Q: What was your role at MILBURN Demolition? What kind of responsibilities did you have?
A: I was a foreman. I started at MILBURN in April 2014. I came in right after the company started. When I joined, there were only about ten people working there.
My day-to-day operations included running the field at a specific job location. My duties included making sure payroll was done, keeping track of attendance, and getting daily progress reports to our project manager, estimators, dispatchers, and field operations manager. I also filled out paperwork, participated in our weekly safety toolbox meetings, and implemented company policies.
Q: What were you up to in your career before joining MILBURN?
A: I’d been in the industry since 1997. I was studying architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I got a summer job in demolition, and I got into the union, making really good money. From being behind a draft table studying to being physically involved in the field, that was very intriguing for me.
I was 22 years old at the time, so I started very young. I loved doing this sort of physical, labor-intensive work. After I left school, my goal was to become a project manager. I started moving myself up through the ranks, and in 2009, I got my degree in construction management. By the time I came to MILBURN, I already had 17 years as a laborer.
I had already invested so much time into being a laborer and filling up so many credits into my pension. Considering my healthcare and the fact that I already had a family, I had to decide whether to finish my career as a laborer or become a project manager. I ended up leaving my life as a laborer behind, and I really enjoyed being a foreman.
Q: Why were you glad you transitioned to being a foreman? What did you like about your job?
A: Every day was a new challenge, honestly. Nothing is ever the same with demolition. Even though you plan ahead, things can change in the field in a New York minute. I liked how quickly we move on to new jobs in this industry. I’d be on one job for a few days or a couple of weeks, and then I was on to the next one.
As a foreman, I always looked forward to the next challenge. I also loved seeing how technology had really taken over our industry. When I started, demolition was a very labor-intensive, backbreaking field. Now, there are all these robotics and other new tech that makes it easier on your body.
My favorite jobs were the ones where I could operate and be a foreman at the same time. That usually happened when I was running smaller crews. When we had three- or four-man crews, that usually meant I could get in the seat myself and do some operating, and I always loved that.
Q: What made MILBURN such a great company to work for?
A: It was the attention to detail—not just with your work performance, but also with your life outside of work. They wanted to know how you and your family were doing. They wanted to make sure you were happy, comfortable, and attentive.
They were also always open to suggestions. They wanted you to come up with ideas, and that made you feel valuable to the company. With other companies I’ve worked for, you'd just get thrown into a job and told, “This is what you’re going to do—just get it done.”
With MILBURN, if we had a new job coming up, they’d ask me to come out to the job site a week or two before we started. They asked for my input, and they saw what I was thinking. Even though, for the most part, they already had the job planned out, they still wanted my input. We all rise together and we all fall together, and MILBURN recognized that.
Q: What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I was on my second marriage, and I had four kids—two boys and two girls. My wife was a nurse. Other than spending time with my family, my main interests were playing softball and soccer. I'm trying to keep my body young.
Learn more about becoming a foreman like Rene. Or listen to the Dirt Talk podcast to learn more about demolition with the man himself, James Milburn of MILBURN Demolition.
Written by Admin
March 2, 2023
Meet the Expert