I was recently looking through photos and other memorabilia from a large retail mall project that kept me busy for two years and was completed about 40 years ago. As I looked through the materials, I wondered about the value of that experience beyond my personal recollections of the events that were related to the project – funny stories, horror stories, first time experiences, disputes, worries and sleepless nights, embarrassments, satisfying accomplishments, and celebrations. Hundreds of people worked on that project in different capacities, and there are thousands more projects like it that have been completed. So, what was unique or different about my own experience? What is worth telling?
It was in a way a formative project for me. As the designated job captain working under the guidance of a seasoned and encouraging project manager, I had an opportunity to see the whole picture, to participate in meetings with the developer and authorities, to coordinate with in-house engineers, outside consultants, leasing agents, other architecture firms working on related parts of the project, and the developer’s construction company and subcontractors. I was pretty green when I started working on the project, but the project manager encouraged me and shared tips for dealing with numerous situations. Even though – you might say – it was to his benefit that he encouraged me to pick up some of his responsibilities – meetings, meeting minutes, and other correspondence, it was far more beneficial for me; it gave me an opportunity to learn and grow in the job and to put my growing technical knowledge into a context that recognized influences and limitations beyond the technical. Seeing the larger picture also gave me a sense of ownership of my work; I knew its purpose and worked to fulfill the purpose.
The project manager was a mentor to me. His guidance helped me develop a road map for my own work on that project and on the many that have occupied my time since then.