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After a busy end of August and early September when I had to deal with many issues at work including a mice infestation at one of our Mobile Monitoring Stations, episode 4 is finally here.
On the latest episode of the Construction Industry Podcast, I spoke with Mr. Bruce D’Agostino, CEO and President of the Construction Management Association of America. Listen in to learn all about this great organization.
On our tech tip, I talk about Evernote and how it can help you be more productive and organized.
Enjoy and please give us a rating at iTunes if you can.
- Bruce D’Agostino Bio
- Interview (Transcription) with Bruce D’Agostino
- Diamond Cleaning Services
- Construction Management Association of America
- Tech Tip (Transcription)
Bruce D’Agostino Bio
Bruce D’Agostino is President/CEO of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) in McLean, VA. CMAA is North America’s only organization dedicated exclusively to the interests of professional program and construction management.
Under his leadership CMAA has grown its membership from less than 900 to more than 8,000, and the number of its certified construction managers has increased from 78 to more than 1600. In 2008, Bruce was made a Fellow in CMAA for his exceptional leadership.
Bruce has written extensively on association management and construction-related topics for many publications and newsletters, including Association Management, Executive Update and Engineering News Record.
He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola University of Baltimore, and received graduate certificates in association management from the University of Delaware and business management from The American University in Washington, DC.
Bruce earned a certified association executive designation by the American Society of Association Executives and is accredited by the Public Relations Society of America. He has served on the Board of Direction of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME), and is an Advisory Board Member for Women in Transportation Seminar International (WTS). He and his wife Judy have been married for 34 years and have two grown sons.
The Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) was formed in 1982. It is a leading construction industry association of more than 7000 organizations and practitioners providing management services to clients who are planning, designing, and constructing capital facilities and infrastructure projects and programs. The mission of CMAA is “To promote and enhance leadership, professionalism, and excellence in managing the development and construction of projects and programs.”
Interview with Bruce D’Agostino
Cesar: Hello, Mr. D’Agostino. How are you?
Bruce: I’m doing great. Thank you.
Cesar: How is the weather there in Virginia today?
Bruce: It’s bright and sunshiny just the way we like it.
Cesar: Good. Finally, for a change.
Bruce: Finally, yes. After hurricanes and earthquakes, we finally have some nice weather.
Cesar: That’s good. That’s good. Well, we’re here today to talk about the CMAA. So I was wondering if you could give us some background and history on the organization, like details, membership benefits, qualifications for membership, the certification levels and et cetera.
Bruce: I would be happy to. I appreciate the opportunity to give your listeners a brief tutorial on our organization. We got our start in 1982 and if you’re old enough, you might recollect that in 1982, we had very high interest rates. General contractors were having tremendous difficulty getting projects built on time and within budget. Owners were just deciding not to build at all.
A group of architects, engineers and construction professionals got together in Indianapolis and said, “Hey, there has got to be a better way than the current delivery of projects and infrastructure.” They decided that they would act as advocates of the owner and they would call this agency construction management. They were the service provider who would act as an agent to the owner, helping the owner get their projects completed and giving them the quality within the budget that they had set aside.
From those meager beginnings, the volunteers from the architectural community, construction community and engineering community set out to create a set of standards, of practice and even working on those as an ongoing project. They’ve been working on them since 1982 and constantly updating them.
These standards of practice have evolved into professional development courses and these standards of practice courses are very, very popular especially among the owner community as owners want to work to a specific industry standard. Unfortunately, anybody can call themselves a construction manager in North America. The only real way for an individual to differentiate themselves as a professional versus somebody who just writes “construction manager” on the side of their pickup truck is that they belong to the association, practice by our standards and sign our code of ethics. A good way for identification as a professional is achieving our ANSI accredited certification that certifies construction manager designation.
Over the years, our organization has grown where now it’s 8000 plus members. The certification program has seen a lot of success and growth over the past few years as more and more owners specify it in their request for proposals. So they’re asking for these certified construction managers and so the service providers are mandating that their employees get this designation for the owner’s benefit. Also we’ve got quite a few owners that have attained the certification on their own especially in the public sector.
We see owners from Veterans Affairs of the US government, the state department, Overseas Building Operations, Corps of Engineers, GSA. Many of them have embraced the certification program and view it as an option and to prove their own professionalism within the government as well as when they leave government and retire. Have a marketable designation to sell themselves and their professionalism to potential employers. So it has been a program that has become very, very popular and successful and it spawned another program called the Construction Manager in Training Program. The CMIT designation has been created to help young people who don’t have the extensive experience and knowledge but are working towards certification.
