Q+A with Environmental Design Alumnus Sam Crabtree

We recently caught up with Environmental Design (EnD) graduate Sam Crabtree to discuss how his time at the Gibbs College of Architecture (GCA) prepared him for his career. Sam is currently working for L5 Construction in Oklahoma City as a project manager. Read on to learn more about his role as a project manager and what he loves about his job.

Describe the work you do with L5 Construction.

I am a project manager that carries a CMAA CM certification. My current role is to estimate and manage the budget and timeline of awarded projects from a macro level while my site superintendents manage jobs from a micro level on site during daily activities. I typically have 5-10 projects at any given time that are in an active stage (design to close out). 

What does your day-to-day look like?

Day-to-day varies quite a bit. The day typically starts around 5 am with emails and sequencing the tasks to complete for that day. Depending on tasks for the day, I could be traveling for site visits, preparing conceptual budgets in coordination with architectural firms, or meeting with city mayors for upcoming projects. Many workdays stretch into the evening. However, the freedom to complete work remotely allows me to wrap up the day whenever I see fit (typically around 5:30-6:00 pm). 

What is your favorite thing about your job?

I enjoy the different challenges presented with each project. Some come with tight budgets and others with intense timelines. However, they typically come with multiple little obstacles that allow me to look back at the end of the day and feel as if I was successful or learned from failures, which I count as a successful day. No day ever feels like a complete waste, and if I manage to feel unproductive for a day it was most likely a day that came with some necessary R&R. 

What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?

Tough question… I am very blessed to be where I am and have the opportunities that I have. I am proud to have accomplished the little bit that I have by 28, but I feel like my biggest accomplishments are still to come. If I had to choose something, I would say I consider the relationships established as an impressive accomplishment. The construction industry is a tough nut to crack. There are a lot of nuances for a young person to navigate, especially one that finds themselves in charge of a group that has been performing work like this longer than we have been alive. However, I have managed to prove to be a worthy hand to keep around and find myself well received by those around me. So, I take pride in that fact. 

What made you want to change from a mechanical engineering major to environmental design?

Mechanical engineering had more math and less design than I was hoping for. Initially, it was shadowing a local home designer that drew my attention to design, and ultimately, it was the freedom of the program that landed me in EnD. 

Can you tell me a little more about how the Environmental Design program at GCA prepared you for the real world?

That freedom mentioned before allowed me to take classes outside of GCA that made a big impact on preparing me for life after college. Using that time to take on internships, take business courses, and complete other courses made me a well-rounded candidate versus a skill specific candidate and lent itself very well to being able to adjust on the fly and problem solve efficiently. 

What was your favorite part about the Environmental Design program at GCA?

Having the opportunity to adjust courses to suite my career goals was my favorite part. EnD has the right core courses to legitimize the program but doesn’t corner students into specific courses so much that they all end up with the exact same book of knowledge as the grad next to them. 

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give students or recent grads interested in Environmental Design?

Take full advantage of the opportunities that the degree program offers. Where it offers the freedom to set your studies above others, it technically offers the freedom to take it easy and cruise through to graduation. Enjoy your college years but remember that more people are walking around with degrees than ever before. So, the days of getting a job for simply having a college degree are gone. Do your best to set yourself apart from the pack by taking courses that make you a better candidate for future employment (foreign languages, participate in internships, Revit/CAD specific courses). If you are already in, or strongly considering joining, the END major, I feel you should look at making the most of the opportunities that it offers. 

We’d like to give a special thank you to Sam Crabtree for taking the time to share his experiences before and after GCA. Thank you for being an outstanding alumnus, Sam!