Matt Sisul, Class of 2009 and 2010
Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Fellow,
Principal, Sisul Consulting LLC
After attending the 2009 International Achievement Summit in South Africa and the 2010 Summit in Washington, D.C., I was inspired to view my own area of expertise with fresh eyes, and to re-define my goals in my personal area of interest, infrastructure in developing countries.
Upon completion of my Master’s program at New York University in 2011, I took a job with YCF Group S.A. in Port au Prince, Haiti, and contributed to the rebuilding effort after the devastating earthquake of January 12, 2010. YCF Group is a local business, run by Yves Francois a Haitian-American who returned to the country of his birth after a long career in corporate architecture in the US.
The company was a good fit, as it was important to me that my efforts contribute to a local business. In Haiti, and in my experience elsewhere, I all too often see that building and infrastructure service delivery are dependent on a foreign advisor; though the project itself may be a success, the reliance on foreign expertise is not diminished. YCF Group is predominantly Haitian, employing local engineers, architects, foremen, masons, carpenters, steel workers and drivers. As an outsider, the learning curve was steep, but I had some excellent help from my colleagues. After successful completion of a few projects, I was able to build relationships of mutual trust with my coworkers. Over time, as my command of Haitian Creole improved, I could see the direct impact of my efforts, through improved building practices, site supervision, and the acquisition of more complex projects.
In my 15 months with YCF Group, I worked on a variety of projects, as lead structural engineer, construction manager, project manager, and quality control supervisor. I managed over $4 million in construction funds. Our projects included: four primary schools for Finn Church Aid; three fire stations for the U.S. Navy; four capital expansion projects at a nursing school for the Episcopal Church, funded by a USAID ASHA grant; and a new cholera treatment center for the health non-profit, Gheskio, designed in collaboration with MASS Group architects.
Since returning to Brooklyn in September, I’ve started a new consulting firm, Sisul Consulting LLC. The firm specializes in providing engineering and construction services to local construction companies in developing countries, to help them compete with international firms and organizations for international contracts. The guiding philosophy behind the venture is that developing nations require a strong foundation in local infrastructure services and project delivery. To achieve this, countries need to develop their own professional class of laborers, superintendents, engineers and architects. Sisul Consulting LLC works with established local contracting firms to help them learn by doing, working together on contracts to build internal capacity. I continue to work closely with partners in Haiti and have recently completed a market research trip to South Sudan.
Last year, I presented a webinar related to my thesis topic and my general approach to international development. I continue to refine my theory of change, as applied to infrastructure in developing countries. I am hopeful that I can continue to do so for many years to come.