Q&A; with Vic Maloof, Operations Management

BusinessDegree.org interviewed Vic Maloof, member of the Brookwood Group, a firm specializing in strategic advisory services, development and construction program management, and planning and design consulting services. Vic earned degrees in both architecture and structural engineering and completed the advanced management program at Harvard Business School. His experience in construction management ranges from education and athletic facilities to corrections, health care and commercial properties, among others.

Below he talks about his career in construction project management and how to get started in the field.

Q: What is your current position?

I have a background as an architect and structural engineer. I’ve done a lot of design work around the world.

Q: What is operations management and how does it influence a company?

We would actually tell a client that they wouldn’t owe us any money if we couldn’t get them a contract with a licensed general contractor within the budget and program that we set and within the design that they wanted. And, that was quite a challenge.

Quite frankly taking on some tremendous challenges from Lockheed Georgia company and Delta Airlines, [for example], is what gave rise to our evolution, and what today is called program management and construction management.

Q: How did you get started in this field, and what kind of preparation does someone pursuing this career need?

I had the opportunity to join a small firm back in the early ’60s that had a dynamo as a partner; he wanted to do all kinds of great things. The most interesting part of his philosophy was that we as architects should be able to put forth a program of requirements based upon an owner’s needs, put a budget to that program, and then, execute a design within the parameters of that program and budget.

The foundation of my education, other than my technical education, was what I did in the Navy. Our ship would pull in somewhere in the Mediterranean, and we would put on a party for the local people. I had to plan that party for 2,000 people. That kind of experience – whether you were planning a party, a building, or a railroad – is executive operations [management].

Q: How did continuing your education better your career?

I found myself not only managing projects, but I was managing a growing business. One day I went to my senior partner and I said, “I need an MBA to do what I’m doing.” He thought I was crazy.

About two years later he said, “I think you were right. I’m going to Harvard and getting into the advanced management program. When I finish, you enroll.” So both of us went to the Harvard advanced management program. Those experiences helped me to be able to not only do the projects, but also deal with the business aspects of architecture and engineering.

Q: In your work in operations management, what is an average day like?

My team and I would sit down with an owner and understand what their goals and constraints would be. We would develop a management plan to meet those goals and overcome the constraints. It’s a matter of understanding what that client’s needs are and putting a program around that, all within a fixed budget.

Q: In general, are there any specific traits that work well in this career?

As the operations manager, you have to be able to juggle those divergent desires from the owner, the user, and in the public sector, the public. You have to have great people skills and great patience.

Q: What do you wish someone had told you about operations management?

The first thing that we do when we go into a [new] place is we do the best we can to understand the marketplace. You’ve got to understand the norms of the marketplace. How do [people there] deal with suppliers and subcontractors? How do they typically contract people?

Q: What kind of changes have there been in operations management in the last few years?

Clients today are getting more savvy [and realizing] that there are various ways of delivering on a project. The hottest topic today in the area of project delivery is integrated project delivery. The owner – the very sophisticated owner – architect, contractor, and all of the engineers, subcontractors and suppliers involved are one team. They get in one big room and deliver the project. It’s a very interesting approach. It can save a lot of time and money, in my opinion.

Q: What do you see for the future of operations management?

The owners are getting far more sophisticated. Most of them now have their own facilities departments that are staffed with architects, engineers and contractors who know what they’re doing. Consequently, the marketplace out there is far more sophisticated than it’s ever been before.

Q: What are the benefits of the job?

I worked in France. I had an office in London, England that had 100 people in it for 10 years. I did the American Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal. I did a Navy Pier in Athens, Greece. I had an office in Amman, Jordan for 10 years. We designed two hospitals and the school of engineering. I’ve done three projects in Cairo, Egypt. I’ve worked in Central America, the Philippines, and this goes on and on…

Q: Any other recommendations for aspiring operations managers?

As a young architect coming along, you have to prepare yourself, both from a design education as well as from a business education point of view. [There are programs] where you can get a bachelor’s of architecture and a master’s of management simultaneously. That’s great. Our whole industry is getting more sophisticated.