Celebrating Surveyors Week with Survey Crew Chief, John Zell

3 min read

John Zell is a Survey Crew Chief for PEA Group’s Lansing office. With over 30 years of experience in the field, John has extensive knowledge of both surveying and construction.

John was first introduced to surveying during the summer of 1991. While he was on summer break from Ferris State University, he took a job with a St Johns based company where he worked on a survey team. The following summer, John returned, compelled by the opportunity to work outside. He found that he liked traveling to different locations and the variety of work involved from project to project. He decided to pursue the field.

After taking classes at Ferris State University in the Ornamental Horticulture program, John started as a Rodman. In the coming years, John’s hard work and dedication, coupled with his genuine enjoyment of the field, allowed him to rapidly advance from Crew Chief and Senior Crew Chief, to where he is today: Survey Crew Chief III. Within each role, he found the tools needed to grow and he continues to learn from his coworkers, the projects, and the field still.

In pursuit of learning, John picked up several certifications over the years, including a Density Technology certification, an ACT Concrete Field Technician certification, an MCA Concrete Technician certification, an MCA Concrete Construction Inspector certification, and a Hazardous Waste and Operations/Emergency Response certified.

Over the course of his career, John has “staked everything,” from city sidewalks to level 5 prison systems from the ground up. He has completed projects across different fields including MDOT, municipal utilities, site development, and county and intercounty drains. John likes the problem solving and “working on the fly” in a fast-paced environment. He finds seeing the final results when the project is completed the most rewarding aspect of his job.

While John advanced in his career, growing his portfolio and experience, his initial enjoyment – the reason he decided to pursue surveying – remains with him. “I’ve enjoyed traveling and working outside, that is,” he jokes “when the weather is nice.” Over his 30+ year career, he still finds staying active out in the field to be the biggest perk of surveying.

John recommends surveying to anyone who too might share in his enjoyment of working outside of the office, stating “if you enjoy the outdoors and like to stay active, problem solve, and be an integral part of the construction projects and properties, then land surveying may be for you.”

John also advises anyone interested in the field to “learn as much as you possibly can about every level and aspect of surveying.” He suggests gaining knowledge and seeking advice from those more experienced, believing your team members are the best tools toward success.

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