Five-Time Intern Finds Pride, Joy in Mechanical Construction

Kaitlyn Cavallin is achieving a unique milestone this summer: starting her fifth internship with TDIndustries. She’ll be working as an Assistant Project Manager with Vice President of Fort Worth Construction Brent Hawley. Kaitlyn just finished her junior year at Kansas State University studying construction science and management with a minor in leadership. She’s most excited about working on new construction projects this summer.

"We’re looking forward to working with Kaitlyn this summer at ‘Project Attraction,’ a magnet plant under construction in Fort Worth," Brent says. "Our interns get hands-on training every day at TD. We position and support them to learn by doing, and that includes problem solving with creative solutions on the job site."

Kaitlyn shared her story a few days before diving into her 2022 internship.

Tell us about your first high school internship in San Antonio. How did you find TD, and what was your experience like that first summer?

It was my junior year of high school. We were doing a mock interview project at my magnet school, Construction Careers Academy in San Antonio, in front of industry recruiters to evaluate our skill sets. The next day I got a call from the TD recruiter. She said, "Hey, so I know this was a mock interview, but …" so then I went through a couple more interviews and I was in.

I worked on Methodist Stone Oak Hospital for that whole first summer in San Antonio, and it was invaluable. I really could not have asked for a better summer. I got to try a little bit of everything: I started out with plumbing and moved along to mechanical/HVAC, and then I also did a little bit of welding, which is super cool. I was a 16-year-old girl out there learning how to weld, literally on the fly.

Where does your interest in mechanical construction come from? What inspires you to continue learning?

I had very little exposure to construction before going to Construction Careers Academy. I listened to my grandpa tell stories, as he worked for another big mechanical contractor in San Antonio. What blew my mind was the complexity of what he had to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I am very much all about a challenge, so when he would talk about the issues he had on a project, I was strategizing solutions in my head, and so I got a little taste of it.

There is still so much to learn about mechanical construction, and I am just eager to soak it all up. I didn’t just want to work fast food or retail. Seeing the impacts of the pandemic on the construction industry in the past couple of years and how quick you have to be on your feet with solutions really inspires me to stay in the game.

One thing I really appreciate about TD is that they are interested in teaching you about the trades and developing your individual skills. It’s not just about helping them do their job. So many times I hear that interns are stuck being paperwork heroes or just doing grunt work, and that’s not at all what TD is. I have so much respect for that. I’m a lifelong learner, and if TD wants to keep teaching me and putting me through different courses and learning project management, then that is somewhere I can see myself for a very long time.

Congratulations on starting your fifth internship with TD. What are the highlights of some of the hands-on education you’ve received the last few summers?

I have done a lot of Special Projects since I have been with TD. So, working in hospitals, schools and places where people are active movers and shakers. That has been an awesome experience. I get the joy of driving around with my siblings and saying, "I worked on that building." Having that indirect impact on so many people brings me a lot of pride and joy, and I would love to keep doing it. As far as my career plans, I plan to stay in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with TD to do project management!

What are you looking forward to this summer in Fort Worth and your role as an Assistant Project Manager?

This year I’m really hoping to get on some new construction projects, just to broaden my horizons. I’ve only done renovations since starting, so getting new exposure to that would be amazing. I would like to get in more on the financial process. I’ve learned quite a bit on the managerial side, but the finance side really impresses me when I hear the more experienced project managers discuss strategy.

Give us three reasons why construction industry internships are the best!

  1. What you do has a long-lasting impact on the world around you.

  2. They teach very quick thinking and flexible managerial skills.

  3. These opportunities give young people exposure to the experiences and perspectives of people who have been in the industry for a long time. You can see where we started and how far we’ve come.

Any advice for first-time interns?

Get as involved as possible. Attend as many meetings as you can. Work on as many things as you can get your hands on. Talk to as many project managers as possible, even if they’re not your direct supervisor. That’s how you’ll get the most well-rounded and involved experience. That was a big key that I learned really fast. Even if they’re not in your department, give them a shout, ask what they’re up to and learn how their job impacts your job. There are a lot of gears in the machine. Learning how all the pieces fit together will increase your understanding of the whole process.