Jibriil Yusuf remembers being at the Ethnic Cultural Center (ECC) when he heard the official news that there were plans to renovate the facility. A student at the time, little did he know that two years later he would be back on campus, helping to rebuild the ECC himself.
Yusuf, who earned his bachelor’s degree in construction management from UW in 2010, is a project engineer with Andersen Construction. His first day on the job was the Monday after graduation and the second project he was assigned to was the ECC renovation.
“Being able to give back to the University is huge for me,” Yusuf said. “It was out of my hands most of the time, but being able to come back to the University of Washington, that’s pretty amazing.”
As a project engineer, Yusuf describes his role as a “jack-of-all-trades.” He mainly services as a liaison between the design team (architect, engineers and consultants) and the subcontractors working for Andersen. He creates weekly reports to send to Andersen administrators and is on site nearly every day to observe the progress and take photos.
Yusuf’s interest in construction began when he was young. Growing up in Somalia, he witnessed a lot of devastation. At age 16, his family came to the United States but he knew he would eventually return.
“From a young age, I knew I wanted to go back one day and be a part of the new generation that’s hopefully building the country,” he said. “I literally wanted to help build the country, so I figure with construction management, you can never go wrong with that.”
After his family moved to Burien, Wash., Yusuf completed his GED and enrolled in Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash.
He received some unexpected inspiration from a chance run-in with a UW professor at the airport. While working at Cinnabon, Yusuf engaged in a conversation with a customer who happened to work in the School of Dentistry. Although he never got his name, Yusuf received some invaluable advice.
“He thought I may have made my final career choice working at Cinnabon, he didn’t know I was going to school,” Yusuf recalled. “But one of the best pieces of advice he gave me was, ‘study something that cannot be outsourced.’ I thought it was a good point and I started thinking about it, it’s true. The good thing about construction is it’s done everywhere. Buildings need to be modified, rehabbed, adjusted, and that’s something I’ve always liked.”
In 2008, Yusuf transferred to UW and was accepted into the construction management program. He interned with a contractor in Bellevue, working 20 hours a week in addition to his school work. He applied for and was offered a job with Andersen Construction before he even graduated.
Yusuf, who utilized the ECC when he was a member of the Somali student organization at UW, isn’t the only alumnus working on the project. The architectural firm handling the renovation, Rolluda Architects, is led by principal Alex Rolluda, ’89, and project manager Sam Cameron, ’75.
For someone who has already accomplished a great deal in his young career, Yusuf continues to plan ahead. He would like to get a master’s in business administration in the next five years. His dream to return to Somalia remains a long-term goal as well.
For now, his focus is on renovating the ECC and continuing to learn more about his field.
“Every day I’m learning something new,” he said. “I don’t see myself stopping any time soon, because there are so many things you need to know about construction.”
Photos by Nataly Brockwell