To the young woman starting CA

To the young woman starting CA-

What a great opportunity to learn and grow.

But I have to admit I am worried about some of the advice you got. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘real-talk’ conversations, but the one I heard about from a young male colleague full of construction administration (CA) strategies for ‘holding onto RFI’s’*, coaching on ‘how to really talk to contractors’, and learning ‘how to project expertise onsite’ really concerns me. You are much more than that, so I feel compelled to write you this note.

I am convinced that at the end of this adventure, you’ll be more authentic and more effective by figuring out how to use your own voice and influence to get the job done. You’ll learn when to push to be effective. This is a skill you are already developing, but I fear that any machismo tactics by others simply won’t work for you.

You are different; you are much more than that.

CA games are games for a reason. I have found that building rapport and dialogue cut through any adversarial relationships. That doesn’t mean you will be able to avoid difficult situations and frustration, but you will be equipped to use your professional judgement and ability to negotiate a win-win situation. You will need to be competent and a team player. Intimidation will only go so far. (I’m surprised more people haven’t learned that by now.) Be part of the solution, not the problem.

If there are games, rise above them. When architects make CA as a game of quick wins and strategy, we miss the opportunity to learn. Don’t lose sight that this is your livelihood, and the livelihood for all the construction professionals and laborers as well. Yes, business is important… and so is time, getting paid, schedule, quality, procurement, decisions, and safety. This is a big responsibility, but don’t lose sight of the people who make it happen. You are all working towards the same goal–to create an awesome building and a project to be proud of.

What I’m trying to say is that you need to be a leader, and that means using the strengths of communication I have seen you develop over the past couple of years.

You bring more to the table than you know.

You will succeed and grow.

You will become more than just part in the process; you will become a better architect.

Trust yourself; do what is right; ask great questions.

…and always know that I am cheering you on all the way.


*Along with common usage I use CA as a acronym for construction administration in this post, but Liz O’Sullivan makes a good point that CA is really means Contract Administration, not Construction Administration: Liz O’Sullivan: A note on “C.A.” — Administration of the Contract). Melissa Dewey Brumback elaborates further on this point: Melissa Dewey Brumback: Construction, er make that CONTRACT, Administration services: a primer (law note).

Some CA acronym soup. (I’m sure I have left some out.):

  • AEC = Architecture, Engineering, Construction
  • AFL-CIO = American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
  • AGC = Associated General Contractors
  • AISI = American Iron & Steel Institute
  • ANSI = American National Standards Institute
  • ASCE = American Society of Civil Engineers
  • ASHRAE = Amercian Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers
  • BD&C = Building Design & Construction
  • BIM = Building Information Modeling
  • CIP = Capital Improvement Program
  • CM = Construction Management/Manager
  • CSI = Construction Specifications Institute
  • DBE = Disadvantaged Business Enterprise
  • DOT = Department of Transportation (MassDOT in Massachusetts)
  • EEO = Equal Opportunity Employment
  • EPA = Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA in Massachusetts)
  • FFY = Federal Fiscal Year
  • GSA = Government Services Administration
  • Hazmat = Hazardous materials and items
  • HUD = Housing and Urban Development
  • IBEW = International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid
  • ISD = Inspectional Services Department
  • LEE = Leadership in Energy and Environmental Deisgn
  • MBE = Minority Business Enterprise
  • MBTA = Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
  • MMQB = Monday Morning Quarterbacking (This happens at least once a week.)
  • NAWIC = National Association of Women in Construction
  • ND = Neighborhood Development
  • NECA = National Electrical Contractors Association
  • O&M = Operations & Maintenance
  • OSHA = Occupational Safety & Health Administration
  • OPM = Owner’s Project Management/Manager
  • PE = Professional Engineer
  • PM = Project Manager
  • PPE = Personal Protective Equipment (This is not optional, get over it. Yellow and orange are the new black.)
  • QC = Quality Control
  • RFI = request for information
  • RFP = Request for Proposal
  • RFQ = Request for Quote
  • SLBE = Small Local Business Enterprise
  • SWOT = Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Treats
  • SWPPP = Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans
  • USGBC = US Green Building Council
  • VOSB = Veteran Owned Small Business
  • WBE = Women Business Enterprise

Written by

Emily is an Architect, Mother of 2, and Somerville, MA resident.

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