This CMIT designation allows them to get a mentor, take training and work towards the certification program. I guess I should really tell you the certification program is based on 48 months of responsible-in-charge experience from pre-design all the way through commissioning so it’s not construction-based. It’s throughout the whole process. To achieve that designation, you need to have that experience and also to have an undergraduate degree. If you don’t have an undergraduate degree in architecture or construction or engineering, then you need additional experience to compensate for that and then you have to take a rather extensive exam that is at least four hours long. I don’t know of anybody who has completed it under that.
So, it’s a rigorous program and the application process with referrals and letters of recommendation from owners is not something that you can do overnight. It takes an average of six months to get through the process but once you’ve gone through that and committed to it, it’s a very worthwhile process.
Cesar: OK. That’s interesting. I had no idea you guys have been around since 1982. That’s impressive. When you were starting to talk about CMAA, I could relate because we also work for the owners as an advocate, as a third party to ensure that the projects are being delivered on time and on budget. Some of the owners that we have dealt with in the past, they’re not necessarily in construction management or in construction at all. Sometimes they’re not even engineers and just happen to own the project and they need to build it for some reason. How did owners get certified if they’re not in the engineering field?
Bruce: Well, they can’t.
Bruce: The owners that we certify, all are actively involved in the construction process. So if you have someone from a processing industry that has always been in management or marketing or whatever and now they’ve been asked to take on facilities and construction and they’ve got outsourced CMs helping them, they really don’t qualify as a construction manager. Obviously they’re involved in construction but our certification is for those who actually manage the construction infrastructure programs.
Cesar: OK. Besides the growing number of mandated certification on RSPs as you mentioned, how do you encourage construction professionals to look at the CMAA and pursue certification?
Bruce: Well, I think if they’re really serious about the profession, they will gravitate to the association and I think we’re looking at generations. Older generations have been there and done it all. They’re not as excited about having to prove themselves with a four-hour exam and going through a regular certification process but many of them do. I think it’s the next generation that really wants to advance the profession. We’re seeing those folks really embrace the certification program.
Cesar: Does the CMAA accept experience from professionals from outside the US?
Bruce: Oh, absolutely as long as they can be verified by the folks that they worked for, the owners.
Cesar: That’s very interesting because there’s a lot of people who come to the US and they have a lot of experience in their home countries. It’s hard to get started if you’re not from the US, I guess, but they could pursue the certification as a way to – what’s the word I’m looking for?
Bruce: To prove their competency in the States.
Cesar: Exactly. Yes.
Bruce: In North America, yes.
Cesar: To a potential North American employer, let’s say.
Bruce: Yes. I think we’re seeing more and more international interest from the owner community wanting CCMs and from service providers who have been involved in the construction process especially from Asia and from Europe who are very, very interested in the CCM designation.
Cesar: OK, that’s great. Now, as I was telling you, my fulltime job, I provide services to construction projects of all shapes and sizes. To me, it’s obvious that the construction management methodologies are not consistent especially when you compare large and small projects. What are your thoughts on the construction management landscape in North America and what can the CMAA do to help improve project success in the industry?
Bruce: Well, I mentioned earlier that we have the standards of practice and if you want to have consistent outcomes, you have to be consistently managing to the same standards. I think that is what is attractive about our standards is that if you follow those standards in any sized project, you’re going to have consistent outcomes from that process. I’ll back up a second and tell you that of all the successful projects that I have ever talked about or seen throughout the country, it’s always based on the people involved and how they work together, the leadership of the CM or the owner, the communication, the collaboration. That’s always what gets a project qualified as a success.
You can have all kinds of great policies, procedures and standards. It’s very important but if the people don’t act in the owner’s best interest or the project’s best interest and don’t work together, you’re not going to have a successful project. That’s what we’re trying to do at CMAA is help folks understand how important collaboration, communication and leadership is on the project no matter what size it is.
Cesar: That’s great information. On the topic of project success, on the second episode of the Construction Industry Podcast, I interviewed Greg McTaggart from the Sydney Opera House in Australia. That project, as you may know, is always used as an example of poor management because it took so long and it cost so much money; but because of the people and the people involved in the project, their vision and in fact their communication with the public and government, it became one of the most successful buildings in history, over eight million visitors a year.
My conversation with him was just exactly about this, about how the communication, professionalism and the vision of success sometimes will trump other factors that might be considered essential to the project success. As a result of that project, now they have a very thick book on standards on how to conduct projects on the grounds of the Sydney Opera House. So, there you go.
Bruce: Oh, they should have learned from their problem …
Cesar: That’s right, yes. They did. OK. Now, how does the CMAA see itself compared to other project management bodies such as the PMI? I’m PMP-certified so I have to ask that.
