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Career Story: Design And Construction Project Manager For Non-Profit Organizations

Design And Construction Project Manager For Non-Profit Organizations

Job Title: Design/Construction Project Manager

Type of Company: My company helps non-profits plan for and undertake construction projects. We work as direct representatives of owners who are typically unfamiliar with the design and construction process, and need help with making good decisions and making sure the project stays on budget and on schedule.

Education: BS in Architecture, University of Virginia •• Master in Architecture, Harvard Graduate School of Design

Previous Experience: After college, I started as a design intern for a small business that did mostly churches. I later worked in an office that did very high end, modern residences. After graduate school I worked for several offices that did large institutional work, mostly for the transit system, the state court system, and for colleges and universities.

Job Tasks: I work with non-profits who are undertaking design and construction projects. My current project include:

  • A group which is going to renovate a small historic structure for their offices
  • An affordable housing cooperative which needs help planning and budgeting for construction improvements to their property
  • A daycare organization in a very urban neighborhood which wants to build a natural playground on their site
  • A tenant's organization which is partnering with a local developer to undertake a major redevelopment of their site (new bathroom, kitchens, mechanical systems, repairs to site utilities), including renovations which will reduce energy usage
  • A charter high school which is going to renovate a former warehouse to house a newly created fifth and sixth grade
I am responsible, on each of these projects, for organizing the planning for how the proposed project will be accomplished, and working with the clients to make sure they are understand the decisions they need to make, as well as giving guidance, if needed, in decision making.

My typical day consists of:

  • Meeting with people (our staff as well as consultants on the project) to make sure that their individual parts of the work are proceeding on schedule.
  • Daily contact with most of the clients on questions that arise between meetings
  • Planning for meetings with the clients that require decision making or discussions around next steps.
  • Reviewing documents (proposed contracts, drawings, bid information, financial material) and commenting on them for the clients or the consultants.
  • Creating documents (summaries or statements on project status, bid forms, contracts, meeting minutes) which are needed.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is when I am able to create a team of really great people who care as much as I do about a client's project, and they all do a great job. An example would be: finding an architect, a landscape contractor, and a naturalist who all want to work on a natural playground that will serve a group of very low income children who rarely get much exposure to nature. AND to do it with just a very little bit of money!

The worst part of my job is when I have too many projects going all at once and I need to be at a lot of evening meetings which take me away from my family.

Job Tips:
1. Learn at least one part of the design/construction world really well before you try this job. If you really understand one part of the work, it will give you a framework for understanding how the other parts work. In my case, I worked as an architect for many years before going to work in this job. Now when I hire an architect, I really understand what is important to them. It helps me help them do their best job for the client.

2. Be respectful of everyone involved in a project and figure out what motivates them. Remember that every member of the team is bringing something important to the project and you want them all to do their best work.

3. Don't be afraid to ask questions in public: it makes everyone else comfortable asking questions, including the client and supposed experts.

Additional Thoughts: I think this is a great job for someone who has already been an architect or a contractor, but always felt that they were interested in something more than the typical boundaries of the work. To do this job you must believe passionately that a group of people, working well together, will always do a better job than a single individual telling everyone else what to do.

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