This post marks the first installment of the futures portfolio, a recurring series that will explore the diversity of careers that SBI alumni have built for themselves.
Gary Dragona always knew that he wanted to build things, but his time in SBI convinced him to make a modification to his career plans. Mr. Dragona entered SBI as a Civil Engineering Major, but his time in the program piqued his interest in the business side of the construction industry. In order to pursue this interest, he transferred into the school of Arts & Sciences to study Economics.
Mr. Dragona now works as a Construction Manager for Tishman Construction, a major firm based in New York City. Dragona’s recent projects include upgrades to the security infrastructure at New York-New Jersey Port Authority facilities and repairs to property owned by Verizon Wireless that had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
In many ways, the title of construction manager matches the job description, but that description includes a broad array of responsibilities. When managing a site, Mr. Dragona is responsible for creating a plan for the site that includes a schedule and a budget. Once the plan is in place, it is also Mr. Dragona’s responsibility to implement it, and to ensure that construction is completed on time, under budget, and according to prevailing quality standards. He is responsible for managing the construction crews working on-site, for maintaining the project’s books, and for reviewing contracts. Construction Managers, in short, have to be familiar with a wide variety of business disciplines, including management, accounting, and business law.
Mr. Dragona’s background in economics has helped him to carry out these responsibilities, as it has helped him develop the cognitive skills that his job demands. “Economics has developed my quantitative and analytical skills which help keep my projects on schedule and under budget”, Dragona says. He notes that in order to succeed in the workforce, economics students have to apply the theoretical knowledge they learn to the unique attributes of their target industry. “it is important that you take what you learn in the classroom and apply it to the business sector you are in, all of which require an understanding of markets and rational choice.”
At first blush a transition from engineering to economics might seem an unusual career move for somebody interested in construction. This didn’t stop Gary Dragona, who saw a background in economics as the means by which he could pursue in twin interests in the business and construction worlds. By identifying a path that worked for him and pursuing it, Mr. Dragona was able to build a career, a livelihood, and more than a few buildings in the process.