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Meet TJ Macklin, a Driven Innovator on a Mission

By Merry Richter

May 29, 2023

TJ Macklin, May 2023 Pathfinder

Meet our May 2023 Pathfinder, TJ Macklin, a dedicated Project Assistant at Humphrey Rich Construction Group. TJ’s strong social and leadership skills are helping him build a fulfilling career in construction.

Developing independence through homeschooling

TJ Macklin baby photoTJ Macklin hails from Damascus, MD, a small suburban town situated approximately 40 miles from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. He and his two brothers and sister were home-schooled until middle school. “I loved being home-schooled,” TJ says. “My friends wouldn’t get out of school until late in the afternoon, but my siblings and I would get to play as soon as we got our work done.”

Being home-schooled also helped TJ develop valuable independent learning skills that have helped make him the proactive self-starter he is today. “We had little workbooks, and we would do our own thing, and then my mom would help us out when we needed her,” TJ explains. “Then, on Fridays, we would have our co-ops. All of the moms in the area would teach a class for a day, and we’d come in with all our home-school friends. The social aspect of it was really beneficial for me.”

A close and very competitive family

Once TJ and his siblings were all enrolled in public school, they became very active in sports. TJ looked up to his older brothers, who excelled in soccer and wrestling. TJ followed suit. “I was always very fast as a kid and used to score a lot of goals,” he recalls. “Making it to a team as a 7th grader was a big deal for me because there were only a few teams at the school.”

TJ Macklin wrestlingTJ played soccer throughout middle school and then started wrestling in 7th grade. “Wrestling had a big impact on me. It gave me self-confidence, and it helped me develop leadership skills,” he shares.

Making the adjustment from home-schooling to public school was challenging. Academics weren’t his strong suit at this stage because of the type of concentration required and group-based classroom learning methods that differed from the independent-study nature of home-schooling he’d been accustomed to. “I hadn’t been around so many kids before,” he explains. “They all knew each other, and it was tough to assimilate. Over time I started to fit in. I may have been an average student, but I had common sense, logic, and critical thinking skills on my side.”

Discovering construction at a young age

TJ Macklin and his dadTJ also benefited from an early education in construction, thanks to his father’s general contracting business, Macklin Contracting. “On ‘Take Your Child to Work Day,’ my father would take me around his jobsites and introduce me to all of his clients,” TJ explains. “Then, as I got older, I spent days working with him and doing carpentry projects for him.”

Working alongside his father offered TJ a strong foundation in construction that certainly influenced his career choices, and the apples didn’t fall far from the tree. TJ and his siblings all found themselves pursuing technical roles. One of his brothers became an engineer and currently designs satellites for NASA. His other brother is a mechanic who runs the performance department at a car dealership. And his sister works at HR Construction Group as a Project Administrator, managing material procurement on-site, communicating with subcontractors, and setting up tools on-site like OpenSpace.TJ Macklin and family

TJ worked with his father in construction for a few summers and then continued on with a different construction company throughout high school and then over the summers during college. The experience helped him realize that he liked the idea of owning a business and having the freedom to set his own hours to prioritize family time. His father had gone to all of his games and made enough money to support his family while doing something he loved. And knowing his father hoped he’d take over his company someday helped cement a direction for his future studies.

Finding a new passion for learning and leading in college

TJ Macklin with Towson bannerBased on his high school experience, however, TJ was initially unsure if attending college would be right for him. But enrolling at Towson University turned out to be one of the best decisions he ever made.

TJ thrived in college academically. “In home-schooling, I had done a lot of the work on my own and would ask for help if I needed it. In high school, the social aspects and group learning were imposed on me, and I found it hard to learn in the classroom. But in college, suddenly, I was able to do some of the learning on my own again, and that was just what I needed,” he notes.

Moreover, TJ also flourished socially in college, finding a lot of new friends, working at an outdoor adventure center, and then becoming a youth leader at Young Life, a faith-based organization. “I facilitated a program for a group of middle-schoolers and had never been in a leadership role before,” he shares. “The program, Wyldlife, was new in the community, and I had to do a lot of outreach to get support from the kids and their parents. I also had a team of six people who were looking to me to make decisions, and I didn’t know what to do most of the time. But it changed the trajectory of my life. The work was so meaningful and impactful.”

TJ Macklin with Rock Climbing groupHe also found some interesting new athletic pursuits. “In college, I needed to find weird sports that I could beat my brothers at since they’d ruled in soccer and wrestling in high school. I played spikeball, rock climbed, scootered, slacklined, and even went through a pogo stick phase! Typical youngest child stuff,” he jokes.