Bruce: Well, we think the PMP is a great designation and it’s a great way to ensure you’ve got good project management skills. However, the PMI and the PMP are generic organizations to project management. They’re not construction and design-specific. We look at project management in the construction industry and how that process takes place.
So we encourage young people to get their PMP to start gaining experience. Once they’ve gained that experience, they can get the CCM to show their project management skills and capabilities in the construction arena.
Cesar: OK. So the PMP will be like a stepping stone or almost like an undergraduate degree before you can move on to the graduate level of the CCM.
Bruce: I think it’s a great way to ensure your capabilities in project management so that as you’re gaining experience in the construction industry, you will be prepared for the certification that CMAA has.
Cesar: OK. I also think that one of the appeals of the PMI is its global reach. Do you have any plans on taking the CCM to a global audience?
Bruce: Well, I’m one of those folks that think that if you’re on the globe, you’re global.
Cesar: I see.
Bruce: I think that we don’t market internationally but folks have found a lot of value in our certification from around the world because American construction managers have been looked at throughout a long time as the people who can get it done and by getting it done, getting projects, large projects done. That’s where we see American construction managers on the Panama Canal or the London Olympics or huge dams around the world. When you’ve got a really sophisticated construction project, important infrastructure, you could count on Americans being involved in that.
So when they see Americans and they want to emulate what Americans are doing and if the Americans are having this certification process to help identify professionals, well then I think internationally we will see a lot more interest in the US designation.
Cesar: Right. I think that can describe the success of the PMI as well. It started in the US and maybe because it started there, it’s now pretty much everywhere. OK.
Bruce: They’ve done a great job of going global with that designation especially in the IT sector.
Cesar: Just recently too, I don’t know if you’re aware of it but they came up with a construction practice community within – they have their communities of practice within the PMI divided by sector. There’s a brand new one called construction and I think they’re coming up with a standard too so that’s interesting. Now, how do you see the future of construction management and the Construction Management Association of America’s role in it?
Bruce: Well, I think the future is very bright. Unfortunately, the world’s infrastructure is in need of repair and expansion as we grow; but we’ve got a lot of senior construction managers who are on the verge of retirement. We’re not going to have enough individuals with the knowledge and experience to build the infrastructure needs of the global community.
So not only in the US but all around the world, we’re going to have a huge need for expertise and professional construction management. I think with our standards of practice, with our certification, our professional networking and sharing of knowledge that goes on within our organization, the future is quite bright.
What we’re trying to do through our foundation is attracting more young people into our profession and we’ve got some new publications that have come out that I think help young people understand what professional construction managers can do. Many people think of construction managers as a superintendent. Once the young people understand that there is a class of professionals that are using computers, then technology and are using management skills to create huge pieces of infrastructure, it’s pretty exciting for them. I think we’re having a lot of success in North America in the construction management because it’s one of the fastest-growing degrees throughout the academic world.
Cesar: That’s true. I’m in my 30s so I consider myself still young even though I’m married, have two kids and a house. I’m still a kid, right? I’m also a naval reservist so I have a lot of very young friends. I tell them there’s an opportunity here because there is this almost like a generation gap going on right now. If you’re good with computers and you’re technology-inclined, construction is a great field to be in right now because there is going to be a need for people like that and the largest projects in the world are construction projects. We do this podcast which is kind of a new media format and the reason why I decided to do it is because there is very little out there. You want to do a podcast on project management in general, there are tons of them because most of the people, as you said, have PMP certifications. They’re in IT and they’re more technology-inclined in construction. We’re picking up the rear here so I think it’s a good opportunity for the near future actually.
Bruce: I agree with you.
Cesar: OK, good. Now if we want more information on the CMAA, the qualifications for membership and certification levels, et cetera, where do we go?
Bruce: Oh, I think it’s best to go to the website.
Bruce: That is www.CMAANet.org.
Cesar: OK. I’ll have that link on the show notes too. If you go to ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com, if you’re listening, you can check that link there as well as the transcription of this interview. Mr. D’Agostino, thank you so much for your time.
Bruce: Well, thank you. I really enjoyed talking with you today.
Cesar: That’s great. Can I count on you in the future maybe for a future episode?
Bruce: Oh, absolutely. I would love to chat with you again.
Cesar: OK, thank you.
Bruce: All right. Bye now.
Cesar: Well, Mr. D’Agostino, you’re not an engineer, correct?
Bruce: That’s correct.
Cesar: OK. So why in the world are you involved with construction and why do you like it so much?
