Senior Project Manager Art Cardinal’s 30+ years in the construction industry include a unique blend of experience and an unexpected start.
You could try and boil Senior Project Manager Art Cardinal’s career down into numbers. Afterall, he has been in the construction industry for over thirty years, including more than twelve as an electrical tradesman, fifteen as a project manager, he even owned his own shop for about five years. To his colleagues at BLOCK, however, it’s the quality of his experience from his journey – not just the quantity – that make him such a valuable member of the team.
A seemingly mundane moment, Art remembers it like it was yesterday. “We were standing in the kitchen, and my mother was talking to the appliance repairman about how I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after high school. I remember being embarrassed, but I also didn’t expect his advice to set my career path for the rest of my life.”
The repairman suggested that Art take up an apprenticeship with a trade. After some time and searching for opportunities, Art landed as an apprentice with the local electrical union. For a young man who was already mechanically inclined, it was the perfect fit. He spent the next few years rising up the ranks. He earned his license, started working at an electrical subcontractor and even rose up to being the youngest foreman in the company’s one-hundred-year history.
With the years of climbing the ladder came learning and growth. Not only was Art now a master electrician, he also had gained a broader understanding of the construction process as a whole. “When you’re in the trades, you’re obviously focused on your job, but you can’t help but also start picking up on the work the other tradespeople are doing and how it all fits together in the end-product.” On top of that, Art started to build a relationship with some of the general contractors he partnered with and enjoyed being able to discuss their overall approach to each project.
TURNING INTEREST INTO ACTION
Being the youngest foreman in company history, Art naturally had designs on eventually rising up to being an electrical project manager. Yet, when his company informed him they’d prefer to give the job to an older individual, Art started thinking about branching out beyond the world of wires and currents. “I started taking classes at Wentworth at night and having conversations with a general contractor about what it would take to switch over to their side of the business.” Art fielded offers to make the move immediately, but wanted to make sure his construction foundation was strong – so he stuck with the classes at Wentworth.
At some point in that process, Art’s then-fiancee suggested that if he really wanted to make the jump to construction, he should speed up the pace and become a full-time student. So he did just that. It was a leap of faith, but Art dropped his tools for textbooks and hustled to complete his degree in just over three years.
A FRESH START
Sure enough, one of Art’s old general contractors immediately offered him a job in project management when he graduated and thus began Art’s successful rise in a new, yet very familiar industry. Before long, Art’s work ethic and vast knowledge of the MEP portion of projects made him a great fit for all types of clients. He’s worked on projects for government contractors, major corporations and all types of organizations in-between. He’s done ground-up new construction, renovations to existing spaces, worked in occupied environments, just about any scenario you could imagine. The same way he did as an electrician, he picked up knowledge and experience along the way.
Even more than he was before, Art became fascinated by the process it takes to pull each part of a project together into the final product. He reveled in the opportunity to be involved in each step, and started to develop a method for keeping track of everything that he uses to this day. “My mind is always working on projects, even if it’s just in the back of my head. I have a habit of waking up in the middle-of-the-night with an idea and emailing it to myself. It probably sounds strange, but I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s natural to me now.”
BRINGING HIS SKILLS TO BLOCK
There’s no doubt that Art’s vast combination of both hands-on and management experience is a huge asset to the BLOCK team. “I’d like to think my time in the electrical union helps me communicate with our trade partners, I feel like I can speak the same language as them so that we’re always on the same page. At the same time, I’ve been on the construction management side of things for long enough to see things both ways. It helps create mutually beneficial partnerships.”
Art has also taken on an unofficial role as a mentor to younger members of the BLOCK team, always taking the time to explain why certain decisions are made during a project so everyone understands the different thought processes that go into meeting client expectations. “I’m big on having a plan A, B & C that all allow you to get projects done right and on time, that way the project never suffers even when unexpected changes occur. If I’ve passed anything onto the younger guys, I hope it’s that.”