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Gil Cohen

Occupation:  Owner, USA Services
Education: Einstein HS, Edison HS of Technology (Construction Technology), Montgomery College

You own a design and build company.  What kind of work does that involve?
We do residential and commercial renovations and also build homes and businesses. Right now, we have 15 employees working on projects in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

What's the story behind you becoming a business owner?
As a kid, I knew I wanted to be my own boss. Who wants to have a boss? After two years in the Israeli Air Force, I worked as a site superintendent for the Watergate Hotel renovation and was responsible for overseeing a crew of 250. I liked the challenge of managing so many moving pieces, working with people, troubleshooting, meeting deadlines, and seeing a finished product that made me proud. I was good at it and decided to take the leap and start my own business with a partner three years ago.

In your senior year at Einstein, you enrolled in a construction technology program at Edison High School of Technology.  How did that come about?
I had enough credits when I was a senior to only attend school for half a day. I’ve always been interested in anything to do with electricity, and my counselor knew that and suggested the program at Edison. It changed my life.

In what way? 
I saw a clear path for what I wanted to be doing with my life. I think it’s unusual to know that in high school, but it just clicked for me and I could spend my time being productive on what I knew would be my career. Not only did I learn about electricity, wiring, installation, code requirements, and safety standards, I had first-hand experience in one of Edison’s major projects—building a house. It’s a complicated process, and it was fascinating to learn how every step is planned and managed. I knew I had made the right decision to be in this program because I loved every aspect of it. I wanted to learn every part of designing, renovating, and building so I could be the best at it.

You were born in Montgomery County but grew up in Israel.  What was it like to return when you were 15?
It was definitely a difficult transition for me. English was not my first language, and I didn’t have any friends when I got to high school. I knew I had to stay focused and put forth 100 percent if I was going to make it. I think being exposed to a real career while I was in high school helped me develop a strong work ethic and the leadership skills I needed to eventually start my own business.  

What are your plans for the future?
Our business is doing very well, and we want to continue to grow. In the next five years, we plan to double our workforce to 30 employees. This is a great area for the construction business and I’m lucky to have a job that I love coming to every day.