A lucky few know at a very young age what they want to do when they grow up. Haskell Project Superintendent Mike Stroz knew when he was 8 years old that construction was going to be his life’s work.
He didn’t fall in love with a toy bulldozer or truck. A construction site became his playground. He was on the job with real bulldozers and trucks as a kid.
“When I was 8 years old, I came across a construction site. Instead of chasing me off, they talked to me. I asked if they had anything that they needed to be done on weekends,” he said.
Soon he was spending his Saturdays cleaning work areas and doing other odd jobs.
The thought of a little boy having the run of a construction site today is an OSHA nightmare, but back in the 1970s, let’s say workplace safety wasn’t the concern it is today.
Stroz, 54, is currently working in Altoona, Pennsylvania, refurbishing a plant and canning line for DelGrosso Foods, a maker of pizza and pasta sauces. The $50 million job finds him near his hometown of Dover, Delaware.
Stroz found school easy and graduated high school when he was 15. His parents signed emancipation papers, and he moved to Las Vegas. They had no idea he had enrolled in drafting school.
“I wasn’t your average 15-year-old,” he said. “I was more like I was 25. I was already focused and knew where I was going.”
Being a project superintendent is a perfect life for this father of six children and 10 grandchildren. The job takes him all over the country. When on the job, he lives in his 43-foot Class A Winnebago. He has lived the RV life for the past 19 years.
“Most guys in Haskell, when they see me roll up, they say, ‘Holy crap, Mike. That’s pretty big.’ It’s a pleasure to drive across the country,” he said.
His home on wheels provides for his lifestyle. He enjoys cooking. His style is a combination of Cajun and eastern European that he learned from his grandparents on both sides of his family. An avid hunter, he has been known to cook game of all sorts, including alligator. Setting up temporary homesteads in RV parks near job sites, he gets to meet people away from the job and enjoy their company.
Senior Project Manager Tony Robison, who leads the DelGrosso project, said Stroz is an organized and thoughtful superintendent who trades on his calm demeanor and conversation skills.
“I don’t think he has ever brought me a problem without bringing some solutions,” Robison said.
Stroz is a regimented sort who credits his discipline and his “four-point rule” for the fact that he hasn’t had a crew member suffer a serious accident on his jobs over the past 39 years.
“My main focus is safety first, quality second, schedules third and budgets last,” he said.
By stressing safety and quality on the job site from Day 1, Stroz said, it quickly becomes contagious. He’s also likely to get his hands dirty if need be.
“Mike is definitely a hands-on guy,” Robison said. “I’ve seen him do things other superintendents don’t usually do.”
Stroz is adaptable and understands people and regional customs. A bow hunter who has stalked deer and elk back near his home in Idaho, he said he understands Pennsylvania culture. There, many schools are closed the first day of deer season. He told his foremen this past fall that they could expect a skeleton crew when the season started.
“I supported letting the guys get their hunt out of them so that they could then get back to work,” he said.
Stroz came to Haskell 3½ years ago when he posted his resume and work experience on LinkedIn. He soon had job offers from six companies. Haskell stood out, he said, because the job interview was a conversation rather than an interrogation.
“It was a high-powered interview, and in the middle of it one gentleman said it felt like he was the one being interviewed,” Stroz said. “I told him that I had a good job and that I was looking for a great job. I needed to know that Haskell was a match for me.”
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Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,000 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.
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