Bruce: Well, an interesting story is that my members talk about how important it is to be a certified construction manager to manage construction infrastructure. When I was interviewing to be the leader of this association, they asked why they shouldn’t hire a construction manager to lead the Construction Management Association and I told them, “Well, I’m a certified association executive.” Once I said that, it was very clear to them that they wanted a professional to run their association just like others want professionals to run their construction projects and programs.
I have learned an incredible amount of knowledge through my 12 years here at CMAA about the construction profession and I’ve been involved in some of my members’ projects and programs including the World War Two Memorial here in D.C. I got to see much of the infrastructure that went underneath that memorial, which is fascinating. I’ve been involved in some other projects and programs around the country on transportation and water infrastructure. I got to do a bridge tour at the Golden Gate Bridge and climb to the top of the Golden Gate.
Bruce: It’s just an incredible experience.
Bruce: So it has been a wonderful opportunity for me.
Tech Tip (Transcription): Evernote
In today’s tech tip, I’m going to talk about Evernote, a very, very powerful note-taking app for your phones, your desktop or laptop computers.
Evernote is a tool that allows you to take notes helps keep them organized so you can easily find them later. Evernote has a number of features. I use it all the time because these features are so great.
It’s a note-taking application for the PC, Mac or mobile device. So you have a BlackBerry version, an iPhone version, Android version of it, even Windows 7 mobile. You can get Evernote for that. You can type notes. You can have voice notes. You can take a snapshot and save it as a note. The notes can be arranged by notebooks and they can be tagged differently to help find them later. You can search by tags or by notebooks or by text.
Let’s say you take a snapshot of a stop sign and save it as a note. Evernote will “read” that snapshot and read the word “stop” so that word “stop” becomes searchable. If later on I want to find that note, I can just search for the word “stop” and the stop sign picture will come up. Very powerful stuff.
Not only that, but the notes are also geotagged. So Evernote takes note, no pun, of where you were in the world when you took that note. For example, let’s say you parked your car in the airport parking lot and you want to remember later where you parked your car. I just did this just the other day. I went into the picture of the column where I parked the car and it said like E7 for example and I saved it to Evernote.
So Evernote will save that picture that I took with the phone and save its geotag, your geo location in the world. So when I came back to the airport a couple of weeks later, I just did a search on Evernote by notes that were taken within a one-mile radius of where I was and up comes the picture of the column that was in front of my car. So I quickly found my car that way.
Now how do you get Evernote? You can go to Evernote.com and download it there for your computer. If you have an iPhone, you can go to the App Store on your iPhone or iPad as well. Download it there. If you have a Mac, you can go to the Mac App Store. Download it for your Mac right there from the App Store and Android Marketplace and you can get it for BlackBerry as well.
This is how I use it. I take pictures of construction sites, take pictures of drawings for later review. Let’s say I would decide that I need to move my mobile monitoring station from this location to that location. So I sit down with the construction superintendent and we decide where to move it. I take a picture of the drawing so when I come back later next week to move that, to move my mobile station, I have that picture right on my phone.
I also use it to take pictures of business cards so I don’t keep my business cards that I get from people. I just take a picture and as I said before, all the text in that business card is “read” by Evernote and is searchable. Later on if I want to find the phone number for John Smith, I can just search for “John Smith” on Evernote and the business card picture will come up.
I also take voice notes of things I remember when I’m driving and I can’t write. So let’s say I’m driving and I think of something I need to do later that day or later in the week. I just pick up my phone. I don’t even have to look at it. I just press one button, the Evernote button there, and I can record a voicemail. Later on, I can review it. I also record meetings and presentations for later reviews. So let’s say there’s a meeting where things will be discussed that I need to remember later, I can record that whole meeting with Evernote and review it later.
I take pictures of receipts to keep track of my expenses here for my business and I can email messages to Evernote from my email account. So let’s say you got an email from somebody and there is an attachment that I need to keep in a better place than my email inbox. I can just forward that email message to Evernote.
Now, the two best features of Evernote. Number one, all your notes are synced in the cloud. So if you take a note with your iPhone and later on you open your laptop, it’s going to be there too because it’s all synced in the background. You don’t have to do a thing and it’s all saved locally to your computer too. So let’s say Evernote goes out of business tomorrow. You still keep all your notes on all your devices.
The very best feature that I think of is that it’s free so absolutely no cost to Evernote. There is a fee if you want Evernote Premium which gives you a couple more tools, more storage space, things like that; but the free version is absolutely functional. In fact, I just recently upgraded because I use it so much. I used it for about a year, a year and a half, I think as a free app for the phone.
So there you go. That’s my tech tip for today, Evernote. Try it out. Check it out. Let me know what you think of it and you can write me back at Feedback@ConstructionIndustryPodcast.com. Thanks guys.