Mindy Keiser isn’t one for snap judgments. And as an estimator, this cautious approach has always served her well.
She’s worked on the corporate headquarters addition for Subsurface Constructors, Stillwater Memory Care, Anderson Hospital Physicians Office Building and Anderson Outpatient Surgery Ambulatory Surgery Center and Pediatric Clinic, to name a few.
She first joined The Korte Company’s Highland office when she was in high school. Back then, she answered phones over the lunch hour. And as a shy, soft-spoken senior, that task felt daunting… but she did it anyway.
That’s the thing about her. Though quiet, she doesn’t back down.
These days, she still finds herself on the phone, but now she’s conversing with subcontractors and vendors while carefully evaluating scopes of work, following up on bids and forecasting the overall costs of each project.
Estimating is a lot to juggle. It’s stressful. It can make or break a project.
But Mindy takes it all in stride.
Education is a powerful tool
As a high schooler, Mindy took business classes that taught essential employment time management skills and practical tasks like how to organize filing systems. But to build on them, she needed real-world experience.
Luckily, that class was a cooperative program with community partnerships. One day, her teacher pinned a sheet of paper on the bulletin board. It was a list of every nearby company willing to take a chance on high school co-op students.
Just like a job in the real world, these opportunities required resumes and interviews. And if you haven’t already guessed how this story ends, she got matched with The Korte Company.
It was a great opportunity, and she took it. Every morning, she attended classes just like a normal student. But in the afternoons, she drove to The Korte Company headquarters.
In addition to covering the administrative assistant’s lunch hour, she was also responsible for making copies, distributing mail and safety materials, and even rolling drawings.
It was bottom-rung work, but she took it seriously. And though quiet, her dependability and work ethic didn’t go unnoticed.
“I was hoping I could stay.”
Simple as that. And she did.
While she worked toward her degree at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, The Korte Company hired her to digitize materials for the records department. Whenever someone wanted to know the details of a past project, from the exact color code of a wall to warranty information about a flooring material, she knew exactly where to find it.
“Working there, I actually learned more about what goes into construction, all the parts and pieces, what’s needed for a project. It gave me a head start on what I was studying in college: construction management.”
Mindy was still green, so she didn’t always know exactly what she was seeing as she digitized those records. But she’d often find herself sitting in class later, and suddenly the concepts clicked into place.
“I started understanding all the divisions in construction because I had seen them so many different times. It gave me a leg up on knowing spec sections and being able to look at plans and get information.”
Exposure is a funny thing. You don’t always know how it’ll come back to serve you. In those days, she thought she was destined for a career in project management. But life had other plans.
“I would see old bid books and all the different numbers. Now I see them on my projects and I make bid books instead of scanning them.”
Seeing the unseen
A fondness for numbers made pivoting away from construction management easy. That’s why The Korte Company hired her full-time as an estimator as soon as she graduated from college.
“There’s nothing like construction work.”
But she still gets to see the fruits of her own labor.
“After they hired me on to be an estimator, I remember working on a USPS Mail Processing Center in Miami. And they actually were able to fly me out there to see the finished product. I enjoyed that. It was nice seeing all of it come together, being able to see the building.”
Being able to ‘see’ something might seem like a simple concept. Few things in construction are conceptual. But the thing about estimating is that it’s all about seeing the unseen. It’s reverse-engineering buildings that don’t exist yet and turning them into numbers on paper. It’s translating the needs of real-life crews into black-and-white budgets. It’s the first step of turning an empty plot of land into churches or military hangars or hospitals.
But she’s not one to romanticize. She has a process. Whenever she gets a new project, she always starts the same way: by checking the database she helped digitize.
“I do this at the beginning so I know all the parts and pieces. First, I look for other estimates that are similar. This helps me make sure that we’re catching every dollar that goes into a project and not miss a scope — and do we have money covered in the job for it? Do we have money later down the road if we need to hire someone else to do the work? It’s very stressful. We try not to miss anything.”
What comes around goes around
During Mindy’s first four years out of college, she honed her craft at The Korte Company. And she thrived, even though the country faced hard times during a construction recession. Industry-wide cutbacks impacted her directly 2011.
“I made it through some of the layoffs, but it was just a bad time in construction. I eventually did get laid off. I was shocked.”
She put her resume out to as many places as possible, eventually landing at a St. Louis area contractor specializing in exteriors, interiors, and fire and smoke protection.
“It wasn’t always the ideal. It was in Fenton, and I lived in Highland. I had to wake up and drive over an hour to get to work every day. But it was a paycheck.”
She spent the next several years there while The Korte Company regained its strength. And all the while, she hoped for another chance.
“I felt like I did my best to be a good employee. I understood the situation of the economy, so I was always open to coming back. It was just waiting for the right time.”
That finally happened in 2018, and she’s been back in the Highland office ever since.
“There were a lot of new people, but familiar faces, too. It didn’t take me long to jump back into all the inner workings of Korte. Some of the departments had changed locations, but it did feel like coming back to something I was used to.”
Coming back to The Korte Company also reflected a more practical solution for Mindy’s home life. Outside of a short stint as a shoe sales clerk in high school, this had been her first real job. And most importantly, it’s in her hometown — the same one where she’s now raising a family with her husband, Andrew.
“Since I live here in Highland, it’s a short drive. My son Kaiden goes to daycare here, and it’s just nice being back.”
And upon her return, she was given more freedom and responsibility at The Korte Company than she’d had before.
“When I worked at Korte previously, I was always working with other senior estimators. When I got hired back, I now do more of the project myself. From generating takeoff and building an estimate to contacting subcontractors and reviewing bids, I have more responsibility this time around.”
And that’s how she likes it. One of her favorite projects to date is the Anderson Hospital Physicians Office Building Goshen Campus expansion because it was a larger project that she handled as a project estimator. And she’s still growing.
“I feel like I’m learning every day. Every project is different, different locations, different types of buildings, different ways of construction, different subs, and different areas handle different scopes differently. Every day is different.”
But Mindy hasn’t changed. Only grown. And always quietly building up that knowledge bank that almost no one else sees.