SPM Nicole Casello’s transition from designer to project manager led her to a perfect fit in the construction industry.
Senior Project Manager Nicole Casello is no stranger to being in a unique position. Over the past 25 years there have been more than a few instances where she has had to overcome obstacles to meet her goals. As a matter of fact, the grit and perseverance she holds today can be attributed to working through and learning from each unique circumstance. Unknowingly, a prerequisite in preparing for new challenges to come.
One challenge in particular was making the transition from architecture to construction. After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture at Wentworth and spending more than 10 years in the design field, it was not an easy decision to make. One motivating factor was the desire to become more involved with the construct of design, which she explains as “the ability to better understand the application of my drawings and ultimately how they may differ from trade industry standards.” In those early days of her design career, she was fortunate enough to work on a large historic mill rehab project with a general contractor that engaged her in the day-to-day details of the construction process. The opportunity to work with a seasoned superintendent, who eventually became more of a mentor, allowed her to collaborate with design changes on site in real time. As she puts it, “I was hooked”.
As time went on, Nicole began to develop strong ties with subcontractors she had been working with, attending trade partner coordination meetings and absorbing as much as she could from this new perspective. “Those meetings really helped me to understand first hand all the different parts of the construction process. Not only was I getting to be more involved in each project, but I enjoyed building relationships with and learning from people who are experts in their trade.”
THE BIG LEAP
Seeking to make this process of building relationships and collaboration the focus of her career goals, Nicole happily accepted when that general contractor she had come to know well asked her to join their team. Of course, in any new role, there is a learning curve. Nicole took to her new platform the same way she took to every other challenge, relying on her communication skills as a way of building trust and new partnerships. “What I realized in my first year of construction management is the importance of our trade partners and the knowledge they bring to each project,” she recalls. “It’s so important that we team up with all trades on every project and communicate with them in a way that reassures their role as integral partners.” It’s a mindset that Nicole has carried all the way to her work at BLOCK.
A HELPFUL SET OF SKILLS
Of course, Nicole’s background as an architect is still very present in her construction project management role. She consistently applies those skills in the projects she manages at BLOCK. As she puts it, “Having both training and experience as an architect helps most when it comes to the details of a project. Typically I will dig into the drawings before any work starts, looking to fill any ‘gaps’ that could cause a delay or an additional expenditure for a client down the road.” One of Nicole’s recent projects involving waterproofing is a good example of her design experience being an added bonus for the client. “The full detail of an existing condition is not always available for architects at the initial design stage, resulting in a detail that may not be specific to the actual condition once exposed in the field. In this particular case, the team was trying to understand how the waterproofing will terminate into the existing EFIS, this took multiple calls and site visits between the architect and the trade contractor to get the detail just right.” Nicole was also able to bridge the gap by hand drafting a sketch in the field of what was being discussed; ultimately resulting in better communication between the two parties and a quicker resolution to the final detail.
A PLACE TO THRIVE
More than 10 years after starting her career in construction management and with over 25 years of industry experience overall, Nicole feels confident on this side of the business. As a woman in a predominantly male industry, Nicole knows that she can feel respected and comfortable on a jobsite because of the knowledge she brings and the professional relationships she has built. At BLOCK, Nicole feels she has found an environment that fits her relationship-based approach to her role. “What’s really amazed me is that our team has grown so much, so quickly and our ability to work together has grown much stronger,” she says. “There’s no ‘working in silos’ here at BLOCK. We truly communicate and collaborate openly across teams, both in the field and in the office. No single person has all the answers, but we can overcome any challenge if we all work together. For someone who started out primarily involved on the design side of the process, the ability to work hand-in-hand with our team and trade partners to deliver great outcomes for our clients is exactly the type of fit I was always looking for.”