On a Mission with Alyssa Stipcak
Our Missions Made Real mantra is about more than just our clients. We pride ourselves on applying the same level of passion, dedication, and support to helping everyone here at MGAC realize their own personal career missions, too. That’s why we’re excited to introduce On a Mission – a new blog series for Better Outcomes focused on shining a light on our employees, and sharing stories from their own personal journey to a mission made real. This month, we spoke with Alyssa Stipcak about her role as an Assistant Project Manager, and how taking advantage of professional development opportunities has helped further both her and her clients’ goals.
How would you describe the role of an Assistant Project Manager?
I think it depends on the level of expertise that an individual has coming into the role. I started in an entry level position, so for me it’s about assisting the lead project managers in order to help make their lives easier. Most of the time that involves observation, facilitation, and coordination efforts, but my responsibilities have evolved over the past couple of months as I’ve gotten more familiar with the projects I’ve been assigned.
Meeting minutes, monthly reporting, budget tracking, and coordination efforts are some of my main responsibilities – tracking everything that goes on so that we have a reference point I’ve also gradually become more involved in coordinating efforts on site with contractors and sub-contractors, as well as assisting with invoices and billing processes.
What is the most important skill set you need to be successful as an APM?
Organization – and I think that extends to project managers and senior project managers as well. Being a project manager is exactly what it sounds like. You are responsible for overseeing a lot of different roles, including supporting team members who are working in the field. Being able to support everyone with what they need when they need it requires you to be aware of everything that’s going on across the breadth of the project.
How are you interacting with clients, and how has that changed over time?
I’ve gradually been getting more involved as I become more knowledgeable and more familiar with my projects. At the beginning it was all about listening, just soaking everything in, and taking mental notes. I’m still doing that, but I’m beginning to make more direct contributions. I’ll pick up on things and can vocalize them now, where I might not have done that a few months ago. I think that is something I’ll continue to improve upon. That’s a goal that I have for myself – to continue to be more vocal – but I think that comes with experience. As I learn more, I’ll be able to give more input.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
My biggest challenges have been getting more comfortable in my role and familiarizing myself with the nuances of the construction industry. Every building is different, every project is different, the industry is constantly changing and evolving, and there’s an unlimited amount of knowledge I need to pick up on. I took a class last fall to help myself acclimate more quickly, but learning to speak to everything involved in the construction of a project will be a continuous learning process.
That being said, the fact that I’ve continued to make progress and grow my responsibilities over time has been my biggest win so far. I can see my progress and I hope the project managers and clients I support can see it as well. I feel more confident speaking to my projects than I did nine months ago, and have been able to implement the things that I’ve learned – and obviously that’s something that I hope to continue to improve upon over time.
What role has mentorship played in your ability to grow as an APM?
I’ve had a great experience with the two project managers I’m working with – Mimi Toner and Walt Layton. The projects we’ve been working on have provided a great mentoring environment because there is so much going on across the campus.
I’ve gotten to see projects of all sorts, and Mimi and Walt both have a ton of experience and expertise to share. Shadowing them has been great, and they’ve allowed me the opportunity to take on more responsibility as I’ve gained a better understanding of the various projects. The best thing about their partnership is that they have two different management styles and approaches to mentoring – which is great for me. Walt is always in the field, very hands on, and has a strong construction background. Mimi’s project has been in the design phases so she is not in the field as much right now, but her ability to stay organized and manage timelines has been vital in coordinating efforts with the client and contractors in her current behind-the-scenes kind of role. They are a good complement to one another and they are both really good at what they do. It’s been great to have them both as mentors, and I’ve been kind of spoiled in that regard.
What advice would you give someone joining MGAC as an APM?
My biggest piece of advice would be to ask questions and take full advantage of every learning opportunity, whether that’s mentorship or more formal professional development. For me this meant participating in courses offered through MGAC University, like Microsoft Project tutorials, as well as taking advantage of the professional development support MGAC offers by signing up for a supplementary architecture class and attending networking events. Investing in myself has helped me with the onboarding process on different projects and has allowed me to provide more value. If you do that, I think MGAC provides a great platform for young professionals, like myself, to make their career whatever they want it to be. Whether it’s expanding horizontally across market sectors or hopefully climbing vertically to a Project Manager position sometime in the future, I feel like I can grow how I want as long as I take advantage of the resources provided to me.