News + Ideas

MGAC Impacts: Lanette Richardson on Moving Birds, Reinvention, and an Unreasonable Amount of Reading Glasses


Lanette on vacation in Santorini.

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 Lanette Richardson, Senior Project Manager at MGAC.

MGAC: Hello and welcome to the Impact Blog, Lanette!

Lanette Richardson (LR): Thanks!

MGAC: What is your role here at MGAC?

LR: I’m a Senior Project Manager based in the DC office and part of the FF&E Procurement and Relocation Management team. That means I primarily work on furniture and move projects for the company. I often describe my role as that of an advocate for our clients. Most of the time, they are embarking on large-scale projects that require countless decisions—usually the kind of decisions they’ve never had to make before. We help them navigate those, avoid the common pitfalls, and serve as a knowledgeable resource throughout the duration of the project.

MGAC: When did you join MGAC?

LR: October 2007. It’s been a while!

MGAC: No kidding! What initially led you to MGAC?

LR: I started in the industry on the construction side, and at that time, I was in the market for a new position and stumbled across MGAC. The role was for a project coordinator on the procurement team. I was a project coordinator in my prior role but didn’t know much about the furniture side—I was always focused on getting the building itself ready, and then we’d turn it over to the furniture team. So, while I wasn’t very versed in that side of things, the opportunity at MGAC excited me, and I decided to pursue it. Now, 17 years later, I know a whole lot about furniture!

MGAC: I bet! How did you first make your way into the industry?  

LR: I definitely stumbled into it! My major in undergrad was communications—I thought I would be behind the scenes of a television studio somewhere! However, after graduation, I started doing some temp work, and one of the jobs landed me at a construction company. It became a long-term project, and then time went on, and I stayed.

MGAC: As someone who found your way into the industry, what do you think younger you would think of your role today?

LR: When I was really young, I always saw myself as an artist. I always needed a creative outlet, and that was often drawing. As I got older and entered college, I realized that I really liked working with people and the interpersonal aspects of communication studies. I think kid-me would be surprised by the role I’m in today, but I think I could see some of those early passions coming through in what I do day to day.

MGAC: Very cool! Can you tell us more?

LR: FF&E work is quite visual, so I use my creative side constantly. As we work with lots of different parties from various industries daily, I’m constantly learning new ways of communicating effectively. Move projects, in particular, can be quite intimidating for clients—it’s hard to leave a place you’ve grown comfortable with—so communication is endlessly important. It’s our job to make sure everyone’s on the same page and feeling good about what’s to come in the project. It’s so rewarding to know my skills on that front are making a difference.

MGAC: Absolutely!

LR: I think younger me would also be able to appreciate all of the variety that comes with my work. You’re never bored because there’s always a new project, a new client, a new team to meet, a new industry to learn about. That keeps things really interesting!

MGAC: Speaking of, what’s keeping you busy right now on the project front?

LR: I have two main projects right now. The first is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Maryland, which is a huge restack consolidation project that I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. We’re helping with both the move and the FF&E work. They are now at the point of slowly moving people from several buildings into their Silver Spring headquarters. That project consists of a lot of moves—clearing the way for construction, outfitting the new floors with new furniture, and then moving the folks back in. On the furniture front, their work centers around environmental issues, so we are taking any opportunities that we can find to use sustainable furniture. For instance, we have chairs that are made from ocean-bound plastic—essentially plastic waste from the ocean that is fished out, melted down, and reincorporated. It’s really cool.

MGAC: Definitely! And the other big project?

LR: I’m also working on a Student Center project with Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. It’s a new facility in the center of campus, with lots of spaces encouraging social gathering and collaboration. That includes spaces like a food hall, rehearsal rooms, theater, gaming lounge—lots of cool things. Outfitting the furniture there will be really fun, and I’m excited about it! Sustainability is a big factor in this project, too, as it’s targeting LEED certification.

MGAC: Sounds like some great projects!

LR: Definitely. I enjoy the variety they each bring. That’s one of the things I love the most about my job: I really get to reinvent myself every couple of years. I’ve been at MGAC for 17 years now, but the project variety means that every couple of months or years, it feels like you’re starting a new job. There’s a new team, a new industry to turn your attention to, and an entirely new project to learn. Most of the basics are the same, of course—but there are a lot of different factors at play that can make a project entirely unique. Sure, oftentimes you’re purchasing or moving office furniture, but other times, you might have birds to move!

MGAC: Tell us more!

LR: I previously worked on American University’s Hall of Science. We were consolidating several buildings into one. That one was interesting as we were moving everything from frozen specimens to live animals—rats and birds and fish! And, of course, there are a lot of unique requirements related to those things. You can only move the birds at a certain time of day. Then, some specimens had to remain frozen throughout the move—and we did this in the middle of the summer! That all adds another layer of complexity to the move.

MGAC: To say the least! What other move challenges have you tackled?

LR: I also worked on a move for the Historical Society of Washington, DC which housed a great number of historical and archival documents. Since we were dealing with extremely delicate and rare records, we had to be mindful of both the temperature and the humidity level at all times. That meant constant monitoring throughout every stage of the move and careful coordination with the construction team, pivoting and delaying as necessary to ensure that the environment could safely accommodate the materials.

MGAC: Fascinating! Every day really is different in your role!

LR: Absolutely. At the same time, we do have clients come back to us, which is always really rewarding. We spend so much time building great rapport and relationships with our clients, so it’s wonderful when they come back to us whenever they have a new goal or a new challenge. I’ve been here long enough to see that happen several times.

MGAC: That’s great to hear. When you’re stepping into a project where you need to tackle something entirely new—moving live birds, for instance—how do you go about that?

