Three weeks ago I was given the opportunity to conduct my first interview with Mrs. Trista Ramirez, a VDC-1 Tech at BIM Designs. We had a conversation about what the VDC industry entails such as career paths and qualities. Some of the qualities needed to be a part of a VDC Tech team includes honesty, integrity, and collaboration skills. We talk about a day in the life of being in this occupation as well as being a female in the industry. From this interview, I learned about how collaboration is one of the key aspects of being a VDC Tech as well as honesty. Most importantly, no matter what gender or race you may be, you do have the opportunity to be successful in VDC.
An Interview with Trista:
How long have you been working with BIM Designs?
“I have been with BIM Designs since March of 2020.”
Could you explain to me what VDC is?
“So VDC means Virtual Design and Construction where we are taking architectural plans from all trades that we cover, usually they are already 60% modeled, and we are finalizing those dimensions and changes depending on the regulations and code requirements.. That's more of VDC as a whole. As a VDC tech we have three levels: VDC 1, 2, & 3. This allows us to come into the technology portion of the trade and our employer provides real life experience and training through different resources and we are able to eventually learn to become modelers ourselves. At the beginning, we are a support system for the modelers. We annotate and spool drawings, and depending on who we are working with, we may have the opportunity to review drawings for continuity. Whether it be mechanical, electrical, plumbing, or fire protection, together it's taking a building that you can visually see and being able to render that 3D model in a visual representation of how it all works together by layers.”
Is VDC easy to learn?
"That depends on the person. For instance there are some kids who have adapted well with virtual learning and some kids who have not. When it comes to VDC there are many options. Our training center in Phoenix, AZ Local 469 , is the hub location that pioneered the VDC program for the UA and has been instrumental in the implementation and training for this path. While the training was offered in multiple platforms such as in person or hybrid, due to COVID-19, the program is now being offered completely online with the training center providing Ipads and support to the students. One may also obtain an associates degree in basic CAD at a local community college, also through various platforms; online, hybrid, etc. I have known people that have just watched YouTube videos and have done well. You just have to find the medium of learning that works for you. When I first started, I was not a technologically advanced person, but this was something I wanted to do and I was very interested in fire protection at this level. Yes, anyone can learn it. You just need to have the drive and passion to get out there, ask the tough questions, and make it happen."
What is a day in the life of a VDC Tech?
“Surprisingly, a day on the job is not that different due to COVID-19 because BIM Designs is almost 100% remote work. Even though we work from home, we have that responsibility in making sure we are up and ready for the day as if we are leaving our house to go to an office. I am usually at my work station around 5:50-5:55 a.m. in which I fire up the computer and log in. I have a detailed process that I go through in the morning as far as what programs to check for communication. Then I will work through my tasks throughout the day. Then usually the last 20 minutes of the day, I prep for the next day. We use the program Asana which is like a post it notes on the computer. Everyone can see what you are doing and what you have accomplished. I also keep a backup in a book where I can keep track both electronically and digitally. It is really knowing how to prioritize and meet your deadlines as well as show commitment. It is always good to be on top of things to prevent things falling through the cracks.”
What do you think are possible career paths for someone who wants to be a part of the VDC/BIM industry?
“So, the career paths technically are limitless. Because technology is what makes our world go round, we can have someone with no experience as a VDC-1, but perhaps they have experience or education that shows us potential management skills over another VDC because they understand the logistics, planning or estimating. This field can take you into the direct path to become a modeler which is technically a CAD designer, or estimating, pre construction planning, or project management. You may become a facilities manager where you are physically on site for a company that maintains buildings. For example, in Downtown Phoenix we have 2 huge high rises called REN-1 and REN-2. So, with the VDC experience, someone may be able to go in as a building maintenance engineer because they have experience to understand how a system is run and why it works the way it does. So, anything you do, whether it is in construction or infrastructure in CAD, it may support those pathways.”
Would you suggest a student be a part of architecture if they want to be a VDC Tech? Or what if a college student did not have any credentials to be an architect, but then decide they want to be a VDC Tech?
“It is possible. I do think there is a misconception that in order to be successful, you have to have a college degree and student loans, and I have seen the opposite of that. I am finding out that the trade offers a lot more in the application of the industry. So, if we have an architect student that says ‘I’m working on my associates degree but I’m finding out it's very difficult to get a stamp and be recognized,’as this is an extensive process, I will look at hiring them because they have the foundation of construction, core understanding, and what type of materials you would use for what application. I am going to look at what they have in their education that can cross over and how that can augment their performance in the VDC program.”
What are other qualities you look for when hiring someone for your team?
“One of the attributes that I look for is teachability. Anyone can say something that sounds good, but are you teachable? Are you able to be flexible and step outside of your comfort zone? Are you willing to mentor others? I would also look for honesty and integrity. I would rather have somebody that is willing to own up for a mistake and be able to come alongside them to mentor them and model leadership. I can always “delegate” a task to someone, but good leadership is stating ‘We have a situation and I want to come alongside you and mentor you through this process,’ and not just go and tell you to fix it. So, I think that's the difference, not only with the leadership aspect but also how they approach a problem. What support are they looking for? Are they looking to collaborate to fix the situation and still take responsibility? Do they want to grow and learn? How are their communication skills? Are we able to work together in a fast paced environment? But, if we have a pause, how are we going to fill that time? Are we going to ask for additional training or are we going to find other things to do? I know it is a broad spectrum, but those are the qualities I look for.”
What has been your experience like as a female working in a male dominated industry?
“ I was fortunate to grow up with three brothers, so knowing and understanding the theoretical mindset of the industry is helpful from a male perspective. There is a lot of ancient thinking that there is “one best way” which has been done forever and we are going to do it because it is “known and it is how it has always been done”. If I run into a situation where being a female is regarded as more of an assistant or admin then an equal partner in the same field as everyone else, then that is something I bring to light. With BIM Designs being a fairly new company, we are very open to innovative thinking, we can step outside the box, and we can look beyond industry gender roles. We want to look at a person’s potential and not put them in a box. But I can say on the other side of that is that the industry can be difficult. Someone can come to the table as a female with a certain amount of education and experience, but we still have limitations that even if the company as a whole does not have those limitations, there will always be people that will put you in that box. That is when you have to pull on your own personal integrity, transparency, and belief that no matter the industry or the people you are working with, we must all keep each other accountable and level the playing field. . It may be an uncomfortable conversation, but things that we may need to ask to be accountable is why do you feel this way, why am I being tasked this way, and how can we overcome this mindset while working together.”
What do you see for the future of VDC?
“This may sound a bit cliche, but honestly the future is now with BIM and VDC. It has technically been around for more than 50 years but has not been on the forefront till about the past 15 years or so. We are past the days of taking a pencil and paper to the field to mock up a building. We are looking into the future for not only supporting productivity and budgeting, but also safety and new technology such as Laser Scanning. BIM will continue to move us forward if we are open to not only the technology advancements, but also coordination, commitment, and collaboration moving within all entities."
Thank you once again Mrs. Ramirez for the amazing conversation and stay tuned for more from me, Fauve!
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About the Author
Fauve B.-R. is born and raised in South Central, Los Angeles, California. Fauve is an Honors Student Athlete, and Co-President of her school’s Black Student Union for Girls club as a rising high school junior, at Campbell Hall High School in Studio City. After meeting Steve Couch through her summer program, SMASH UCLA, she has been given the opportunity to be BIM Designs’ newest Marketing Intern. Her experience in public speaking, STEM studies, and project management has allowed her to be successful in her schooling. She is super excited to intern at BIM Designs and hopes to carry on her new skill set as she prepares to apply for colleges.