Skip to content
Hays - Recruiting experts worldwide
  1. I am
    I am

Bob Postma

DNA of a VP of Construction

Bob Postma HeadshotRobert “Bob” Postma is vice president of Manhattan Construction Co.’s Houston office. Bob’s 26 years in the construction industry includes projects in the commercial office, healthcare and entertainment sectors, with a specialization in aviation work in Houston.

Bob rejoined Manhattan Construction in 2014. During college he interned with Manhattan. He graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in construction science and then he spent the first decade of his career working at Manhattan on several major projects throughout Texas and Oklahoma including Memorial Hermann Hospital and Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

Bob holds a MBA from Texas A&M University and previously directed construction for Continental Airlines, including projects at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. He also previously worked for a national firm helping lead their aviation group before returning to Manhattan Construction.

Bob Postma
Vice President.
Manhattan Construction

Manhattan Construction Logo

Was construction always your career path?

It really was - every job I’ve had has been focused around construction. That said, I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do when I was leaving high school. Looking at the majors Texas A&M offered,  I wasn’t immediately drawn to anything in particular. I ended up in construction as a default, inspired by my uncle who built custom homes. Once I started studying and realized it was preparing me to build bigger than that, that’s what really interested me. I really enjoy the larger projects and monuments I get to work on with Manhattan.  

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path?

When Continental merged with United I was given the option to relocate to Chicago, but family-wise that wasn’t really an option. But as I was looking to get into either another owners rep position or go back to work for a construction company, I found myself pigeon holed as an aviation construction guy - even though I started my career at Manhattan. People didn’t recognize the transferable skills I had attained. They would say they admired my leadership skills, my background, even the projects I had worked on, but it kept coming back to the fact that I was an aviation builder.    

I tried to explain to people that we bring the same bricks, the same steel, the same concrete trucks show up on our jobs, it’s all construction.  Other companies were pitching me for leadership roles, if they were to win a certain project, but that always concerned me as I knew my next move was for the benefit of my career and not their project.   

What attributes/characteristics do you believe are integral to the role?

I think humility is important. No matter what your job title is, there are plenty of people who know more than you or can do certain tasks better than you. You need to be open to that and able to learn from their expertise and knowledge so you can apply that knowledge and understanding when you need them. Humility is the ability to enter a room without bringing your ego so you can listen to everyone at the table, no matter what their job title is compared to yours, and learn from others. You’ll get better ideas and outcomes from that openness to receive others insight, than you could ever get if you didn’t listen to others, and thought you were the smartest person in the room. 

Patience and understanding is also key.  You have an office full of people who are raring to go and do good work, and there are going to be mistakes and bumps along the way. You have to realize that that is part of moving forward, it’s part of developing your team.  You use that as a learning tool so your team can grow and not repeat a similar mistake again.       

What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue a management/executive career? 

First and foremost, get the foundation of experience, from entry level through middle management experience.  Get as much experience as you possibly can.  If you are in a position where you feel like you are getting stuck in one place or stagnating, speak up. Make it be known that you want to go and do more of that or try more of this.  In our company and previous companies I’ve been at, you truly are able to drive your own career.  So if you have the ambition to do something, and you’re not getting the opportunity, by all means speak up.  The experience, especially at Manhattan, of building buildings and going through that cycle, and doing more and more each time, gives you that foundation.  Each project provides you a little more understanding of the building process. Once you become a good builder you get to apply that experience and transition those skills into leadership.   

How important is it to be exposed to all areas of the business?

It’s huge, from my perspective. Manhattan is a builder driven company.  In order to grow in our company, you need to understand all pieces of what it takes to just physically build a building. That even goes with our estimators. We make sure that when we do training for the field guys, we bring in the estimators as well. The idea is that they are all hearing the same thing as we are training people. It lays a firm foundation.  

It’s cumulative - when you understand the building then you get insight into how the project comes together. Then you understand how it contributes to the financial books, the bottom line. At the next level you make the leap from projects to region - where many projects combined, drive the financial results of a region. Once you get to my position you understand how all the regions combine into the company’s overall financial records and results.  

Part of my job was making sure that the brand new guys on the front line understand that what they do today does have an impact on the business all the way up to the owner. When everyone understands the importance of their role, and how their job affects the building, the project, the region and the company, that’s when people really engage with the whole business and feel some ownership for the overall results.  

In your opinion, how important is networking?

It’s vital to your career success.  I had a professor in college who told us “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you, and who knows how well you know what you know”. Once you get out in the working world you start to understand what that means.  

In our business, we have a lot of contracts we sign, a lot of bids to consider and bids to make, and behind each of those is a relationship.  That’s your network. For the young folks, I would get out and meet with as many people as you can, and keep that business card.   

Networking has been the catalyst in my career. While my move to Continental was through a recruiter, when they were considering me for the position, it was my reputation among my peers in my network that clinched it.  My network and their impression of my talents, is what landed me the job with Skanska when I decided to leave Continental. And then because I had previously worked at Manhattan, my network and relationships is what brought me back to Manhattan. I can truly pinpoint network connections that have shaped every position in my career.       

What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become a construction leader? 

Get as much experience as you can, and be prepared to work hard for that experience. You may not have the biggest paycheck of your peers, but if you are getting that broader experience than they are, your future will ramp up faster. You have to see it as an investment.