Welcome to our third Employee Spotlight post! We hope that you are enjoying learning more about members of our team through this new format. Please reach out to us if you have people in mind for future Employee Spotlight posts.

Today’s post features Chrisi Cover, who has been promoted to the position of Accounting Manager here at O’Brien Design+Build. Our CFO Paul Strassmaier told me that Chrisi came to mind right away for an Employee Spotlight because she embodies our core value of trust; I have your back and you have mine.

“Chrisi has made a great difference in getting things done as a team because she is constantly looking for ways to help other team members. Promoting Chrisi to Accounting Manager is recognition of the work that she is already doing to help others and make them better at what they do. To be effective, her role is about being both a policeman and a servant, so you are alternating between roles as you want to both help everyone get things done while at the same time follow the guidelines we’ve set up. Chrisi handles this duality very well. She has tons of experience in all aspects of accounting and what really differentiates Chrisi is her willingness to step in and to do anything for the benefit of the team – so she also exhibits collaboration. She has the tenacity required in the billing role to push, push, push to get to the heart of things and not give up. This is particularly important on the billing side because if we give up, we don’t get revenue. Chrisi’s insights and thoughts bring our team value well beyond accounting. I look forward to how she will continue to add to people’s knowledge and success here at the company.” Paul Strassmaier, CFO

Q&A with Chrisi

I love that it is fast-paced and all projects are different– keeps you on your toes.

I love working with others and working in a fast-paced environment where there is always something to be done and wearing many hats is regularly required.

I work in the Portland office. I have always worked in the Portland Metro area; living previously in Milwaukie and now in Oregon City.

I absolutely love visiting anywhere on the Coast. My other favorite local place is my Mom’s farm in Boring.

Listen and then speak; and most importantly, ask questions! I believe all questions are good questions when it comes to learning and growing in your respective positions. 

I was promoted to Accounting Manager! I am so excited to take on this role with the company and hope to help grow our accounting team to be the best we can possibly be for O’Brien. To succeed, we all need to work together as a team and continue to grow and learn in all accounting aspects. As always, communication is key.

Utilize all the tools and software O’Brien has to offer and ask questions if you are unsure or if you do not understand something. 

Carol is a good team member to spotlight because her evolving role clearly shows how O’Brien is working to elevate and promote people. When I first began working with her, Carol was in a training role in which she created an environment of trust and a can-do attitude while helping our team learn and better use our technology tools. A couple months ago, Carol transitioned from her part-time admin support role to a full-time project management role. Carol brought with her several years of experience as a PM prior to coming to O’Brien. It has been a pleasure getting to know Carol and I am happy that she has joined the team here in the Valley office. In just the last couple of months, she has helped create the upbeat office environment that we have today.

-Hank Smith, Area Manager, Valley Office
Our team smiling at Cho Winery
Carol and the Team at the site of Cho Winery

Q&A with Carol

I started right after college. It is a family thing–my mom was an architect. My stepdad, my stepbrother, and my brother-in-law all work in construction management, so I gave it a try after college. I enjoyed seeing the projects come to fruition and found it very exciting to work so hard and to see it all built out. I started because it was a family thing and then I stayed for enjoyment. My dual college degree was Business Administration and German – the BA comes in handy in construction. I moved to Germany and got married, and completed my Masters in Supply Chain Management. While I was doing that, I was working with O’Brien as a Training Specialist and I came back to the US and am working now as a PM…..it has been quite a move!

I like to see all the projects come to fruition. I also enjoy that we get to work with a lot of different people. Not only do we work with the project owners, but also, within our company we are able to work with people from so many different backgrounds. Our subs bring different experiences and nationalities, and you learn a little bit from every one of them. We also get to work on nice jobsites. Right now, I am working at Cho Wines and they have the most beautiful view of a lake and wineries with vineyards all around – not a bad part of the job!

When I first started my career, I opened two new offices in California for a different construction company. I was in my early 20’s and I was sent out to secure office space, get a team hired and set up, get a client base, etc. The offices did pretty well the first couple of years, and it was cool to have that experience at such a young age.

I am working from the Valley Division in Dundee. When deciding to move back to the US, I really thought about which office I would like to work from, and I asked if they had space for me in Dundee. We have a great team here. We have such an open dialogue and just really help each other. Hank is also someone that I knew I could learn a lot from and the projects here are pretty exciting. We are mostly working at beautiful wineries.

