Jeff Williams ’07 transferred into the construction management (CM) program at Illinois State after serving four years in the United States Air Force and has had plenty of unique work experiences post-graduation.

He knew Illinois State was one of the few state institutions that offered a program centered around construction management and decided to use his Illinois Veteran’s Grant to join the Redbird community. In his time on campus, he was involved in the Construction Management Student Association (CMSA), the Mechanical Contractor’s Association, and Alternative Spring Breaks.

Williams now works for a company that builds United States Embassy buildings in various locations overseas. His latest project has brought him to Namibia, a country in South Africa.  

For Williams, the most challenging part of his work is navigating the restraints put in place due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Trying to work on an international project during the pandemic can be challenging. So many people are working from home, which can affect supply chains, how long it takes to receive materials, and cause interruptions in manufacturing. Obviously, we have to be onsite and in-person to get the job done but coordinating with people working remotely back in the states can be difficult,” he said.

While there are plenty of challenges that have surfaced in the midst of the pandemic, Williams also notes the rewarding aspects of the job that are quite motivational. He notes that although his company sends groups of people overseas like himself, they also use direct-hire employees from local labor sources to work onsite.

“It is so fun to come into a new country that we might not have worked in before, meet these diverse new groups of people, and learn from them. At the end of the day the job will get built, and it is cool to meet and work with people from so many cultures that are different than our own,” he said.

Despite being busy with his work overseas, Williams has taken time to stay connected with the construction management program over the years. He maintained a close relationship with a former mentor and faculty member of the program and stayed connected through his younger brother, who graduated from the CM program in 2020.

Since graduating, Williams has taken time to speak to students in the CMSA student organization through a virtual event, despite the time differences caused by his location overseas.

“I’m a huge fan of Illinois State’s construction management program because it prepared me so well,” he said. “My advice for students looking to work in this field is to keep an open mind. There’s more to construction than building homes. I’ve worked on refineries, power plants, embassies, consulates, chemical plants, you name it. Anything you see in the world was built by someone, and you can be apart of that, so don’t be afraid to explore your options.”

Want to learn more about the construction management program at Illinois State? Check out the Department of Technology’s website for more information.