CJ Youmans has a message: Figure out what you want to do, put your heart and soul into it – and, eventually, you’ll end up where you want to be.
The 2018 RS&H Project Manager of the Year knows that from experience.
Eight years ago, CJ, then new to RS&H, envisioned himself one day being project manager of the First Coast Expressway.
Some might have thought that far-fetched. At the time, CJ was an entry-level associate, making the shift into the transportation field and assisting with day-to-day activities for the various expressway projects. But CJ knew he could do it.
“What I want out of this humbling experience is for others to feel like what they can do and what they want to do are exactly the same,” said CJ. “But it’s not always going to be laid out in front of you. You’ve got to work at it, and you’ve got to find others to help you along the way.”
CJ started out assisting with basic production tasks, gradually becoming the go-to source internally for drainage issues and permitting items. He then progressed into management of subconsultants.
“Over time, I was doing more and more management and less design tasks,” said CJ. “My work kind of built up to the project manager role.”
In 2015, CJ transitioned into an increased role of responsibility on the First Coast Expressway, taking over the majority of the management responsibilities as First Coast Expressway project manager.
“It took about a full year for the PM transition to occur,” said CJ. “I thought of it as being handed the keys to the Ferrari, and I had to first learn how to drive it.”
CJ had help acclimating to his new role from several others at RS&H who had been in a similar position. These mentorships inspired CJ to provide guidance to other associates.
“It’s really important to have a solid support system, helping you along the way,” said CJ. “I welcome others to reach out to me, and I’ll do my best to steer them in the right direction and talk about what’s working, what’s not working – and ultimately develop a vision plan for where they see their careers going.”
CJ strives to lead by example as a project manager, showing passion and encouraging comradery within his team.
“I genuinely care about everything I do at RS&H; when others see me caring, the hope is it will rub off and they will care even more than me,” said CJ. “If I do that consistently enough, I think people will buy into it; if they see that I am passionate, they will take their passion to the next level.”
CJ combines this approach with a focus on recognizing and celebrating the good news, while also learning from the bad.
“That’s really important to the dynamics of the team,” said CJ. “It instills an overall sense of ownership and a general feeling of success among the group.”
There are many factors that go into a developing a successful career. But, CJ says, perhaps the most important factor in success is developing a vision and having confidence in the dream.
“It’s essential that you see yourself doing big things,” said CJ. “If there’s something in life or in your career that you want to do, you have to work towards that.”
As you navigate your career, CJ says, it helps when you have what he has had in time at RS&H: strong mentorship and a team of exceptional associates ready to get the job done.
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