Why this family considers construction “one of the greatest” industries to go into.
For someone who hopes to never stop learning, construction is a great career choice. If you grow up in a family of construction, you may be more likely to end up in the business yourself, and that non-stop learning amplifies.
For the Mathson Family, construction is both their individual choices and influence from one another, their nature and their nurture, their work life and their home life. That’s just how they like it, because it means they’re constantly learning, growing and expanding their knowledge as individuals from one another.
“We talk a lot of shop at home,” says Alley Mathson, strategic account manager for PROSOCO who’s based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of north Texas. “I’m always learning something new from both Jake and Mark every day. We’re not afraid to ask each other questions to really fully understand how something works outside of our normal realm.”
Mark Mathson, a consultant at Curtain Wall Design & Consulting (CDC) in Dallas, loves the advantages of a wife who “makes me look smarter.”
“I’ve been specifying PROSOCO products for a decade or more so I’m very familiar with their product lines. But I haven’t read every single word of their product data sheets or technical notes so I just ask my wife, and she rattles it off almost word for word.”
Those spots that don’t overlap in the Mathson family Venn diagram aren’t weaknesses, but rather opportunities. They enable the family to teach one another in ways that are uniquely tailored just for them, based on all the ways they know one another. This makes every conversation a custom-built education for one.
“I’m constantly calling her with materials questions that are more on the chemistry side, because I took chemistry in school but don’t remember any of it,” Mark said. “If I have a condition on-site where I know it’s some chemical reaction I’m not familiar with, she’s the first person I go to because she can explain it in a way that I’ll understand.”
A similar familiarity benefits Mark and Jake’s working relationship. “The communication is very comfortable because he knows how I learn,” says Jake Mathson, Consultant at CDC.
Mark can spend less time planning his approach when teaching Jake something new.
“I’m getting old, and he’s my son, so I can say whatever I want and I don’t have to worry about tiptoeing around,” he says. “And I know how he thinks. I know how he learns. I know what he knows and what he doesn’t know.”
That’s not the case with other employees under Mark’s supervision.
“With other guys that work for me who aren’t my son, it tends to be a little bit more challenging sometimes because I might have to approach them a different way, or present things a different way, or spend more time explaining things.”
Working with Jake “is awesome because it’s very comfortable, and I know that eventually he’ll be one of the great ones in the construction consulting business,” Mark adds. “It takes not only the right personality, but the right kind of aptitude and ability to work out the mechanics of deconstructing things in your head, and Jake is naturally able to do that.”
Strength in their diversity
Alley, Mark and Jake all hail from different backgrounds that led them into their specializations.
With a background in real estate and technical product representation at international trade shows, Alley entered the technical sales side of the construction industry through professional connections made during her 20-plus years of participation in the World of Concrete trade show.
For Mark, construction is all he’s known since age 15, when he got a job cleaning up jobsite debris for a construction company. Over the next 35 years, he would work in carpentry; remodeling, fire, water and smoke restoration; insurance claims; residential and commercial swimming pools; commercial general contracting; and ended up in forensic investigations and consulting.
Jake, a more recent entrant to the business (age 26), followed his dad into the same field, but that wasn’t always his clear vision.
“I didn’t always know that I would be where I am today,” he says. “However, since my Dad was always involved in construction, I was exposed to it my whole life. I think I got my first part-time job working with my Dad when I was 16 as a sophomore in high school. I was doing a lot of OSHA testing and assisting with general water leak investigations, quality assurance observations and due diligence surveys.”
Post-college, Jake moved to Denver, Colorado, and is currently working for CDC doing OSHA compliance testing, façade access systems and fall protection design projects, forensic investigations, façade inspections, due diligence surveys, and more.
Alley and Mark are thrilled to have Jake in the ranks of their construction family.
“Conversations that Mark and I have been having for years, we’re getting to have with Jake,” Alley says. “Now he very much understands a lot of those conversations that were taking place before he was really invested in the construction industry, and we’re all engaged and participating together. And that’s definitely been a whole lot of fun.”
Why they love their jobs
Looking back at their individual backgrounds, each Mathson agrees that one of the greatest benefits of construction is its variety.
“No two days are the same,” Alley says. “Some days I’m in an architect’s office or with spec writers. Some days I’m out in the field, or on a job-site or in a 100-foot hole underground with my protective boots and hard hat on. That to me is exciting.”
“(Construction) is very specialized, but you don’t need anything special to be in it. You just have to have the desire.”
It’s one of the greatest industries to be in, adds Mark. “I would encourage anybody who has even a little interest in construction to jump in because there’s so many different ways you can go. You can be in the nuts and bolts side of it. You can be in the consulting and specification side of it, the architecture side, engineering, or project management. There’s a shoe to fit every foot.”
“It’s very specialized, but you don’t need anything special to be in it. You just have to have the desire.”
Marks wishes fewer kids were apprehensive to get their feet wet in construction because it’s really not that complicated.
One of his architectural engineering courses in college “seemed very daunting and scary,” he says. “I thought that I wasn’t going to be smart enough or I didn’t have the aptitude for it, or it was just going to be too technical. What I realized was, that’s completely false. It’s all about sequencing and learning about the products and taking your time to understand what needs to go before the other. It’s very simple.”
Construction is a career that has grown with Mark as his interests have changed, and even as his body has changed, Mark says.
“In my late 30s, a buddy and I started a commercial general contracting company. We built water parks and stadiums, high-rise, low-rise, retail, big box, all kinds of things. It was everything I ever wanted to do, but I decided to get out of the working side of construction because physically it’s hard on your body.”
“When you’re a general contractor, you can only look as good or perform as well as the subcontractors perform underneath you and on down the line. That was just really challenging. I like the consulting side much better.”
While Mark considers himself closer to the end of his career, using his body less and his mind more, Jake is soaking up adventure on the younger end of the spectrum.
On a project in 2019, Jake and a group of colleagues flew up to Lake Tahoe, Calif., for a fall protection assessment at a ski resort.
“There were 15 or 20 buildings that were all scattered over the mountain they wanted us to assess on fall protection needs for the roofs,” Jake says. “You couldn’t just take a car up there to ride up to the buildings, so we were in UTVs driving up the mountain on private roads. I mean, really treacherous terrain. At most of the buildings we had to get out and hike up to them. We had a couple of drones with us. It was four or five days of just mountaineering up to these remote buildings and it was beautiful weather. That was a really fun project that didn’t feel like work at all.”
Protecting against the highs and lows
Along with its variety, construction is also one of the most recession-proof businesses out there, as long as your business is flexible enough, Mark says.
“Even if the economy starts going into a downward spiral, people still have to make money. Investors still have to make investments, lenders still have to lend or they don’t make any money. So, it just shifts from investments in new construction to investments in restoring or repairing older buildings. For instance, during COVID, our company barely skipped a beat, and that’s because we have that diversity. If you combine new construction and remediation or restoration, you can become more or less economy-immune.”
As the Mathsons are well-equipped to tackle any uncertainty that lies ahead of them, together and individually, their legacies can be found in any building they’ve worked on in the past. And that is a benefit that’s hard to find anywhere else.
“When you drive past a building and you can say, ‘Hey I worked on that building. I did the waterproofing or the water repellent or the air barrier on that project,’” Alley says. “To know the ins and outs of the building and how it was built and constructed, it feels really special, especially the buildings we had the opportunity work on together as a family.”