MGAC Impacts: Casey Gordon on Great Project Management, Simplicity as the Ultimate Sophistication, and Enjoying the Ride
The Impact Blog is a spotlight series that highlights and celebrates the diverse employees that make MGAC tick. Beyond their day-to-day schedules, we want to know how they have a greater impact on their colleagues, their company, and the communities in which they live and work. We want to know what makes them get out of bed in the morning, what led them to their current role, and what they hope their lasting impact will be.
Today, we get to know Casey Gordon, Vice President at MGAC.
MGAC: Welcome to the Impact Blog, Casey!
Casey Gordon (CG): Hi! Thanks for having me.
MGAC: Let’s start with what you do here at MGAC.
CG: I’m a Vice President focused on project management in the Los Angeles office.
MGAC: And how long have you been with the company?
CG: Almost 5 years now. I was actually the second project manager to be hired for the Los Angeles office, which began primarily as a cost management team.
MGAC: Nice! How did your professional path lead you to MGAC?
CG: I practiced architecture in New York for 10 years prior to moving to Los Angeles, where I started working as a general contractor. During the 2008 recession, I moved over to construction management on the owner’s side, where I did a lot of work in healthcare and for the County of Los Angeles. From there, because my background combined design and engineering as well as construction and contracting, I was able to speak a lot of “languages” that would benefit the owner’s side. So, it was a natural fit for me to make that shift and start to represent owners.
MGAC: Absolutely. It sounds like your diverse experience has really positioned you well for what you’re doing today.
CG: You could say that. One of the things I enjoy about MGAC is that, like myself, a lot of people here have diverse backgrounds. That wide breadth of expertise is one of the things that’s very attractive to me about MGAC as a firm.
MGAC: You mentioned you started out as an architect. Was that something you had been interested in pursuing since you were young?
CG: I grew up wanting to go into art. And I realized early on that architecture, being the only art requiring a license to practice, seemed like a nice blend of my interest in art and my more meticulous skills—I’ve always been fascinated with how things come together. Then, once I actually started working in architecture, I found that I appreciated the personal relationships with clients even more than the design aspect.
MGAC: That makes sense. Now that your role has evolved from those original architect aspirations, what would that younger self think about your job today?
CG: Well, like a lot of other people, I think he’d ask me what I really do! Because at MGAC, we do so many different things. I think once the younger me saw the scale of projects that we work on, the complexity of the work, and the exciting clients we work for, he’d be pretty impressed.
MGAC: Speaking of projects and clients, what’s keeping you busy these days?
CG: I often joke that I’m always the most boring guy at the party because many of the awesome projects I work on are under NDAs. For example, right now, we are working on a professional sports team’s headquarters and practice facility. At 115,000 SF, it includes three practice fields and an indoor / outdoor workout gym. We are also kicking off a $50M private residence in Wyoming, for a high-net-worth individual. We recently met with the architect on that project, and the designs are amazing.
MGAC: What an exciting mix of work!
CG: It really is! In Los Angeles, we do a little bit of everything. We just wrapped two large luxury residential developments—Astéras Kings in West Hollywood and Windsor Row (previously known as Van Ness Residences) in Los Angeles—with one more scheduled to complete in August of this year. That project, in North Hollywood, is called Hyperion. It comprises 14 townhomes on a steep and tiered site that required a lot of civil work. But that also means it has beautiful views of all of Los Angeles.
MGAC: No doubt it will be rewarding to carry that across the finish line! When you think about your time at MGAC, what impact do you hope to have here?
CG: At MGAC, we pride ourselves on delivering difficult and challenging projects for our clients. My goal is to always maintain that high standard, while also encouraging everyone to enjoy the process—not only our project managers, but also our clients. Because, let’s face it, people don’t often call us when things are easy. They call us when they have a big problem to solve, a major challenge on their hands. Coming up with solutions can be incredibly taxing at times. The key, really, is learning how to manage these difficult situations long-term. To have fun not only in projects, but in your career.
MGAC: Basically, keeping your eye on the bigger picture.
CG: Exactly. When you see project managers who are truly great at what they do, they can calm a client and get the team firing on all cylinders at the same time. On any given project, we’re overseeing a large group of individual teams. So, we must bring everyone together and inspire the team by reminding them we all have the same agenda. Our job is to de-personalize things and help us stay on track of our ultimate goal. Be hard on the problem, not on the people.
MGAC: What challenges have you been faced with so far?
