Embracing the Intersectionality of A/E/C 

Tony Scacco talks about how the MPM program gave him the broad set of skills to accelerate his career and find success as COO of Riverside Investment & Development Company.

When Tony Scacco (MPM ‘00) visits one of the commercial real estate development projects he has shepherded to completion, he sees much more than just the building.  

Instead, the COO at Riverside Investment & Development Company sees what he calls the “intersectionality of so many disciplines — art, science, finance, politics, law,” and more — that had to meet perfectly to move the project from concept through construction.  

Tony ScaccoScacco has been with Riverside for more than 11 years, starting as its executive vice president in 2012 before rising to COO in August 2020. Throughout his tenure, he has relied on the skills he learned in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Science in Project Management (MPM) program.  

“The most important lesson I learned was that being well-rounded offers an individual a number of different pathways within a chosen profession,” he said. “Skill-building across a number of disciplines was a particularly important factor for me to advance my career in commercial real estate.”  

Riverside focuses on opportunities to build at significant scale in urban growth markets, and their buildings can be found dotting city skylines across the US, from Charlotte to Chicago to Denver. 

Scacco’s role is a mix of monitoring current projects while mining for future business. To both, he brings a systematic approach he sharpened during his time in the MPM program.  

“My job is pretty much the continuous resolution of problems,” he said. “Some are small and quickly addressed. Some are larger and take time. Taking a generalist engineering approach to problem-solving has benefited me greatly throughout my career.”  

That approach is at MPM’s core and was what initially attracted Scacco to the program. His background was in civil engineering, but he quickly realized he wanted to do more than be a technical specialist. For that, he needed more education, and he felt MPM was the right place for him. 

More than 20 years later, he is confident he made the right decision.  

“MPM touched on aspects of the industry I didn’t get to see in my engineering curriculum,” he said. “It enabled me to pursue the professional track that led me to where I am today.” 

But where he is today has hardly been static, particularly during the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic radically altered the course of commercial real estate, forcing Riverside and all other developers to face a confluence of challenges that required a strategic pivot.  

As COO, Scacco has been at the heart of Riverside’s course correction. He has helped guide the company’s expansion from a commercial office building focus toward residential and mixed-use projects while moving it into new geographic markets.  

To make that transition work, Scacco has held tightly to the principles learned in the MPM program, successfully breaking down large-scale, complex problems into smaller ones that take a generalist’s mindset to address.  

“Fundamentally, commercial real estate – and particularly development – is the process of taking thousands of small steps over a very long period of time,” he said. “It’s to gradually remove obstacles to success and realize desired returns on a given investment.”  

He highly recommends the career for a wide variety of professionals, and said the MPM program is a great place to find necessary skills for success within the A/E/C industry.  

“My MPM experience was key to refining the vision I had for my own career,” he said. “I’d greatly encourage it for the specialists who believe that, in the long term, they will ultimately want to become generalists. Fully embrace the multitude of different professional avenues that exist within the field of project management.”  

McCormick News Article