In Company Culture, Live Oak News

Jake Bennett is a Project Engineer at Live Oak Contracting. After studying construction at UNF, Jake joined our team and was the Project Manager on our recent office build-out.

PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU BECAME INTERESTED IN CONSTRUCTION

I grew up in Merritt Island, Florida, by the Kennedy Space Center. I attended Merritt Island High School and went to college at the University of North Florida. I’ve been in the construction industry all my life, and there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. 

My granddad owned a company building condos, so my dad and uncle went to work for him. All three are still in the construction business to this day. I began my first construction job in high school as a framer and worked in the field in college until I started my internship then employment at Live Oak Contracting. 

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?

The gratification you get at the end of the job when you look at the completed project and can say, “I built that.” At that moment, I think about all the hard work that went into creating the final product, and seeing it come to fruition is gratifying. It’s like you have your piece of history that you helped create that will live on for generations.

I also appreciate the problem-solving aspect of the business and working with my hands. In construction, you have to work as a team to get the best, most efficient result. To accomplish that sometimes you have to be hands-on which is what I enjoy. I’ve always had a passion for building things with my hands, so it translated nicely to my career responsibilities.

How did your recent college experience translate into your current role?

Going to the University of North Florida was a great experience. At the time, I didn’t realize how much the school of construction was preparing me for my current role. Now I find myself drawing back on those experiences and using the skills I learned there to execute daily tasks. 

The size of the student body was beneficial to me. The UNF School of Construction is a smaller program, so I received a good deal of one-on-one attention from my professors if I needed assistance. I developed close relationships with some of the staff and students. Everyone was on a first-name basis, which was different than other institutions.

The location of the school was a significant factor as well. Jacksonville has a rising number of development opportunities and there are several major construction firms are based here. Those factors were key to my advancement. I was exposed to many opportunities that I may not have gotten if I went to college in another city. Jacksonville’s construction community is tight-knit, and the construction firms here welcome local graduates.

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO LIVE OAK CONTRACTING?

The personal interaction from the marketing team to the CEO made me feel as though I was at home. Live Oak reminded me of passed construction experiences, and I knew I’d succeed here. Similar to my experience at UNF, I wanted a work atmosphere that was collaborative and personal, so I could continue to build my skillset and learn from mentors that have been in the business for years. There are over 50 years of construction experience at Live Oak, but nobody closes their door on you. That was very appealing to me. 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR FIRST PROJECT AT LIVE OAK, THE NEW OFFICE BUILD-OUT

Coming into the project, the sheetrock had just been hung, which made things interesting because I didn’t know what was behind the walls. As the Project Manager, it took some time for me to wrap my head around what had previously been done to the space and create a game plan moving forward. 

I’ve been in construction my whole life, but I’ve never had to make those decisions before I was handed the reins, so it was a great learning experience. It made me grow and figure out how to get challenging tasks done. If I didn’t make it happen, it wasn’t going to happen, so I had to step up to the plate. Fortunately, I had an abundance of support from my team, we got it done, and I am thankful for the experience.

WHO DO YOU ADMIRE MOST AT LIVE OAK CONTRACTING?

I’d say, Bill Gardner, our Director of Field Operations. He’s out here every day interacting with the team, and I respect him. I think he knows a lot, and I see how he connects with the subcontractors. Sometimes I find myself thinking, ‘what would Bill do here?’ I’d say he’s charismatic with the subs. He knows how to speak to people, and I admire that. I work on that every day because of him. 

HOW WOULD PEOPLE DESCRIBE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING IN YOUR FREE TIME?

My family would say I’m fun, outgoing, and hardworking but hardheaded. My coworkers would probably say I’m easy to work with and that I try to see both sides of an argument. I think I am pretty reasonable.  

I enjoy spending time outdoors on my boat, and I like to read outdoor and hunting books.