I enjoy trying out the different wineries. Recently I went to Blakeslee, which is a small winery with the owners’ house right next to it. I like how small they are. They have their dogs running around the property and the most beautiful view to their vineyards. Near the Dundee office there is a really cool restaurant, Red Hills Market. They have the most amazing fried chicken sandwich.

The need for teamwork. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have in the industry, if you have never built a winery, there are so many elements that you need to consider. We really need each other to successfully complete projects. I was previously training people and so while I understand the big picture, I have been relying a lot on the other team members to assist me in this new position transition. Teamwork is the most important thing in this industry.

I finally got to meet my nephew/godson, Leonardo! I didn’t get to meet Leo until he was nine months old because I was in Germany. It is extra special to be around him, seeing him grow, and watching the new things that he is doing every day! Leo is nearly a year old and is walking and talking now – he is very sweet and cuddly.

Take the time to visit the different offices and meet the different people we have in the company. Everyone brings a special knowledge and talent, and by knowing them, you know whom to contact when you need help. At the end of the day, we are all one company. We are all here to help each other and we are all here to step in when needed. I was lucky enough as the Training Specialist to meet pretty much all the people from all of the different divisions. The executive team takes time to find the best talent and hire great people, so knowing who is out there in our team makes a big difference. Also, learn Vista and really use it – if you are not putting the information into the system, it is just going to mess up your project.

Welcome to our first ever O’Brien Employee Spotlight, where we will regularly post interviews with team members so that we can better get to know and appreciate each other.  Please reach out to me with suggestions on people whom we might want to feature in future posts.

When I asked Stephanie Phillips, Operations Coordinator, why she suggested that we feature Andrew Adams for our inaugural spotlight post, she said to reach out to Derick Handley, Senior Superintendent, Coast Division, as Derick had shared with Stephanie how much he admired Andrew’s strong work ethic and career goal to be an accomplished carpenter.

“I have been in the construction industry for about 45 years and in that time, I have worked with many, many people. I first worked with Andrew on the North Haven project in fall 2022 and he impressed me with his eagerness to learn all aspects of construction.  He is a first-year apprentice who is meticulous and good at problem solving.  Andrew is a great person to have a conversation with if you can get him to not be shy or bashful, which he tends to do. He wants to learn everything and put it into practice, which he does with patience and humility and intelligence. All the way from putting up security fences to digging ditches, when I give him a task, he completes it and learns from it. He has a strong interest in woodworking and spends a lot of his own time working with wood.  I gave him a little router so that he can use the tool to make signs and such. I have been Andrew’s Catalytic Coach this year and he not only embodies our core values of trust, collaboration, and innovation – he is going to make one heck of a finish carpenter and the sky is the limit with Andrew at O’Brien.” 

Derick Handley, Senior Superintendent, Coast Division

Q&A with Andrew

I gravitated towards working with wood in my early teens and have continued woodworking for several years. One reason I keep working with wood is that I really enjoy watching plans progress from paper to physical objects. My goal is to transfer that enjoyment to being a carpenter, and so I entered construction as an apprentice.

I am currently in the Oregon registered JATC, or Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee through Central Oregon Community College. I am working through the curriculum, job hours, and tests required by this 4-year apprenticeship program. When looking for a job, I searched for construction companies affiliated with the JATC and reached out to all of them.  O’Brien was the first company to call me back and that is how I got hired.

I am always looking for more opportunities to work with wood and this job is moving me towards my someday goal of being a finish carpenter.  I hope that in the future, I can work specifically with trim and other visible parts of finish carpentry.

I work out of the Newport office. My parents moved to the Oregon coast and so I have good reason to be living and working here.

I am a homebody and spend most of my free time working in the woodshop that we have set up in an old horse barn.  We cleaned it out really well and it doesn’t smell like horses anymore.

Attention to detail is critical – both for avoiding actual problems and for creating a nicer finished product.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally bought a wood planer, which has been on my list to buy for several years now, that was a big day. I am having a grand time using it on woodcraft projects.

Show up on time and ask questions.

If you know a team member whom we should feature in a future Employee Spotlight, please reach out to me!

Michelle Winningham

Director of Marketing

(503) 516-3774