Matt Novotny, CM ‘21, is an alumnus from the Department of Construction Management who now works full-time as an Engineer at Clark Construction Group. He is currently working on a distribution and fulfillment center development project in Arlington, Washington. As an alumnus, Matt returned to the college several times to assist other Construction Management students with their capstone projects. Matt remarks that he maintains many of the connections he made in the Construction Management program through occasional collaboration on projects, in training classes, and outside of work. We interviewed Matt while he was still attending UW to gain insight on his experience as a transfer student.
Degree program: Construction Management
Hometown: Nova Paka, Czech Republic
Transferred from: North Seattle College
Tell me a little bit about yourself:
I’m originally from the Czech Republic. I’ve been in the United States for the past eight years. I started as a High School exchange student and decided I wanted to pursue my education in the U.S. I took the GED test because I couldn’t graduate from high school at that time, then went to Everett Community College as an International Student. During my work there, I got my green card status. My wife and I moved into Seattle to be closer to higher education, as my end goal was to attend the University of Washington.
Before transferring, I did my prerequisites at Seattle Central College and North Seattle College. There was a quarter where I was commuting between both colleges because they didn’t offer all the classes I needed at one. I was accepted into the University of Washington last year.
What made you choose the Construction Management major?
I started out wanting to be an architect. I looked at architecture programs all over the country but realized it wasn’t hands-on enough for me. I like being able to meet people in person and see a physical site, so that’s what led me towards construction management. An advisor pointed out to me that UW offered Construction Management and after looking at the website, I knew that’s where I wanted to go. I liked the idea of having a construction project, seeing it on paper and in 3D visualizations, and then getting to walk through the site.
What has been your favorite part of the department so far?
The connection to the real industry of construction management. We had a lot of guest lecturers who are working in the industry, presenting to us from their offices even, and I think that’s the best thing. Once you get out of school it won’t be as much of a surprise to you because you already know what to expect. It’s not only academic, you gain real-life skills. Some of the instructors who are full-time with the University have their own construction firms or decades of construction expertise, so their perspectives and experiences are pretty important.
What’s something that surprised you about transferring to UW?
Transferring to UW definitely took off at a quick running start. It wasn’t just a slow transfer where you have time to see how the school works. It was going in full time. From my perspective as a transfer student, it did feel as if I was slightly behind everybody else. Everybody knew where everything was, how everything operates. I was struggling to register because each school uses a different system and up to that point, I had been to three different schools. So it was a really hard start. I understand why transfer students might consider it very difficult.
What’s been the hardest part about transferring or the hardest part of this program?
The course load is one part, but I think the hardest part about transferring is the different systems. Canvas was the only thing that was the same as my previous college. Registering for classes and even the size of campuses are different. The University is gigantic and my first quarter I had 10 minutes between classes with a little bit less than a mile to go — that turned out to be a bit of a challenge.
What experiences have been the most impactful for you outside of the classroom? Outside of the classroom, it’s the connection to the real industry, without a doubt. It’s great when you have a lecturer in a classroom that you’re then able to connect with at happy hour. I was able to get my internship because I went on a site visit and made a connection with them because I had recognized them as a guest lecturer. My internship is with the firm that is doing the Washington State Convention Center expansion project, which is providing great experience.
What would you say your dream job is?
One day I want to find myself in a leadership role on a large project or at a large company. Management is natural to me, so that’s the direction I want to go. In the long term, I’m hoping to get my MBA hopefully from the University of Washington and that might be able to take me a little bit further.
Since I got my green card, I’ve been working throughout school. I started as a construction laborer — there were days where I spent hours in the crawl space of a house. I know that when I get a job after graduating, I will be starting as a project engineer or somewhere along those lines. But, I think that and my previous experience allows me to have a better understanding of what the job takes. So, once I get into a management position I can understand where my employees are coming from.
Do you have any advice for transfer students?
I would say to take interest in things. School can be really scary so don’t let it intimidate you. Try new things, take a shot at something. It can be challenging and it can seem like everyone knows what they are doing, but just try.
Do you have any words of advice for Construction Management students?
I would say push yourself into the industry and take chances. Seattle is one of the best places for construction right now. There are a lot of opportunities, so find a place where you fit in.