MGAC Impacts: Heidi Androlia on Advocating for Clients, Making To-Do Lists, and Expecting the Unexpected
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 Heidi Androlia, Senior Project Manager at MGAC.
MGAC: Hi, Heidi! Welcome to the blog. Tell us what you do at MGAC.
MGAC: What exactly does FF&E Procurement entail?
HA: We help our clients manage the furniture they’re putting into their new building. We’re taking them through the whole design process as far as what type of furniture they need in their space based on how they function. Depending on how early we’re involved, we might be helping them make those selections, putting it out to bid, and awarding vendors. We’re there to advocate for the client and speak on their behalf.
MGAC: That’s awesome. There must be a lot involved in that process.
HA: People don’t always understand how complicated furniture is. It’s really a design within a design. You have the building design, but you’re also designing how the workspace functions. We work with the architectural firm and make sure their design intent is achieved. We also coordinate with general contractors to make sure power and data is set up, so when we go to install, there are no major surprises. Every day is different!
MGAC: No kidding! What do you think are some common misconceptions about your job?
HA: It’s often misunderstood how much time and effort should go into planning for furniture. I would say that, in general, furniture is an afterthought. Because of this, people don’t always fully understand the benefit of what we can offer to the client. But then, 99 percent of the time, at the end of the day, the client says, “We couldn’t have done this without you!” If people haven’t worked in the industry, they typically don’t understand how complicated furniture is. There are a million decisions you have to make—just like making decisions for a new building.
MGAC: That’s so true. What brought you to MGAC to do this work?
HA: My background is interior design. I was working for another firm in DC, a relocation management firm. Prior to that, I had worked as a designer and account project manager for a furniture dealer. I got a LinkedIn message from HR at MGAC, and it just kind of went from there!
MGAC: Sounds like it was meant to be! And how long have you been on board?
HA: 5 years now!
MGAC: Were you always interested in furniture and design? What did you want to be when you grew up?
HA: It was a combination of several things! I did want to be an interior designer, but also a physical therapist or marine biologist. I don’t know where marine biologist came from. I was even convinced I was going to the University of Hawaii to study that! But, I think I always knew I would pursue design in some aspect growing up. My mom and I used to drive around and look at houses; we were obsessed with that! I went in the right direction at the end of the day.
MGAC: What would that kid think about your current job today?
HA: I think she would be impressed. It’s progressed for me throughout my career—being more in the design role, then moving more to the consulting / management role.
MGAC: It sounds like a natural evolution.
HA: It has been. I don’t know that I necessarily saw myself doing exactly what I am today, but it’s worked out, and it suits me really well.
MGAC: That’s great. What impact do you hope to have here at MGAC?
HA: I would say just to help clients to the fullest, and really provide a benefit to them that maybe they didn’t fully understand on Day One. To ensure that at the end of the project, they’re thankful and want to work with us again. One of the coolest parts of our job is to see that end result. So, I hope to have the impact of consistently delivering great projects to our clients that exceed their expectations.
MGAC: What challenges have you been faced with so far on the job?
HA: One of the biggest challenges is helping our clients understand how they work. We have to help them get to the point where we have a design and furniture that meets their needs, while at the same time providing a great relocation for them. There’s a lot of education involved, and providing that for our clients can sometimes be a challenge. But, I always want to make sure we’re doing so correctly and accurately, that we’re helping them understand to the fullest what they need to create a great space.
MGAC: And adding to that challenge, the process probably varies client-by-client.
HA: Totally. And then there are also challenges you deal with every day on a construction site. Things get behind, and when it gets into the thick of things, you’re putting little fires out everywhere, so to speak. Most of the time, with who we’re working with, this is a once in a lifetime project. And you can feel pressure at times because you know they won’t be doing this for another 35 years. So, you also need to think about creating a space that you can add to, take away from, and reconfigure. A space that will stand the test of time.
MGAC: Speaking of fires, you dealt with a pretty scary situation at a jobsite early in your career. Can you tell me about it?
HA: It was probably one of the craziest days of my career. I was in Cleveland for a project. We had a field office directly across the street from the jobsite. At the time, I was based in DC, so for me, sirens were typical background noise. I heard them, and it took me a second to realize, “Wait, I’m not in DC. I’m in suburban Cleveland. This isn’t normal!” I stepped outside, and I just saw flames shooting up. I didn’t know where they were coming from; it looked like maybe a car was on fire. We were actually installing furniture at the same time, and my lead installer called me, and he said, “We’re evacuating. There’s a propane tank that’s on fire.” Luckily, they got everyone out of the building. We’re standing across the street wondering what was going to happen, and then there’s an explosion. It catches the building on fire and blows out the windows. Thankfully no one was hurt because everyone got evacuated in time.
MGAC: Wow! What a story. Obviously, the explosion had a big impact on the project.