Scoping out a career in construction

TJ decided to study business administration with a focus on entrepreneurship and a minor in marketing so he could build the skills to take over the family business if he chose to go that route. At the same time, he continued working in construction to gain additional industry experience.

He spent six summers in high school and college working for Luther Contracting in Damascus, operating heavy equipment like skid loaders and wheel loaders, and then he started doing carpentry. He was offered a sales position with Win Sales Solutions, an outsource sales company, where he made 200 cold calls a day to CEOs to pitch them on doing sales for their companies. “This was a bit scary and challenging because most of my pay was from commissions. It gave me the confidence to talk to people to break through the noise, and my boss was an amazing mentor,” he says.

He applied for an internship with Stanley Black & Decker, which was postponed until the summer after his senior year of college due to the pandemic. He worked with the company’s concrete anchors team for the summer, applied to the sales development program, and landed a role in Colorado. He relocated, began meeting people to find a community, and started looking for roommates. “I couldn’t believe my luck! I ended up living with three professional spikeball players,” he jokes.

His job was to represent the company in Home Depot stores to manage in-store displays and ensure there was sufficient inventory, and he exceeded his expectations. His territory was responsible for more than $12 million in sales, ranking third among all US territories. At the same time, he was not sure of his future with the company, as it would have taken several years to earn a promotion.

Finding a place at Humphrey Rich Construction Group

Soon thereafter, a snowboarding accident required him to have surgery, so TJ moved home to Damascus, where he once again gave serious thought to taking over for his father. However, his sister encouraged him to apply for a job at HR Construction Group and join a project in San Diego, and just like that, TJ’s next career adventure began.

Humphrey Rich Construction Group is a fast-track, full-service general contractor performing commercial construction services nationwide. “I went into this work to see what it might be like to run my father’s company,” TJ says. “I knew my core strength for HR Construction Group would be in tech, offering a young person’s perspective on how to change up legacy processes. The company was exploring various solutions, and our Executive Project Manager suggested that I test out different tools, including OpenSpace, to see how we could make improvements.”

           TJ Macklin posing in front of sign Photo of hotel construction project in San Diego

Using OpenSpace to modernize workflows

“I brought the camera to the jobsite to test OpenSpace, and I just thought it seemed really cool,” he recalls. “Whenever I start using a new tool, I like to find out about every little feature and make sure I’m doing everything correctly. I read the whole website and went through the app, and then taught myself how to use it. Right off the bat, I found OpenSpace useful. I figured out how to take the best captures, use OpenSpace for field notes, and experimented with tags to condense paper reports using the Field Notes feature to generate preconstruction reports.”

“Our prior process for the preconstruction reports was time-consuming and lacked organization,” TJ continues. “It involved walking the site and jotting down issues on paper, and then taking photos of the noted damage and uploading them to a file. So as a first step, I did a capture of a whole floor, and then I went back and did a field note for every piece of damage and then created a field note report. It was an awesome preconstruction report that showed a picture of the damage with a description, and then it had the room number, and where it was located on the drawing.“

After a few months, TJ was so successful in his efforts that the company took note. He was asked to train other project assistants and project managers on how to use OpenSpace. A driven innovator at heart, “I made it my mission to innovate so I can do my job better, and it became a way of standing out at my company,” he says.

TJ soon discovered a lot of use cases for reality capture. “I use OpenSpace to show subs the site conditions and how they’re progressing. For some reason, there have been a lot of broken windows on this project, so I can look to see if windows are replaced without having to go up and down all the flights of stairs. I have also used capture data to get money back from subs to cover the damage to the windows. Of course, I also use it as our official documentation tool and send field note reports to the team members who need to get the work done. I also use it as a catch-all for punch list items.”

           TJ Macklin hotel construction project TJ Macklin hotel construction project

What does being a Pathfinder mean to you?

TJ Macklin posing with friends holding surf boards“There are two types of people: path followers and pathfinders,” TJ says. “Following a path is easy, but a Pathfinder has to beat through the brush to create a new path. Pathfinders are creating solutions for path followers, making things more efficient and flow better. But it can also be difficult. Sometimes you might head down one direction thinking it was the fastest path, but it could be a dead end. But ultimately, you’re making things smoother and more straightforward for others, and that means a lot to me.”

He says the secret to his success is being outspoken, being a people person, building relationships, and doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. “Exceeding my job duties has helped me be successful, along with being an innovator.”


Pathfinders are power users like TJ who excel at using OpenSpace capture. You can check out all of our published Pathfinder Spotlights in the OpenSpace Community gallery. If you’d like to be a Pathfinder, submit your Pathfinder application today.

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