It’s not just business, it’s personal
Gildardo “Gil” Fullen has always been a people-person. One of eight children, Gil was the first in his family to be born in the United States after his parents and siblings immigrated from Guadalajara, Jalisco.
As a student at Long Beach State University, he tried his hand at astronomy, aerospace engineering, interior design, architecture, and mechanical engineering before finding the right fit in construction engineering management and graduate studies in civil engineering.
Overwhelmingly, Gil found it was the people and management tasks he enjoyed most. After exploring every facet of the industry, he was able to zero in on his true calling: working with people and building projects.
Gil embraced life in the field with a passion that’s still evident today. Just as he did in his college days, Gil explored all the various roles and responsibilities, working his way up from an intern to field superintendent, and learning the technical facets and soft skills towards becoming a very well-rounded project manager.
Realizing that his teammates were his best teachers, Gil made the effort to absorb as much as he could from everyone. "The field is really important if you want to learn the technical aspects. I saw all of the subcontractors as my teachers and I would pull them in and ask questions related to their expertise. I was learning from the field as much as I could”.
One of the best lessons he picked up was that knowing how to build relationships was just as important as knowing how to build structures and, in many cases, can make all the difference in the success of a project.
Through a combination of technical, people and relationship skills, Gil quickly earned respect in the field and the California education market (a focal point for much of his career). It also earned him a major promotion. At 32, Gil became the youngest vice president and first Latino executive of Barnhart (later acquired by Balfour Beatty).
This promotion was a huge source of pride for Gil and his family. He also saw it as huge opportunity for those around him: “When I realized I was the only Latino executive I told myself I have a seat at the table now, I can impact people, support their growth and serve as a minority leader to motivate and inspire others.”
Around the same time, he took on another more personal role – father to his daughters, Makena and Avarie. Suddenly his work resonated on a more personal level. “I visited a school district to assess their existing facilities during a summer school day and saw kids with red sweaty faces because the air conditioning wasn’t working. I wouldn’t want my daughters in this type of learning environment. Having children made it more personal, it wasn’t just about business, it’s about building an environment that’s going to help kids.”
Gil’s personalized approach matched by high-quality work has been instrumental in solidifying Balfour Beatty’s success and expertise in the California K-12 and higher education markets. The work we perform has consistently been rewarded with repeat work and some of our most enduring client relationships. As Gil explains: “The more we successfully deliver our projects, the more our clients advocate for us in their circles. When we get a new client, we want to keep them for decades. When they see we really are interested in doing the right thing for them and the wider community it makes a huge difference.”
Many of the relationships he has built in the field are still a part of Gil’s life today. After almost 20 years in operations, Gil transitioned onto our Business Development team, where he continues to focus on building successful long-term client relationships.
Gil is equally committed to connecting with his teammates - particularly the younger generations rising through the ranks - and responding to their individual needs, whatever they may be.
As Gil explains: “I mentor people to not only take over my role but to support them, help them. Just being there for people is important. Through the years, when they face barriers or issues, they confide in me. Sometimes it’s personal issues and they trust me to listen and support them.”
Seeing people thrive on an individual level is important to Gil. As an outspoken champion for diversity and inclusion, Gil has participated and presented at numerous diversity-related industry events including the Women in Construction USA San Francisco conference in 2019. He also teaches at the Coalition for Adequate School Housing Organization – School Facilities Leadership Academy and volunteers as a coach through Landmark Education, a leadership program he has supported for the last 20 years.
Although Gil has made a name for himself as one of the best builders in the business, he credits all his success to the human connections he has forged throughout his career. Whether it’s speaking in his native language to Latino employees on his jobsite or speaking up for the kids in his school district, Gil has always put people and relationships first.
Gil is a shining example that by putting people at the heart of what we do, we build more than just structures. We build lasting relationships with our clients, partners and teammates on an individual level that can benefit entire communities.
For Gil, what we do is more than just business, it’s personal.