LR: One of the things that is really helpful about working at MGAC is we have many people who come from very different backgrounds. We’re all constantly trying to pick each other’s brains and lean into one another’s strengths. I’m regularly reaching out to folks to talk through challenges and plan for the best outcome when something new comes along.

MGAC: That’s great. We’ve talked about how every day is different for you, but what might your ideal day look like?

LR: I definitely enjoy going on-site and crossing a lot off of my to-do list. With the nature of our work, I often start my day with one to-do list and finish with an entirely different list after abandoning the first! So, a day where it doesn’t change too much and I can check off a bunch of things is a great one for me!

MGAC: Fair enough!

LR: I also love a day when I get to learn something new. People often think that furniture is pretty straightforward, like buying a chair off the shelf. But there’s so much more when it comes to commercial furniture. Until I was in this role, I had no idea of how vast the furniture world is! The scale and the layers that come with this work are quite surprising, and you really come to know how this work can affect the outcome of a project as well. And then seeing that result—people interacting with the final product—is really rewarding. You spend so much time planning; seeing it come together and the excitement around it is great. That “wow” moment is always fun to see.

MGAC: Speaking of outcomes, what comes to mind when you think about the impact you hope to make with your work?

LR: I always hope to leave my community in a better condition than I found it. That’s something I focus on in my church, in my sorority I remain involved in, and at work. With every project, I aim to leave that project or person in a better place than they were when they first started working with us. I try to make sure that the experience along the way is pleasant, too. Building relationships and trust is so important in our work, so I do my best to remain kind and laid back throughout the process.

MGAC: That’s great. And what at MGAC has made an impact on you?

LR: The opportunity to grow. I started off as a project coordinator and hadn’t really been involved with furniture, but there were so many opportunities to learn. As I got more experience under my belt, I moved up in the company and really advanced in my career. At the same time, I have been allowed to advance at my own pace. When I first started at MGAC, I was single, somewhat early in my career, and ready to advance. Since then, I’ve gotten married and have two kids. As I went through those different phases, I could speed up and then slow down when I needed it to grow outside of the workplace as well.

MGAC: That’s wonderful. What gives you energy each day?

LR: Definitely my family. I’ve got two not-so-little ones—a tween and a teen. They are 11 and 13 years old, and my husband and I just love spending time with them. We have a lot of fun together laughing and just having a good time.

MGAC: Those are busy ages!

LR: Yes! They are involved in a whole lot of activities. It’s definitely the chauffeuring stage right now. We’re going to cheerleading and AV club. Volleyball is getting ready to start, and one of them is involved in a mentoring program. It’s busy!

MGAC: Sounds like it! How do you wind down after a busy day?

LR: I always have to watch a little bit of TV! It can be just something short, maybe a 30-minute sitcom. But I usually like to just throw on something funny, even if I’ve seen it a million times. That’s my quiet time to myself to recharge!

MGAC: Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?

LR: “Well done is better than well said.” I’m a somewhat quiet person at work, so I don’t know if that’s a cop-out because I’m quiet, but I do like the meaning. I would prefer to spend my time producing the best quality work rather than just talking about what I’m going to do. It’s about taking action and doing the job right, and I like that.

MGAC: Great answer. Are you ready for some rapid-fire questions now?

LR: Let’s do it!

MGAC: You’re starting the workday. What’s the first thing you do?

LR: Check my calendar.

MGAC: And the last thing? 

LR: Check my calendar again!

MGAC: What’s the first item on your list right now?

LR: Another meeting after this one!

MGAC: What’s the most interesting thing we might find on your desk or in your work bag?

LR: Well, I do have an unreasonable amount of reading glasses. They’re just everywhere. In my bag and on my person—everywhere. In recent years, I’ve started to need them. And so, everywhere I turn, there are glasses now!

MGAC: What can you not get through the workday without?

LR: Music! I always have music playing in the background. I’m a big fan of 90s R&B.

MGAC: What’s your go-to workday lunch lately?

LR: A mediterranean bowl from Chopt. It’s a great go-to!

MGAC: What’s the most used app on your phone?

LR: Probably email.

MGAC: Describe your job in five words or less.

LR: Ordering furniture and moving people.

MGAC: What’s your biggest work goal right for the year ahead?

LR: Set my new project off on the right foot.

MGAC: What’s an industry trend you love right now?

LR: Flexibility. The way we work has changed so much since COVID. I think the move to create spaces that encourage flexibility and can have multiple uses is great.

MGAC: Looking at the industry ten years from now, what do you predict will have changed?

LR: I think we will double down on sustainability. I believe that will really continue to move to the forefront.

MGAC: What do you think will remain the same?

LR: One thing that hasn’t changed during my time—and I don’t see it changing anytime soon—is the ownership that people feel over their workspaces. You find that out when you try to change a workspace! People spend a lot of time at work, and they feel attached to that place. Small changes matter, and it’s important to have everyone on board when you want to make a change.

MGAC: What would your dream project look like?

LR: I would love to do something at the National Museum of African American History and Culture or another project involving African American history in some way. Learning more about our history and contributions is a passion of mine. I was just a few credits short of an African American studies minor in undergrad, and that interest has stayed with me. You can always find me watching a documentary, listening to a podcast, or reading something to learn more.

MGAC: What are you known for around the office?

LR: Maintaining my cool.

MGAC: What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?

LR: I am very talkative at home! You can ask my husband—he’s probably sick of me!

MGAC: Where might we find you if you’re not at work?

LR: Hanging with my family. Tackling a new DIY project—something with the Cricut, maybe making a balloon arch for an event. There’s always a new project!

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