How do you explain your profession to people outside of the industry? What do you find most exciting and/or rewarding about this work?

What are the core requirements of your job and how do you measure success?

As a Senior Project Manager, I lead a studio of designers, project managers and strategists in the retail development field, with creative and innovative projects ranging from short-term immersive activations to permanent store rollouts. Working with a diverse array of brands, from digital natives to luxury and heritage brands, soft skills like adaptability, flexibility and strategic thinking are the key to success.

From a measurable metrics standpoint, it’s hard to argue with the number of stores open, on time and under budget. But from a bigger-picture perspective, I measure success based on the level of impact a project has on myself, my team and our clients. Closing out a project with learnings and experiences that improve our processes and further the development of our project managers and designers is highly valuable, and it’s equally important that our brand counterparts end a project feeling as if we are an extension of their team and know that we have their best interests in mind. If I can marry all of that together, then a project has been successful.

What is one notable professional achievement you've made over the past year that you are most proud of?

The projects I am most proud of are those where my team and I help a brand open their first physical store or realize a new concept. There are a lot of possibilities and potential paths within these projects, but equally as many challenges that require exploration and due diligence. Guiding a team to doors open is a process that requires tapping into many areas of expertise, but achieving that milestone while also setting the foundation for a scalable program is rewarding. Equally as rewarding and fun are the next batch of stores, where we get to test the retail playbook developed during the first store, and continually iterate until there is an established kit of parts to guide a brand’s future growth.

What professional challenge or failure has stuck with you, and how did you embrace it?

There’s a delicate balance between providing enough oversight and support to your team, while still allowing them the professional freedom to drive a project and find their own opportunities to learn and grow. Some of the challenges and failures that continue to impact the way I work stem from not getting that balance correct. It can be tempting to err on the side of trying to control outcomes, but recognizing the limits that can be placed on myself and the organization has helped me to reframe my daily approach to work and the questions I ask about project and team needs.

What trend or technology do you believe will have the most profound impact on your work (and the work of your peers) over the next year?

The construction side of retail development tends to lag when it comes to the adoption of new technology, but there are some interesting conversations going on around AI-powered tools and their strategic adaptation in the construction field to build greater efficiency and accuracy. While we’re still a way off from any widespread integration of AI or robotic tools, I think we’ll see a lot of testing and verification in the coming years.

What I currently find more interesting and critical to track is the continued development of our sustainability strategy in the built environment. While there are some inherent limitations and challenges for interior tenant improvement (TI) projects, there are vendors and material manufacturers out there doing some innovative work. I expect those innovations to continue to impact our approach to projects, especially as they become more scalable solutions.

If you could say one thing to your younger self, what would it be?

I would tell anyone starting their career that repetition can be limiting. Actively seek to diversify your project experience, approach, perspective and expertise, and you’ll build greater value for your work, your organization and more importantly, yourself.