Architecture, Buildings and Places, Design, People Spotlight

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a project manager from our Buildings + Places (B+P) business line in the Europe region.

Francisco began his career in a small architecture firm in Granada, Spain, while he was studying building engineering in college. For two years, he received the catalyst for his enriching career development, which was a warm and constant mentorship. As soon as he concluded his academic studies, he moved to Sydney, Australia where he began his career journey.

Francisco leads and manages Department of Defense (DoD) projects from inception to completion, including design, technical detailing, specification and construction phase services. He is passionate about improving project delivery strategy, workflow and onboarding process in DoD projects.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry.

I think that what inspired me to join the industry and pursue a career at AECOM was the experience I had in my first job at an architecture studio, ARarquitecturaI, in Granada, Spain. I was particularly encouraged by the values that I learned from the whole team.

After submitting my final project for my first degree in Construction Management Architecture, I performed far worse than I had hoped. That summer, I got some apprenticeship experience and revised my work on the project. I joined a summer camp as an instructor, where the camp’s director — also a director at an architecture firm — agreed to support me with my project review. She and her whole team worked with me very closely and supported me. Their constant mentorship helped me openly ask questions about how to improve my project. Eventually, I managed to get the best grades for my last two thesis and continued working with them for some time before moving to Australia.

Through my job search, I was looking for a company that shared the same values that I learned from ARarquitectural. One and a half years later, at a career fair in the United Kingdom, an engineer presented me with information about the Graduate Programme that AECOM offers to students who would like to pursue a career at the company. The idea of being part of a programme for two years in which a mentor would help me grow as a professional was exactly what I was looking for and it is what inspired me to apply as a graduate engineer at AECOM.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why?

There are many projects that I would love to talk about since they have all shaped me as a professional here at AECOM. In the last six years, my work with the company have taken me to three different countries and various offices.

The project that I am most proud of is actually an old project that is coming to an end and is still helping me build on a lot of lessons learned. The project involved construction phase services for eight offices in Baumholder, Germany, which were also designed by AECOM. The constant flux of management and designers, and the fact that the work comprises renovation of very old buildings, made this project a Pandora’s box.

It is a project that has always required a coordinated effort and constant collaboration among disciplines, business lines and locations (United States, Germany, Spain) and there is a requirement for constant document control, prompt addressal of queries and flexibility. We never know which technician or issue resolution may be required and when.

It is my favorite project because it is a constant challenge and I love challenges. However, we would not be successfully delivering this type of project without the leadership of our team of technical experts.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community.

Personally, I do not think that I am giving enough to the community, and I am not sure how much I am impacting the world. However, I truly believe that every single thing counts and that is what keeps me motivated to do what I do.

The way I create a positive impact at the company is by supporting my colleagues, bringing people together and working as hard as I can. At the end, I am a project manager and I need my team to deliver a project.

Two years ago, I received a project in the southwest of Germany that required an urgent award after the design delivery of eight office buildings for design support to the constructor (CPS).

The project work was about providing technical responses to any question generated during construction, reviewing technical solutions, shop drawings and reports issued by the constructors.

The buildings were constructed circa 1953 and the findings on site required urgent support from the design team to solve all issues. A desperate client urged for support to avoid further construction delays but solving issues for a design that is not yours can be challenging.

As the constructor started to demolish certain areas as per design, the existing conditions showed results that were not predicted from the structural investigation results. The construction was put on hold to avoid any risk and the project approach had to be rearranged.

The team had to prioritize this project and learn in a short time what the previous designers had created. We assigned someone to go to site every time that new findings were not aligned to the design and a design team was assigned to be in direct contact with this person to immediately prepare a new package of drawings that had to be approved by a German Certified Proofing Engineer of Record to be able to be executed on site. In addition, we arranged weekly meetings with our client and the construction director to review and discuss decisions made and redirect priorities to the construction needs. This approach was followed for several months until all risks and potential construction delays were mitigated.

Now, the buildings are starting to be occupied and the client rated our service as excellent. Our client has awarded the same type of contract for other projects to support during their construction. None of this could have happened without my team, their collaboration and impeccable teamwork.

In general, I try to give my best and learn from my colleagues, and my team does the same. When we tackle a problem, we always try to keep the same mindset; everyone and every effort counts.

The best thing that you can bring to your day, apart from your experience and professionalism, is a good attitude and an open mind. There will be bad days but remember that no two days will be the same.

Share a piece of career advice.

My best advice is the one that I give myself every day — try to stay curious and remember that you were one day a graduate, do not forget to lift other people when you have the chance.

Originally published Jun 28, 2023

Author: Francisco Manuel Funes Garrido