education led him to the University of Minnesota and ultimately to the Construction Management (CM) undergraduate degree program. The program was attractive to him because it’s taught by industry professionals who have a knack for passing along real-world skills in a down-to-earth manner. Through the CM program, Maldonado gained knowledge about estimating, planning and scheduling, management, and more. These courses prepared him for an interesting and eye-opening internship over the summer, as well.
From Minnesota to Mississippi
All CM students are encouraged to do an internship before graduation, and Maldonado was determined to do one. He printed out a sheaf of resumes and attended a career and internship fair hosted by Construct*ium, and it was here that he connected with some representatives of Duininck Inc., an organization whose strengths lay in highway heavy construction as well as other categories of construction.
An interview and a handshake later, Maldonado had landed an internship with Duininck. But instead of doing commercial or civil
construction like many of his classmates, he found himself shipping out to Oxford, Mississippi, to build a golf course from scratch.
“There was a lot that I wasn’t expecting,” Maldonado says. “First of all, the weather was really hot. We worked 12-hour days and were often exposed to the sun. I’m not a golfer, so I had a lot to learn about this environment and how to build it.”
The internship brought Maldonado face to face with a number of challenges, which to him translated to invaluable experience in the field. Working as the assistant to the Assistant Superintendent on the site, Maldonado had the chance to shadow a management-level position and use equipment like excavators, tractors, and sod cutters. He also had the opportunity to put many of his CM courses to work, from surveying to project management. And when disaster struck in the form of heavy rains that washed away tons of sand from the course’s sand traps, he learned to stay calm and carry on, preparing for erosion in advance.
“The weather proved to be a huge problem for us,” Maldonado says. “It was very unpredictable. You couldn’t trust the forecast.”
Nevertheless, he survived the searing heat and torrential rains, learning how to tackle the unexpected challenges that are bound to crop up in any construction project. And when Maldonado came back to Minnesota after his Mississippi golf course internship, he returned a smarter, savvier construction manager than before. His employer recognized that, too, and offered Maldonado a job in Blaine during the school year. Maldonado accepted and dove headfirst into the act of balancing work and school.
Where Will Construction Take Him Next?
Construction has exposed Maldonado to the rooftops of Chicago, the classrooms and jobsites of Minnesota, and a golf course in Mississippi. He hopes that it will take him to many places beyond.
He can’t help but smile when talking about the architecture of the world’s tallest buildings and most outrageous structures. It’s a dream of his to build skyscrapers one day. But before he does that, Maldonado has a few goals that are nearer and dearer to his heart. He wants to relocate to Mexico to build sustainable housing so that more families can live comfortably. In addition to that, he talks about perhaps one day owning a residential construction business and hiring his family members. Another dream includes continuing his education in engineering.
Of all the ambitions Maldonado has, one thing is for sure: he won’t let any opportunity pass him by. Thanks to the skills garnered through his CM coursework and real-world experience in the field, he knows that he has the tools necessary to achieve great things.
Ramiro Maldonado is a first-generation student and is a recipient of the Hilger Leadership Award.