Luke Unverzagt is a vice president/senior project manager at Clune Construction Company’s Chicago office. He has 14 years of construction experience managing several high profile interior build-outs with infrastructure upgrades, for clients such as Wintrust and Seyfarth Shaw LLP.
Tell us about your background. Where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
I grew up in Grayslake, Illinois, which is where my parents continues to live, and attended Warren Township High School in Gurnee. After graduating I studied at the College of Lake County to complete my general education courses, and then transferred to Illinois State University, where I earned my B.S. in construction management. I paid my way through college by caddying and working construction side jobs.
When you were young, what did you aspire to be?
When I was young, I had a fascination with heavy construction equipment. I wanted to be an operating engineer running equipment like excavators or cranes.
How did you get your start in the industry?
My father works in the construction industry as a maintenance supervisor, so at a young age I started going to work with him on the weekends. Because he is a jack-of-all-trades, I was able to learn everything from carpentry to fire protection to electrical. This allowed me to develop my skills, so as I got older I not only served as a helper when I went to work with my father, but I was able to actually build things. When I got to high school, I had the opportunity to take some classes at a trade school at the local community college, and put some of the skills I had learned over the years to work building residential homes. I also continued working with my father on the commercial construction side while in high school and college. During my last two years of college, I interned at Clune Construction to gain hands-on experience so I could pursue a career in construction management after graduation. After I completed my internship, I was offered a full-time position at Clune as an assistant project manager.
Did you have a mentor who helped you get on your feet, or is there someone you turn to now for support?
Through my years at Clune, I have had many mentors starting with Jeremy Stanek and Joe Van Oosbree, who really supported me during my internship and my first few years at Clune. They each taught me on a one-on-one basis about the construction process. To this day they continue to provide me with guidance. In my current role, I turn to Chris Redpath, who has been a great mentor over the years. He supports me, but he also lets me branch out on my own to learn and develop my own skills to advance in my career.
What does a day in the life of Luke Unverzagt look like?
I always start my day with a medium iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts. My two-year-old son stays home with my wife on the days she works from home. The rest of the week, we drive into the city together and drop my son off at day care before my wife and I head to our offices. Once at work, I catch up with emails and plan my schedule. Typically I have multiple meetings throughout the day, whether it’s an owners meeting or job site walk through with my superintendents. Between meetings, I am working on budgeting, and bidding projects and keeping my ongoing projects up to date with financials. There is also the document control side of my job which involves working with assistant project managers on submittals, RFI logs, etc. and equipment and resolving issues to maintain schedule. The day ends with picking up my son from day care and spending some time with him and my wife.
What do you like most about your job?
The best part of my job is the people. We are a family-oriented company and everyone is very supportive of each other. The second best part is that I learn something new every day in this industry. Each project is unique which gives me the opportunity to learn something new every day.
Looking to the future, what do you hope to achieve/work on that you haven’t already?
At Clune, we have teams of project managers who work together on projects. My goal within the next two years is to be the head of my own team. I would like to have two to three project managers that I can teach and mentor in the same way my mentors did for me.
How do you spend your time away from the office?
When I am away from the office I love to spend my time with my wife, Rachel and my son, Theo. Both my wife and I work and have busy schedules, so the time she and I have on the weekends and the few hours at night during the week are extremely important. This is especially significant now that we have a child. When I am not spending time with my family, I enjoy building things in the garage, and completing maintenance and repairs around the house. I still enjoy working with my hands.
What is your favorite place that you have traveled to? Where do you hope to go next?
My favorite place that my wife and I traveled to was the Maldives Islands. It was the perfect place to really unplug from our busy work and personal lives and enjoy quality time together. I would love to go to on a trip to Europe next. In particular to Germany and parts of Italy that I haven’t yet been to.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
I’d like to see professional golfer Adam Scott answer these questions.