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Joe & Nkosi
Joe Juma: I actually never thought I was going to leave Kenya. I thought that if I did, it would be to go to an Ivy League school. But then NYU Abu Dhabi came up and they brought the idea of something new — that I could go to a place where I can define my own pathway, where it was going to be challenging and something I’d never seen before. So, that attracted me to the school. I was in the first graduating class there. The connection between NYU and Abu Dhabi was what completed the conduit, and that’s how I ended up in New York.
Nkosi Msimanga: I grew up in Zimbabwe. My brother had already gone to an American university, so it was in my mind to apply to those schools. During my final year of high school, a representative from NYU Abu Dhabi came to tell us about the university. I went there for a candidate weekend and saw that I could create relationships with professors and get to know my classmates really well. Plus, I could study abroad in New York.
I met Juma when I was a sophomore. Because he was two years ahead of me and was studying engineering, I started gravitating toward him as someone who was senior and studying what I was. And then, he was cool enough to be my friend. While I was in New York during my junior year, he was doing a master’s in construction management here, so we hung out because he was one of the few people who graduated from Abu Dhabi and was still in New York.
JOE: Our group of friends from NYU Abu Dhabi has stayed together for a very long time and welcomed underclassmen because we realized the most critical thing that you can ever do in your life is relationships. If you cannot nurture relationships in a very small setup like NYU Abu Dhabi, you'll not be able to survive in a big setup like this city. At other schools, there's normally a clear demarcation between seniors and underclassmen. But we were reaching out to them, taking them out for drinks, asking them what their fears and plans were.
When I did my master’s program, I was exposed to different projects in New York City. What I grew to love about the construction industry is that it gives you the opportunity to start something from scratch and see it to the very end. I didn’t think there was anything that was cooler than starting and finishing something here.
Then, what attracted me to Suffolk was the idea of growth. I wasn’t looking for comfort. I was looking for the challenge of how this company navigates through the waters of New York. I wasn’t disappointed. I had opportunities to run projects at Coney Island, Union Square and the Waldorf Astoria. And I knew Suffolk could be the best fit for Nkosi because he has that same mentality of looking for challenges. That’s what has been instilled in us since day one. I knew what his potential was.
NKOSI: He would tell me what he was working on and showed me pictures of projects, and the idea of doing something ambitious and innovative was very attractive to me. I quickly get bored with doing things the same way over and over again. For me, it's always energizing to find a challenge and figure out a new way of solving it.
The same way that I looked up to Juma in college in terms of engineering classes, projects, and other things to watch for now translates to how I work on the project. Knowing that there's someone who has gone through what I'm going through and probably even more is very encouraging. That strengthens and energizes me as I go about my day. I know that if I get stuck, I can always reach out and he will understand exactly how I’m feeling. Especially since we’re both not from the U.S. We come from different backgrounds, but it’s good to have someone with a similar perspective.
I know that if I get stuck, I can always reach out and he will understand exactly how I’m feeling.
JOE: It's comforting to know there’s someone to bounce ideas off of or to reminisce about old times. That's something that does not exist in a lot of people's lives, especially in New York. Right? We can grab a beer, talk about times that are funny, talk about the futuristic plans that we have, but at the same time just chat about life.
Joe Juma has been a project manager at Suffolk since 2017, and classmate Nkosi Msimanga joined the company a year ago as an assistant superintendent. They represent two of the 18 countries accounted for on Suffolk’s New York team.
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