Q&A Dec 9, 2021

Q&A: Talking with Randall ‘Buzz’ Summerford, Senior Project Manager, Healthcare

To mark the opening of the new Tanjea Center for Surgery—the largest surgical expansion in Tampa Bay history—we caught up with one of our teammates who worked on the project, Senior Project Manager Randall ‘Buzz’ Summerford.

Buzz Summerford Q&A

To mark the opening of the new Tanjea Center for Surgery—the largest surgical expansion in Tampa Bay history—we caught up with one of our teammates who worked on the project, Senior Project Manager Randall ‘Buzz’ Summerford, to talk project management, building the hospital where his child was born and all things sports.

Tell us a bit about your background and current role at Jacobs.

I grew up in a construction family and am a fourth generation builder. My great-grandfather had a small construction business in South Georgia. I helped to install my first footings at around 10 years of age and learned how to operate a transit by the time I was 13.

In college I studied architecture for the first year then transferred into the building construction program where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Auburn University in Alabama. Not counting my non-paid work in the family business, I have over 30 years of experience in the construction industry, with most being in healthcare.

How did you get the nickname ‘Buzz’?

The story goes is that at a young age, I was fascinated by the space program and used the astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s name when playing. At some point in time, I stopped responding to my given name and only responded to ‘Buzz.’

What sparked your interest in this field? Are you where you thought you’d be?

I grew up working for both my father and grandfather in the industry. Before starting an internship program for an international construction company, I worked as a carpenter’s helper at the VA Medical Center in Tuskegee, Alabama during my early years in college. I had the opportunity to work with many different components of the construction process, including selective demolition, concrete, doors and hardware, and interior finishes.  Although I disliked some of it at the time, I’ve been able to draw on those experiences throughout my career, including times where I was the field superintendent on a project. I can’t say that I had a timeline goal for my career, but I do know I wanted to follow my grandfather and father and be on the project management side of the construction process. 

I also enjoy that the health market is an ever-changing industry that’s driven by innovation. I like learning new things about how technology affects the industry and how health care is delivered.

What’s the most important part of being a project manager?
As a project manager, you're heavily involved in planning, cost management, contracting and procurement. Ultimately it’s your responsibility to remove the barriers to successfully deliver a safe, high quality project under budget and on time.

When you build a building, you’re basically leaving a work of art – one that not only transforms a skyline or landscape in some way, but also impacts the community and the people who live in it.

Internally, as a manager of people, we have the responsibility to grow their skills to prepare them for the next steps in their career.  I truly believe the adage by Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

What's your favorite part of your role?

Building an ‘A’ team. That is, everyone pulling in the same direction with a common goal—all putting forth ideas to try and improve the process but doing that with respect. No one has complacency because there’s professional accountability throughout the process. You must be able to focus on what’s coming up and not just looking at days in front of you, but months ahead.

If you can assemble that kind of team—have that chemistry as a team—you're going to have a successful project.

What's your proudest career moment so far?

It’s part personal as well, but having a child born in a women's & children’s center that I built was very special. Having relationships with the staff for 18 months and then having them deliver your child was a special experience.

How do you deal with obstacles and challenges that occur during a major project?

First, you must identify what those problems are and look at each component. You must “pull off the band-aid” and expose all the issues so you can efficiently solve the problem. At the end of the day, if you built the right team, then everybody understands what they’re accountable for.

If you’re not working, what would we most likely find you doing?

Spending time with family as much as possible. My sons were in highly competitive soccer, and my oldest is now off to college. I still get to watch my youngest play sports, which is special, and I try to make time to see them. I love watching Auburn University sports. I grew up playing soccer in the mornings and then driving from Montgomery in Alabama to Auburn to see football games for most of my years in school.

I also enjoy the outdoors and like to hunt, fish, and go golfing when I can.

What do you like most about being part of the Jacobs family?

The diversity in services provided and the diversity in talent is very interesting to me. I'm continuing to learn more and more about the things we do and the people in the in the company and they're all impressive. Just the diverse population of our talent is incredible.

Join #OurJacobs team

What drives you drives us as we work to build a better world – together. At Jacobs, every day is an opportunity to make the world better, more connected, more sustainable.

We’re always looking for dynamic and engaged people to join our team. Bring your passion, your ingenuity and your vision. Let’s see the impact we can create, together.