Working Overseas – My Life as a Project Scheduler in Japan

Kristen Pintirsch
I detail my experiences working as a scheduler overseas on the Camp Zama Health and Dental Clinic Renovation in Japan.

Over the past two years, as a member of Faithful+Gould’s Health Facilities Group based in our Dallas office, I have provided initial outfitting and transition (IO&T) services for healthcare projects throughout the U.S., including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Replacement Laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland; the Keller Army Community Hospital Clinic Addition at West Point, New York; and the Weed Army Community Replacement Hospital at Fort Irwin, California. Most recently, I worked on the Camp Zama Health and Dental Clinic Renovation in Japan, serving as the Project Management Office (PMO) representative.

My typical workday as part of the Dallas PMO is to assist in updating and maintaining several different documents and reports, including project schedules, developing standardized templates and processes, and providing quality assurance during the procurement process. Most of my time is spent tracking the procurement process from creation through the sourcing and procurement processes up to delivery, installation, and medical calibration, and identifying lessons learned to apply to future projects. I also gather monthly documentation from several different internal parties and frequently update the Project Management Plan, which is a living document.

My work at Camp Zama was my first overseas job performing these duties. A project overseas is quite different due to the increased length of shipping times, language barriers, along with challenges due to limited resources. Experts, such as the manufacturer’s authorized equipment installers and trainers for certain equipment were not available in Japan so coordinating their schedules to be available when needed to successfully complete the project was an added challenge for our team.

But How Did We Get Here?

Faithful+Gould, as part of the BTF Solutions joint venture, was first awarded the $6.7 million task order contract to provide IO&T services at the health clinic in 2012, as part of a $30 million, multi-year, multi-phased project. My first trip to Japan was in August 2015, assisting Senior Project Manager Mark Pounders for almost a month with various transition execution tasks such as overseeing movers, reporting foreseen challenges, and completing ad hoc tasks to ensure we stay on schedule. In September 2016, I traveled to Camp Zama again but for about three weeks this time, to assist with the transition execution of the last phase of the project.

The clinic is approximately 39,000 square feet and includes a dental clinic, primary care clinic, physical therapy, optometry, laboratory and radiology services for military and civilian beneficiaries.

IO&T for these kinds of projects includes services such as identifying what medical equipment, IT components and furniture is needed in a newly constructed or renovated medical facility; comparing those requirements to the existing equipment to see what can be reused; and then procuring the difference. In addition to identifying what equipment is needed, we map out the sequence of events in which to install the new equipment, reuse the old equipment and transition the personnel into the new location. We coordinate training on the new equipment and work with the medical staff to help them identify process changes that will occur due to new equipment or the new facility layout then modify the processes and procedures so the medical facility can be ready to see patients on the first day.

This clinic provides the only medical care for American soldiers and family members in the area.

This clinic provides the only medical care for American soldiers and family members in the area. It was very satisfying seeing it through from the beginning to the end, knowing that our overseas troops and their families have a much improved facility for their healthcare needs.

This project was completed in four segments spread out over four years in between construction renovation phases. In addition to the unique challenges of an overseas project, with lengthy time periods during the different phases, there were staff and leadership changes, which is typical in the military organization. When stakeholders change frequently, the perspectives are likely to change as well.

For a long-term, multi-phased renovation project like this to be successful, it truly takes the entire team participating throughout the project. As our leader, Mark Pounders did an outstanding job with communicating effectively in addition to having a big heart for providing exceptional patient care.

This project was completed in four segments spread out over four years in between construction renovation phases. 

It was a truly gratifying experience for me to see the progression of the project from the PMO and by being on-site during different phases. The most rewarding part of being on-site was to see all the planning put into execution in real time.

As an added bonus of working in a foreign country, I could experience the Japanese culture both professionally and personally. The Japanese and Americans both participated in learning from one another by sharing cultural stories, actions, and language while working or spending leisure time together. One of the most unique experiences I had was during a trip to the famous restaurant Menbakaichidai, but it’s better known as the Fire Ramen Restaurant in Kyoto city. This is not your typical sit down restaurant – you are instructed to put on an apron, put your hands behind your back and watch everyone’s eyes get wide as the chef pours flaming oil into your ramen bowl to enhance the flavors of the dish before eating. The restaurant was unlike anything I have experienced and is a must try when visiting!

I left Camp Zama with a newfound appreciation for a culture outside my own. “Arigatou,” pronounced as “Arigato,” means thank you in Japanese and was my favorite word to say. Arigatou for reading my project experience at Camp Zama.