From Graduate To Project Manager In Under Five Years

Paul Marino Project Manager Sarah Constructions Winning Award

– by Paul Marino, Project Manager (pictured above right)

I’m very proud of my rapid career progression at Sarah Constructions. The journey has taken a lot of hard work but I’ve had plenty of support from the business, so if I can help just one reader on their journey to a top career in construction here at Sarah, then I’m happy to give something back.

My name is Paul Marino, I’m 28 years old and I’m a Project Manager at Sarah Constructions. Currently I’m working with Minda on one of Sarah’s biggest projects to date, but I only started with the business 5 years ago, after graduating from Uni SA with a degree in Construction Management and Economics.

I’ve achieved a great deal in a short space of time; I’ve been pretty lucky and had a lot of opportunities, but that came from a lot of hard work and having a clear vision of what I wanted.

How my career in construction began

I’ve been around construction my whole life; my father was a bricklayer who then started his own domestic construction company, so I was exposed to it at a young age, labouring with my old man, and developing a good appreciation for the evolution of a structure and the different facets of the building industry.

Not just building, but interacting with different types of people and seeing satisfaction in clients. I suppose that’s what drove me to follow this career path.

My career progression at Sarah

I started as a Project Assistant for the first couple of years at Sarah, then moved to a Project Administrator role, running smaller type projects on my own. After that, I became a Project Manager.

I was based on site with the Site Manager when I first arrived, learning the detail of how a structure actually goes together. Then I transitioned back into the office after 6-8 months and learned the admin side of project management; RFIs, variations, and client meetings, for example.

That first year was a solid foundation for me as a junior to absorb as much information and technical knowledge as I could.

Investing in and supporting people

My Project Manager back then saw that I had potential and that I really wanted to progress, so he invested a lot of time in me. Plus, receiving constant feedback from management gave me plenty of opportunity to prove myself.

I believe that it comes down to how much you want to succeed. If you want to go far, if you want to push yourself to be the best you can be, learn as much as you can, and develop as a person and a professional, then this is the place to do it.

“Sarah will invest as much time and money as they can in your development to ensure you get to where you want to go.”


For me, it’s not just a job at Sarah, there’s a career here. Friends of mine in the industry that work with different companies just don’t have the support that we do here. The business values mirror those that we have as individuals, which means that we’re all on the same page working together as a team.

Sarah is like a family. We’re all striving to be the best we can be, not only as individuals but as a business. I guess that’s why the business is growing so rapidly and constantly, because we all know what we need to do to achieve success.

Opportunities for Graduates

There are a lot of different career opportunities here; if not in Project Management, there are other areas, such as Estimating, Design Management, or Site Supervision. The Sarah Graduate Program is such a great initiative because it shows you what we’re about and the various areas of the business in which you can succeed. We’ve got so many good experienced people here, that Graduates gain terrific knowledge and exposure to what we do.

As a business we’re quite youthful; it shows that Sarah is investing in the future, bringing in the right people and training current staff to develop the younger recruits. It’s great for me because previously I’ve been investing in myself and increasing my own knowledge, but now I’m the one investing in juniors and helping to develop them, which allows me to grow professionally. Being selected to participate in the Sarah Future Leaders program last year, which is all about nurturing leadership skills within existing Sarah staff, was a big part of that.

My advice to you

On site I learned so much. Your university degree doesn’t provide you with the day-to-day work experience you need to understand what this industry is all about, so I highly recommend work experience to anyone. Even if it’s unpaid, get involved as much as you can.

The biggest piece of advice I can give you, if you’re lucky enough to come and work at Sarah, is to work hard. If you work hard, the technical and soft skills will follow. You just need to be patient on the journey because opportunities will arise here.

“The sky’s the limit here. There isn’t another builder within Adelaide that can provide what Sarah can to a Graduate.”


So much more than building

At the end of the day, a career in construction is so much more than building. With teamwork and collaboration, it’s trust that we build, not just buildings. Clients invest a lot of time and money into a product that we need to produce at a high quality, so we need to think like the client and their customers, as well as builders.

That’s why it’s so rewarding to be recognised within the industry. We recently won building excellence awards from the Master Builders Association and also the Australian Institute of Building, for our work on the Wilderness project. I get a huge sense of satisfaction from seeing my client happy; not just with a job well done, but also from having received external commendation for our work together. It’s especially rewarding to know that, because we won the category here in SA, we are also entered into the national award, which supports our position as industry leader nationwide.

Sarah Constructions is all about opportunity, reward, and work life balance. Whatever you’re going through in your life, they’ll be there for you to help you succeed. It’s a great place to work! All of us here count ourselves pretty lucky.

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