TZL 1402 (web)


780-square-foot basement bank vault, which may be used as a special gathering space. TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting? MD: Like many firms, we’re designing more of a hybrid office. We’re in the process of moving our office into the heart of downtown Chicago, so the timing is right. We dipped our toe in the water two years ago with working from home and we now know that with the right technology, it’s possible. Between the cloud and Microsoft Teams we saw very few glitches. When we do move into our new office space, we’ll be in the office three days a week and at home the rest of the time. The goal is seamless integration between participants from wherever they are – local or remote – through the latest integrated digital collaboration tools. This new office gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our belief in the future of workplace design and will be a sort of showroom for our design ideas. TZL: It is often said that people leave managers, not companies. What are you doing to ensure that your line leadership are great people managers? MD: All of our managers have one-on-one conversations with their team members on a weekly basis for 20-30 minutes. Sometimes it’s about work, sometimes it’s not. This helps to build better relationships among the team and ensures that the lines of communication are open. It’s also important to make sure that people understand why things happen. They have a better buy-in then. We also have an annual advance, and quarterly follow- ups that all firm leaders attend. It’s key to spend time together in order to grow together. "I love putting new life into old buildings and there’s so much potential with current building construction technology." TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? MD: I believe this is a unique challenge for the overall industry. When I was in school, at least 50 percent of the people going into the industry were women. Now, it’s more like 10 percent. I’m not sure why that is. At our firm, Kathy Graham, the COO, recently

became an owner. As an industry, we need to show more examples of women-driven leadership. We’re also focusing on how to bring more people of color into the room. We have consultations about places to recruit; are involved in the ACE Mentor Program of America which is a free after school program targeting high school kids interested in careers in the AEC industry; and are active in the Newhouse and Future City competitions. We also hired a company to provide cultural awareness training. "We’re constantly having discussions about how to win work, project planning, and profitability. Everything changes so quickly so you have to stay as current as possible." TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. MD: We provide a flexible work environment and are accelerating training and sharing of information. We’re constantly having discussions about how to win work, project planning, and profitability. Everything changes so quickly so you have to stay as current as possible. The main challenge of investing in the next generation is to explain how and why work happens. They don’t teach the “why” in school regarding why certain things happen. We try to communicate with staff on a deeper level, so we become an engaging work place. They’re not just an asset. You can’t lose sight of the human factor. If they want to grow, they have a path here to do it. We’re also focused on their safety and wellness. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? MD: We’ve been very fortunate here. The average tenure is five years. We have the most consistent and talented group of designers. Many other firms harp on the idea of staff members having to “pay their dues” before moving into other roles. We don’t. We provide opportunities and we also open our Design Lab meetings to everyone in the firm. If someone would






❚ ❚ Architecture

❚ ❚ BIM

❚ ❚ Entitlements

❚ ❚ Feasibility study

❚ ❚ Interior design

❚ ❚ Master planning

❚ ❚ Tenant improvement


❚ ❚ Civic

❚ ❚ Hospitality

❚ ❚ Mixed-use

❚ ❚ Multifamily

❚ ❚ Recreational

❚ ❚ Retail

❚ ❚ Senior housing

❚ ❚ Single family

❚ ❚ Student housing

❚ ❚ Townhomes

❚ ❚ Workplace

ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE US TO KNOW: FitzGerald is a firm that fosters a diverse community of talented people.


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GUST 2, 2021, ISSUE 1402

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