Illustration by Jonny Ruzzo
Sean Truesdale co-founded Truebeck Construction in San Mateo, California, in 2005, with David Becker, a colleague at the construction company they worked for out of college. The two had complementary skills, Truesdale said. He focused primarily on pre-construction and Becker handled project execution. Not long after they met, they decided to go out on their own.
Over the years, the company has become a top general contractor, included in lists of Top 10 Greater Bay Area Contractors, Top 10 Largest General Contractors in Silicon Valley and Top 20 Private Companies by the San Francisco and Silicon Valley business journals.
Built spoke with Truesdale about his path to the construction industry, how he structures his time and his approach to some of the industry’s biggest challenges.
Built: How did you choose the construction industry?
Truesdale: I started out studying architectural engineering, but I decided I didn’t want to sit at a desk all day so I switched to civil engineering. It has a similar background but more flexibility and job options. I did two engineering internships followed by a heavy civil construction internship that really swayed me. It involved working with pile drivers, carpenters, laborers and engineers, and finding construction solutions that worked for them. My senior project at the time was designing the falsework for concrete bridges, the formwork system that holds wet concrete while it cures. I found that my passions were both being outside and dealing with people, so I knew my future was in construction.
Built: Who is someone that inspired you to work in the industry and why?
Truesdale: I never really had one person who steered me toward construction. A lot of people grow up in construction families and follow their lead, but I was not one of them. I found my path while meandering through the civil engineering profession and trying out different things. I’d say there were 20 different people that mentored me in one way, shape or form.
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Built: What advice do you have for people looking to follow in your career footsteps?
Truesdale: You really need to have a passion for this industry. If you’re going to do what we do, it’s very technically challenging. It’s hard work and not everybody wants to do that today. And it can’t be done from home.
Built: What’s one of your favorite parts of the job?
Truesdale: We work with scientists, doctors, architects, carpenters, laborers and cement masons—people from all walks of life with different expertise. I love that. Also, some projects are really fun, like the one we’re doing for the county of San Mateo. It’s our first civic mass timber project using cross-laminated timber, which utilizes wood similar to a structural steel frame.
Built: What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the construction industry?
Truesdale: Materials are escalating in price very quickly, and we have a labor shortfall for suppliers and trade partners. It’s making schedules and costs unpredictable. Inflation, COVID-19 and cybercrime are big issues—not just unique to construction, but across other sectors, too. The combination of supply chain, cost escalation and labor shortfalls are all big challenges for our industry right now. The good news is the construction industry is resilient and will adapt.
Built: How do you structure your time to fix the most important issues you face in your role?
Truesdale: I tackle that challenge on a daily basis. I start every day mapping out what the most critical tasks are and what my focus needs to be for this week. Based on that I decide how I structure each day. I don’t have a consistent formula other than I need to constantly re-assess and re-evaluate because challenges are thrown in every single day. It’s the nature of the job. It helps to surround yourself with people you trust will do their jobs really well.