HA: It sure did. It’s a perfect example of the fact that sometimes things happen on a jobsite that, even if they weren’t your fault, they are going to have a huge impact on your piece of the project. Coincidentally, we had just started installing a week and a half earlier, right where the explosion happened. So, it was this massive effort to see if we could salvage anything. We were figuring out what needed to be cleared out and how we could get it out—because we weren’t even sure if the building was stable. We basically had to re-plan everything. It was a big challenge, but we came together, and we got it done.
MGAC: It’s safe to say you’ve learned a lot on the job! What are some of your most valuable takeaways?
HA: No day is ever the same. Expect the unexpected. I’ve also learned how much people value our advice and what we’re here to do. Before I came to MGAC, I didn’t even realize this role existed. And once I got into the work, it was surprising to me how much we could offer our clients. It was awesome to see that at MGAC—because you don’t see it everywhere. But, I think it’s something that everyone can benefit from.
MGAC: How do you hope your work will impact your community at large?
HA: I’ve had the chance to work with a couple of non-profits through my work with MGAC, which can leave a great positive impact because we are helping build a space that directly benefits the community. We’re helping them create a workspace where their employees can go and do important things for the community—and the world. We’re helping their vision come to life.
MGAC: And how do you think MGAC has made an impact on you?
HA: It’s taught me that you can really find a place to work that values their employees. As the owner, Mark makes himself available for anything you need. But, he also puts the onus back on you and says, “I know that you’re the expert in this.” It’s great to have that in a company. They know that they’re hiring the best in the industry.
MGAC: That’s great. What have you found most rewarding about your job?
HA: We’re here to speak on behalf of the owner; we’re there as their trusted advisor. The most rewarding moments have been seeing them walk through that door for the first time, when the whole staff is there and they’re so excited about their space.
MGAC: Do you have a favorite memory in particular?
HA: One of the best memories I have was working with a non-profit. We had gone through everything, and the project was wrapping up, but there was a minor issue that came up at the end. It had taken a lot to win them over, to get them to trust us. And I was explaining this issue to them, and they said, “You know what? Whatever you say, we’re going to go with. Because you have not guided us in the wrong direction so far.” That was really great to hear.
MGAC: So cool. What would you say gives you energy?
HA: At my job, getting to work on cool projects every single day. And personally, my family and friends. Now more than ever, I try to connect with them as much as possible.
MGAC: What’s your secret to starting the morning off on the right foot?
HA: I honestly have to make a to-do list every single day. It helps me align everything, to make sure I know which things have to get done that day, and which can get done three days later. That really helps me manage expectations for the day because something will always come up!
MGAC: What about winding down at the end of a long day?
HA: Usually a nice long walk with our dog—we got a COVID-19 puppy! She’s a cavapoo named Ella. Also, reading or watching mindless TV always helps.
MGAC: You mentioned reading—what’s a book that’s been significant to you?
HA: To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember reading it in middle school, and it was really emotional at times. It opened my eyes to the fact that reading can take you into another world.
MGAC: How about a favorite quote that inspires you?
HA: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” That one took me a long time to learn. You stress out about things, and you later realize they weren’t that important. It’s something I always try to keep in mind.
MGAC: So true. Okay, now it’s time for some rapid-fire questions. The idea is to let me know the first answer that comes to you. Sound good?
MGAC: Describe your job in 5 words or less.
HA: Making things simple for clients.
MGAC: What’s the first thing you do at work every day?
HA: Definitely make a to-do list. And check e-mail. And get coffee.
MGAC: What’s the last thing?
HA: I love crossing things off of a list, so checking my to-do list one more time and crossing things off. I’ll even write things down so I can cross them off!
MGAC: What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your work bag?
HA: I always have a tape measure in my bag.
MGAC: What can’t you leave home without?
HA: Sadly, my phone.
MGAC: What’s your go-to lunch order?
HA: It would be CAVA. It’s like a Mediterranean Chipotle.
MGAC: What’s the most used app on your phone?
HA: Since moving into a new home, I’ve been looking for lots of home items, so One Kings Lane and the Target apps have been getting a lot of use.
MGAC: Name a co-worker who inspires you.
HA: I would say, Susan Smith. She works with our Technology team. She has worked really hard to bring the benefit of that department to life, and she’s so knowledgeable. I’ve learned a lot from working on projects with her.
MGAC: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
HA: Definitely at MGAC, and probably in a Vice President position. We’re working on our strategic planning right now at the company, and our goal is to expand our department to our different offices. So, I think there is going to be a lot of opportunity to help get people on board and understand what we do.
MGAC: What’s your biggest work goal for 2021?
HA: I think both as a department, and personally, our goal is to work on a project that integrates all of the services we offer. We provide a lot of value to our clients when we offer them the full breadth of our services.