Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Ahmad Hadavi, Clinical Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Northwestern University, United States
Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, is a comprehensive research university with 8,000 undergraduate and 13,000 graduate students in 12 colleges and schools. The Master of Project Management (MPM) program run by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is designed to prepare technically qualified students for leadership roles in the construction, operation, and management of major civil and environmental engineering projects.
Dr. Ahmad Hadavi is Clinical Professor at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. He is also Deputy Director of the MPM program. For his Project Scheduling and Cost Engineering & Control courses, Hadavi uses Oracle Primavera P6 and the Oracle Academy Professional Project Management Fundamentals curriculum.
He was introduced to Primavera when he was a student at the University of Michigan in 1988. For more than 30 years, he has continuously taught Primavera in the MPM program at Northwestern University, helping more than 750 students learn the skills required to advance their careers in civil engineering project management.
In addition to mentoring his students to achieve success in these traditional areas, Hadavi has initiated new courses in lean construction, VR/AR for design and construction, and disruptive technologies in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry.
Oracle Academy: What is your goal in using Oracle Primavera P6?
Ahmad Hadavi: My objective is to ensure that students grasp the different parts of large construction projects―not only the scheduling aspects, but also the costs, the materials used, and process in which the various components get built and integrated into the overall project. By doing so, they learn critical path analysis, which is indispensable for construction projects.
In the Project Scheduling course, I typically use two projects as teaching tools. The first is a small bridge project where we provide the students with daily construction photographs and articles about its construction and ask them to create an as-built schedule in Oracle Primavera P6. The second project is usually a new building for which we ask the students to prepare a comprehensive construction schedule. In this case, we use the same set of drawings and specifications for our courses in project scheduling and methods and materials. We teach both of these courses in the winter quarter and the courses in building construction estimating in the spring quarter. In this assignment, the students get two weeks to come up with a work breakdown structure based on my descriptions. They must incorporate approximately 200 activities associated with the site work, foundation and underground activities, structure and superstructure, mechanical and electrical installations, finishes, and commissioning into the schedule.
I supply the timeline from Notice to Proceed until Substantial Completion, under which they create the work breakdown structure and furnish a narrative, network diagrams, resource histograms, and time contingency analysis for the entire project.
They schedule with Primavera in the winter quarter and then estimate the same project in the spring quarter using the same drawings and descriptions. We teach how to estimate the building costs, and that means knowing the construction methods and materials. Therefore, we also run a seminar on the process of construction. I don’t want them to schedule a concrete slab and then have to dig it up because the underground utilities have not yet been installed.
Oracle Academy: How do the students access Primavera?
Ahmad Hadavi: We have the software installed on the university server. The lab has only 10 computers, so I split the class into groups. On day one, they learn how to start the program, choose the SQL server, configure the database, then start a project, add activities, put in the duration and create the schedule. I administer individual accounts so that students can see only their own projects, but I can access everything. I now do this because in years past there was some copying. One requirement that I impose is that students may not delete a project. If they make a mistake, they must create a new one. By doing so, I help them learn through their errors.
Oracle Academy: Over 30 years of teaching Primavera, that sounds like good project management!
Ahmad Hadavi: Thanks! Yes, I started in the days when we had to load several 5 ¼ floppy disks. It was Primavera then and Oracle Academy now, and the Oracle Primavera P6 program continues to be the one used globally in the leading engineering and construction companies. I’m very grateful for Oracle Academy’s invaluable support. The product helps project managers get good jobs in industry and enables our MPM program to keep up with the state-of-the-art.
Oracle Academy: And with your holistic approach to learning, can graduates hit the job market running?
Ahmad Hadavi: Pretty much, because having a knowledge of Oracle Primavera on their resumé is a key selling point. Being able to use Primavera P6 for scheduling opens the doors to many opportunities after graduation.
And they also leave equipped with awareness of best practices that I pass on to them from the American Association of Cost Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Department of Defense, and other organizations.
Oracle Academy: Do they all find work in engineering and construction companies?
Ahmad Hadavi: Not all. There are a number of tangential fields in which they seek employment. For example, I have former students who have become lawyers. One uses the critical path method to break down and resolve delays in his law practice. Another uses his Primavera knowledge to analyze claims, an extensive area that combines expertise in law and competence in scheduling.
Oracle Academy: To what extent do you stay in touch with your former students?
Ahmad Hadavi: I have interacted with more than 750 graduates who have entered the job market. Through personal contact and/or social media, I follow the careers, marriages, offspring, and professional activities of many of them. Collectively, they have participated in interesting project management adventures in more than 50 countries. Wherever I travel, I find MPM alumni.
One former student is director of scheduling at a large US construction firm, and he sometimes visits to talk about his approach to the challenges of his job. Others come head-hunting Primavera experts for the companies that employ them.
Oracle Academy: Do you have any interaction with Oracle’s construction product teams?
Ahmad Hadavi: Not directly, but I’m in regular contact with the Oracle Industries Innovation Lab that Oracle runs not far from Northwestern University in Deerfield, Illinois. It’s a playground for the construction industry, a simulated worksite rigged with the latest sensor technology. I have taken students there several times to see what is going on and show them the world-class power behind Primavera, namely Oracle, which has a global engineering and construction line of business.
Oracle Academy: And what are your interests outside of teaching?
Ahmad Hadavi: As we speak, I have returned from an enjoyable trip to Costa Rica. I love travel and every year we try to take one or two trips. I have visited almost all the US states. Idaho is the only one still on the unvisited list, more than half of the US National Parks, and many countries. But there are many other places on my list to visit. That’s project management too!
Thank you, Dr. Ahmad Hadavi, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.