Macy Williams: I first heard about masonry during my freshman year in high school. Originally, I enrolled in the class because my guidance counselor made it sound like an easy “A” elective course. After about the first week of class, I realized that getting my “A” wasn’t going to be as easy as I anticipated. As I learned more about masonry and the history of the trade, I began to develop a passion for it. My instructor would separate our work stations by rank, based on our performance in the shop. Initially, I was merely interested in keeping my No. 1 spot in shop class. Over time, I had the opportunity to work around seasoned masons in my community. I began to notice that the best masons also had lucrative careers within the industry. That is when I realized that I aspired to someday become a journeyman brick mason.
MM: What was your first masonry-related activity? Was it a contest? A summer job?
Williams: During my sophomore year in high school (2000), I competed in my very first SkillsUSA-VICA high school masonry competition. I was awarded 3rd Place in my region, which wasn’t too bad for a first-year student competing against upperclassmen. Following the competition, Calvin Brodie of Brodie Contractors, Inc. (BCI) introduced himself and congratulated me on a job well done. After a brief conversation, Calvin offered me my first summer job as a brick mason. That summer, I went to work for BCI at the Ram Village Residence Hall Project on the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Campus.
MM: What kind of training did you receive that helped you get where you are today?
Williams: I completed Masonry I, II and III training courses in high school. After high school, I completed the four-year NCMCA Apprenticeship Program while working for Brodie Contractors, Inc. During this time, Brodie also allowed me to work as a “seasonal” full-time employee while I earned my B.S. degree in construction management from North Carolina A&T State University.
MM: What was your first professional masonry position? What did you do on a daily basis?
Williams: I began as an apprentice brick mason. During my apprenticeship, I was required to lay block/brick to the line and work on the grout pump crew. As my skill level improved, I was required to set the twig and eventually build corner leads.
MM: How have you advanced in your profession since then?
Williams: After completing my apprenticeship, I became a journeyman mason. Several years later, I became a crew foreman. As a foreman, I managed a six- to eight-man crew, along with the responsibility of plan reading and wall layout. I currently hold the position of project manager. I am responsible for the turnover process between our Estimating and Operation teams, in addition to managing the pay applications, budgets, schedules and document control for each of my projects.
MM: Did you have any mentors? Who were they and how did they inspire you? Does anyone still mentor or inspire you?
Williams: I’ve had several mentors who have inspired me over the years. First, my mom, who struggled to raise me and my siblings as a single parent following the tragic death of my father. She always inspired me to work hard and to put my best effort into everything that I do. Next, my high school masonry instructor, Mr. Yarborough Williams. Not only did he teach me how to lay brick, but he also taught me the value of giving respect and earning respect from the people I interact with. Third, my supervisors, the late Willie Hodges (senior superintendent, BCI) and Kelly Brooks (operations manager, BCI). They taught me to have a good work ethic and to take pride in my trade and profession. Willie used to say, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to be so close that you can’t tell the difference.” Last, Mr. Calvin Brodie (president, BCI) has been a huge inspiration to me since the day I met him. Not only has he mentored me professionally, but he has always been there for me to offer guidance and advice whenever I have called on him. Calvin inspires me by being a true example of a man with integrity and honor.
MM: What should masonry, as an industry, be doing more (or less) of to get young people interested in masonry?
Williams: I feel that we, as an industry, should put more effort into marketing our trade to young people and their parents. Also, we should be advocating masonry programs in our local school districts. They need our support to stay in operation during a time when other “technical” programs seem to receive funding over the trades. We are living in an age of enormous student loan debt, and what better alternative than a trade that can be learned in high school at no cost to the students? We all know people in our communities who have very successful careers in the masonry industry. It is time to get the word out!
MM: Is there anything else that you think would encourage young people to consider masonry as a career?
Williams: Money, money, money! I think every young person should be informed about the earning potential that exists in the masonry industry. I believe that some kids end up working at department stores because they were told that it is the same as working in construction. I know that I have been able to provide a good lifestyle for my family through my career in the masonry industry. We need to get the message to them that they have been misinformed.
Macy Williams is project manager for Brodie Contractors, Inc., Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brodie Contractors, Inc. is a general contractor specializing in commercial and institutional masonry construction. Visit www.Brodiecon.com for the company’s history and portfolio.