Leading and Managing in Construction and Design

Jeffrey Testa (EMDC '20) talks about the revolution taking place in construction and design and how EMDC has helped him lead through change.

As Jeffrey Testa (EMDC '20) examines the state of design and construction today, he sees an industry being revolutionized by new technologies and a newfound understanding of how employees work best.

"Technologies in architecture, engineering and construction are changing faster than we have ever experienced," said Testa, vice president of business operations at The Entekk Group, a design and manufacturing firm based 25 miles south of downtown Chicago. "Innovators of new technologies in both the digital and material fields are flooding the market with new ways to build and manage projects." 

To help fully grasp and thrive amid these revolutionary changes, Testa enrolled in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program. He recently took time to talk about his experience and how EMDC positively impacted his work at The Entekk Group.

What sparked your interest in applying to the EMDC program?

When I looked at EMDC, I saw a program designed to address major advancements in the way we build and manage people. The commercial real estate and design and construction industries of today are made up of a multicultural, multinational, multigender, and multigenerational workforce. They are all-inclusive industries with contributions coming from many different backgrounds and reference points. Construction businesses are tasked with building not only for expediency, but also with sustainability and an emphasis on higher performing structures.

Historically, a designer or an architect would provide the role of highest authority on a project and provide information on a top-down basis. Today, the information is much more collaborative; in fact in most cases, the flow of information goes from the bottom up. Project teams of today are unified in a common development and construction language. We all understand that projects are most successful when we apply collaboration, teamwork, understanding, process management, and respect. These teams are producing more creativity, more ideas and more satisfied clients and employees. As a result, we are seeing a greater number of project success stories. The EMDC program hits these topics head on. 

What has stood out to you during your time in the EMDC program?

The faculty. The professors are industry professionals and executives who share years of experience and the latest discoveries within their respective fields. In addition, these educators have a network of professional relationships who routinely serve as guest lecturers. I appreciated meeting so many additional talented people and growing my personal network.

How have you taken lessons learned in the program and applied them in your role at The Entekk Group?

The EMDC Program has had a profound impact on how we manage our business. Today, we manage with a better understanding of workforce demographics and effective communication skills, and the strategic importance of knowing these skills has positively impacted our bottom line. Strategic thinking and the minimization of risk are key indicators of a construction firm’s ability to survive and thrive. The EMDC Program targets areas where we can reduce risk and exposure to costly claims.

A key take-away from the program was to provide employees with the perks, benefits, and resources they value and want, rather than what leaders think they need. When we as managers can provide our teams with the right resources, a business can experience some dramatic positive change. When we provided things like flex-time and new software platforms, we saw boosted employee morale and customer satisfaction improvement.

One assignment that sticks out to me was when we read Sticking Points. The author, Hayden Shaw, did a great job explaining we can no longer manage by one playbook. We've subscribed to that belief and have seen improvement as we now manage to people’s strengths and customize our approach to optimize an individual’s talents. We certainly feel we have an advantage by utilizing the wealth of diversity and skills at our disposal, and that was all due to what I learned in the EMDC program.

McCormick News Article