Applying Previous Experience in the Workforce to a Civil Engineering Co-op

Paulo Torres Salazar, MS’23, civil engineering, had engineering experience in the workforce even before his time at Northeastern. During his time on co-op at Suffolk Construction, the skills he had built between his work and his courses proved to be a huge boost.

Paulo Torres Salazar, MS’23, civil engineering, had already been in the workforce during his undergraduate years before pursuing a master’s degree at Northeastern. He previously held a position as a resident engineer at Visato Constructores in his home country of Ecuador. Hoping to further his education with experiential learning opportunities, Northeastern was the right fit for him.

During his time at Suffolk Construction as a planning analytics co-op, Torres Salazar primarily assisted with managing scheduling, project metrics and meetings with project teams. He also prepared monthly regional review presentations for a portfolio of over 90 projects across the United States. He was attracted to Suffolk because of its significance to Boston’s architecture. Suffolk viewed him as such a promising candidate that they made him an offer on the same day as his interview.

“I think I was one of the last people to interview for the job because the offer was almost immediate,” Torres Salazar says.

While on co-op, he built upon software skills he had already formed in his construction management course with CEE Professor Ali Touran. Torres Salazar learned the basics of Microsoft Project in class and later used what he knew to manage schedules in Primavera P6 and compare metrics with Acumen. He also had on-site project visits every other week, which gave him the opportunity to get a sense of what each project was about while updating the schedule based on progress with the project team. Coincidentally, Torres Salazar found himself frequently returning to Northeastern during these visits.

“EXP was actually one of the buildings that I constantly visited because the Suffolk headquarters are close by,” Torres Salazar says.

Torres Salazar gives a regional project review presentation.

In reflection, he says that his classes, especially his course with Professor Touran, fully equipped him with the skills he needed to succeed while on co-op. His time as a teaching assistant for Financial Management for Engineers with Professor Hossein Noorian also helped build his skill set.

“A major part of [my] construction management class and project control and organization classes focuses on cost control and scheduling practices,” Torres Salazar says. “That was something that I definitely applied on co-op.”

Torres Salazar’s prior experience in the workforce was a major boost to his learning experiences at Northeastern. During his time at Suffolk, he saw just how much of a solid foundation Visato and RPM gave him.

“Everything that you learn and every experience that you have really sticks with you,” Torres Salazar says. “You learn something new every day, and you’re able to apply that when you’re in an educational setting as well.”

Torres Salazar’s time at Suffolk also made him recognize the differences between the workforces in Ecuador and the United States. While he found something to appreciate in each workplace, he says that the communication across teams was overall at its best at Suffolk.

“[All departments] were in constant communication with each other to try and deliver the best possible project within the best possible timeframe,” Torres Salazar says. “I think that communication was an issue that we faced here in Ecuador, so that provided me with a different perspective of how things are handled.”

Torres Salazar in conversation with a project team.

Since graduating, Torres Salazar has moved back to Ecuador and currently works remotely as a sales agent for June Homes in the Boston division, but he has more plans in the works. For the past few months, he’s been working on a new project to build houses. He will also be starting a master’s in business administration this June.

“We’ve been focused on the preliminary stages, making sure that all blueprints are detailed and adequately approved before we start,” Torres Salazar says.

In a word, Torres Salazar would describe his co-op experience as “valuable.” He learned a great deal from Jawahar Maran, his mentor and the planning analytics manager at Suffolk. Although it’s a commitment that took a lot of time and motivation, he says the overall experience was well worth it.

“My advice would be not to lose your motivation because you’ll eventually find something that you like where you are appreciated by the organization,” Torres Salazar says.

Related Departments:Civil & Environmental Engineering