Growing as a Business, Family, and Individual

Nora Degnan (EMDC '20) talks about being VP for business development at her family-owned company and how EMDC gave her the specialized construction knowledge she couldn't get out of an MBA.

Nora Degnan (EMDC '20) It's easy for Nora Degnan to treat her colleagues at Thorne Associates like family. After all, many of them are just that.  

The specialty subcontracting company was started in 1986 by Parker and Dana Thorne. Nora's father Mike Degnan and his brother Dan joined the company at that time and today serve as president and CEO, respectively. Degnan was hired as a project estimator in 2004, and in 2018 was added to the leadership team as vice president for business development.

"I feel very lucky to work with my family," said Degnan, whose cousin is also on the executive team and has two other relatives on staff. "We are a non-adversarial group and do our best to promote and extend our family values to our employees, clients, and everyone we work with on the jobsite. We value work-life balance, and it helps to promote a happy work environment, which means a lot to our employees." 

Degnan's role includes estimating, project managing, HR management, safety program management, insurances management, and accounting department supervision.

She has a graduate degree in business administration, but she wanted to further pursue advanced education focused on the construction field to better understand the specific challenges and opportunities facing the industry. For that, she turned to Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program.

"As an MBA, I can confidently say the industry specific learning in EMDC is priceless," Degnan said, "not only from the world-class instructors, but from your peers in the class who are eager to learn, share, and have incredible insights to help you understand all aspects of construction." 

Thorne Associates has a rich resume of projects across the Chicagoland area and have helped businesses in an array of industries, from healthcare and tech to retail and education.  

Degnan said she routinely recalls tidbits from her time in EMDC that influence her work at the company. For example, she recently leveraged lessons about hiring talent when she brought on a consultant to support her as she looks to improve processes.  

Just as Degnan looked for a new way to enhance her knowledge of the construction industry, Thorne Associates strives to find innovative solutions that help their clients move their business forward. 

"We work exceptionally well in teams and are a great resource for our clients," Degnan said. "Our ability to be creative while maintaining the highest standards of quality sets us apart. We are constantly looking for new ways to help our customers achieve their goals."

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