CG: I like to say that I see opportunities, not challenges. But I think the biggest challenge in my time at MGAC to-date has been the COVID-19 pandemic. While our team has done a great job working remotely, it’s undeniable that, in a remote work setting, you lose the ability to absorb new ideas on projects you aren’t involved in. You simply don’t get to see other teams solve problems that aren’t directly related to you.
MGAC: Very true. How have you addressed that?
CG: We’ve combatted that by spending more time in the field. I’ve encouraged our people to tour projects they weren’t involved on, because it became more pointed and necessary to keep the team aware of what’s happening on other job sites.
MGAC: What have you found most rewarding about your job?
CG: Mentorship, absolutely. I have 26-plus years of experience in the industry, and it’s important to me to use that to help others with their career trajectory. I’m fortunate to have had the pleasure of working with a lot of people early in their career development. Drawing on the cadence and caliber of some of our projects, I’ve been able to share insights on management and client relations, and also find out what they would like to excel at as they grow their careers. While it’s personally gratifying for me, it also can be a great way to reduce staff attrition. I’m proud to say that, among Project Managers in Los Angeles, we have only grown in the last five years.
MGAC: That’s incredible. Outside that opportunity for serving as a mentor, what at MGAC would you say has most made an impact on you?
CG: It has solidified my sense of camaraderie. One of the things I really appreciate about MGAC is that everyone genuinely likes to help everyone else. When you have a problem, you can fire off an email to the firm, and you’ll get actual responses. It’s one of the only places I’ve worked where that is the case. People here aren’t just looking out for themselves. There’s not a sense that you’re competing for the next promotion or the next client. We all recognize that when a client is happy, it reflects well on the whole company.
MGAC: Absolutely! It sounds like you tackle a lot every day on the job. What is your secret to starting each morning on the right foot?
CG: The beach. I surf and cycle. I make a point to get out every morning because I’m the type of person who, if I don’t do activity in the morning, it ain’t gonna happen.
MGAC: Name a book that has made a significant impact on your life.
CG: Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. (Spoiler alert: It’s not actually about motorcycle maintenance, though motorcycles are involved.) It’s about a man’s journey into the definition of the word “quality” and how that impacts society. It’s a bit of a cult classic. While you know quality when you see it, it’s a hard term to actually define. The book really resonated with me in architecture school, and I’ve probably read the book three times across the course of my life. And each time I revisit it, it has had a different meaning to me.
MGAC: Nice. How about a favorite quote that inspires you?
CG: There are so many, but I particularly like this one from Count Basie, the jazz musician. “Learn to deal with the valleys, and the hills will take care of themselves.”
MGAC: What do you want your lasting impact to be?
CG: I’d like to impact others by inspiring them to be the best version of themselves they can be. As a dad, as a husband, as a friend. And, again, to enjoy the journey—that’s always been a big one for me. I think we get too focused on the prize, but it’s rarely about that. It’s really all about the journey.
MGAC: In our final stage of the Impact Blog, we like to ask a few rapid-fire questions. Are you ready for them?
CG: Let’s do it!
MGAC: Describe your job in 5 words or less.
CG: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. That’s actually a quote attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (among other smart people), but I think it touches everything we do for our clients. Understanding complicated or complex issues and providing the shortest and most direct route to a well-designed solution is the key to a successful project.
MGAC: What’s the first thing you do at work every day?
CG: I say good morning to my team—before I pepper them with questions!
MGAC: What’s the last thing?
CG: I close my laptop until the next morning. I think of it like putting a bookmark in your book and placing it on your nightstand.
MGAC: What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your desk or work bag?
CG: I have a calendar of 2022 full moons on my desk right now.
MGAC: A reference for surfing?
CG: Partially. But I have always liked to know the phases of the moons simply because they’re cool astronomically.
MGAC: What’s your go-to weekday lunch?
CG: If I eat out, I love this place called Sweet Fin. I order the spicy tuna poke bowl.
MGAC: Yum. What’s the most used app on your phone?
MGAC: That’s a first! What’s your biggest work goal for 2022?
CG: On the whole, I’d say I’m approaching it like I would any other year. My goal is to create lasting relationships through happy clients.
MGAC: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
CG: Not wearing a mask? Just kidding. (Sort of.) Beyond that, I really just hope to be continuing to learn, refining my skills, and building new and existing relationships.
MGAC: What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
CG: Many people probably don’t know that I’m a command pilot for a philanthropic organization called Angel Flight West. We provide the underserved community air transportation to medical care and treatments, at no cost to them. So sometimes when I’m not at work, I’m up in the clouds!