Learning to Lead

How lessons rooted in real-world experience can foster personal growth.

Professors Raymond Krizek (front row, center) and Ahmad Hadavi (back row, far right) pose with graduates of Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction program.

This story originally appeared in the August 2021 issue of 'ENR Geotechnical Engineering & Environmental Construction Today' from Engineering News-Record, a news publication dating from 1874 that covers important engineering and construction news. 

A wise leader never stops seeking to glean from the experiences of others. These words from John Maxwell, an internationally recognized leadership expert, allude to the importance of embracing the wisdom of people with practical knowledge in order to achieve personal growth.

This emphasis on learning from others’ real-world experiences serves as the foundation of instruction for the Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) master’s program at Northwestern University, a private research university based in Evanston, Ill. Established in 2012 and flexibly designed to accommodate a student’s full-time work schedule, the EMDC program is taught exclusively online by practicing industry experts who bring a wealth of outside experience to the classroom. Geared toward those who are aspiring to transition into senior leadership positions in design and construction, the curriculum covers business, management and strategy topics and includes video lectures, interactive webinars, guest seminars and engaging group projects.

According to EMDC Program Director Raymond Krizek, this innovative program’s mission is to develop an elite cadre of AEC leaders equipped with the enhanced skills, strategies and insights necessary to be successful in their careers. “Being an effective leader entails complementing technical knowledge with real-world business insight,” Krizek says. He notes that the ability to learn from seasoned industry leaders has proven key to the program’s success.

Jeffrey Testa, who serves as vice president of business operations at Entekk Group, concurs. “The professors are industry professionals and executives who share years of experience and the latest discoveries within their respective fields,” says Testa, a 2020 EMDC graduate. “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.” 

Another student credits the rigorous yet directly applicable instruction as a springboard for his career advancement. “[The] professors have deep experience in the courses they teach, so they had a lot of sage advice that I could not find in a textbook. And trust me, I have read almost every book on the market,” says Joshua Neill, who was promoted to a vice president position at Keystone National Group while he still enrolled in the graduate program. 

Joanna Szymel, the founder and CEO of Guepard Group, a woman-owned commercial construction firm based in Illinois, says her experience at Northwestern University was truly life changing. “Some goals once deemed totally out of reach and impossible are now at my fingertips due to the world-class education that I received from professors who care and are willing to share their knowledge and experience,” she said in a testimonial upon her successful completion of the EMDC program last year. “I cannot say enough about the commitment, love and knowledge that [the] professors have for the AEC industry. This passion is what sets the EMDC program aside from the rest. The never-ending guidance of Professor Krizek, without whom none of this would be even possible, has made my dreams a reality.” 

Northwestern University’s 12-course Executive Management for Design and Construction program typically takes two years to complete.

McCormick News Article