MGAC Impacts: Naved Ahmed on Cost Management, Coding as a Hobby, and Going to the Moon
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 Naved Ahmed, Cost Consultant at MGAC.
MGAC: It’s great to have you on the Impact Blog, Naved! Tell us about your role at MGAC.
Naved Ahmed (NA): I’m a cost consultant in the San Francisco office. I’m responsible for all things Cost Management, including creating initial estimates, providing benchmarks, assessing the design as it progresses, reviewing contracts with the subcontractors, and getting purchase orders, invoice reviews, final payments, and more! I work both with project managers and directly with clients.
MGAC: And how long have you been on board?
NA: I started in December 2018, so I’m coming up on three years soon.
MGAC: So, was working in the built environment always a natural career path for you, or did you even know this world existed when you were younger?
NA: Actually, my dad was a project manager on an offshore petroleum drilling rig. I would hear him talk about pipelines bursting, and in my mind, I thought he was a plumber. For a little while, I thought, “Maybe I should do that!” But a few years later, I realized what he did was totally different. So I guess, as with all things, you learn a few things as time passes.
MGAC: Interesting! So you followed in his footsteps, to an extent.
NA: In a way, yes. His work was related to construction, and I work in the construction industry. But being out in the ocean every day and risking my life is not exactly for me!
MGAC: Understandable! What would that kid think about your current job today?
NA: I think I’d be pretty impressed, to be honest. For example, even just five years ago, I never thought I’d be the cost lead on a multi-million dollar project.
MGAC: That’s no small feat. And on that note, what’s keeping you busy these days?
NA: Since I came on board, I have worked almost exclusively on T-Mobile’s New Headquarters in Bellevue, WA. It’s such a massive project. There are nine buildings that cover around 1M SF of usable space. The client is fantastic and has a vision of creating an eco-friendly, engaging, and collaborative workspace for their employees. Their amenity space is better than many dedicated amenity spaces that I have seen. It’s pretty incredible!
MGAC: What’s the timeline on your work with T-Mobile? Is the project in its final phases?
NA: Cost, by default, goes on a bit longer than other elements of a project. But at this point, we are looking to wind down a bit. We’re almost in the home stretch, with the biggest building going entirely online / occupied by the first quarter of 2022. It’s remarkable to see everything come together. The footprint of what our MGAC team has worked on with T-Mobile is pretty impressive!
MGAC: You mentioned that cost goes on longer than other elements of a project. What does your role look like over a project’s trajectory?
NA: At the beginning, we meet with the client to discuss scopes and budgets and how everything lines up. Then, as the project proceeds, I’m responsible for getting the contracts executed and working with vendors directly for invoices and payment, among other things. And in the end, once construction activities are complete, we have final payments and account reconciliation. You look at how actuals compare to original budgets, basically determining how much it actually cost the client to do the project.
MGAC: What fresh perspectives do you bring to your work with MGAC?
NA: As a consultant, in many ways, my primary duty is to convey factual information in an easy-to-understand format. For example, costs are all about numbers, but our clients don’t always want to see endless sheets of numbers that they may or may not understand at a glance. It’s my job to develop visualizations that help everyone comprehend what those sheets mean. So, I’m always thinking about ways to distill information and make it easier for the client to process the numbers to ultimately make a decision.
MGAC: Ultimately breaking complex information down into what truly matters for the client.
NA: Exactly. I know that not everyone wants to know about the last 50 cents that are being allocated here or there. But when you’re proposing something and the client asks, “Can we afford this?” you should have a simple answer: “Yes” or “No.”
MGAC: It sounds like you’ve really found a natural fit in your role at MGAC. When you take a step back, what impact do you hope to have here?
NA: At MGAC, we always put the client first. We are their trusted advisor. I am constantly motivated by that and aim to uphold that trust in everything I do. Our clients depend on us; they take our word to be the right one. When you present all possible options and make a recommendation to a client, and they understand and agree with you, that’s a great feeling. T-Mobile is an excellent example of this. They’ve worked extensively with MGAC and have given us a lot of responsibility because they trust that we’ll make the right decision. It goes a long way in building a true partnership. I’m always happy to be a part of that.
MGAC: What challenges have you been faced with so far?
NA: I find that I seek out challenges. They inspire me. I’m not very fond of repetitive, “rinse and repeat” work. Instead, I’m always trying to think about something I can improve upon or do better for our clients or how to look ahead in a project.
MGAC: Great outlook. What have you learned along the way?
NA: There is no one correct answer. This is especially true in construction, where there are so many people involved and so many ideas. It’s important to hear everyone out. Just because you’ve done something previously, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way out there. You can always take up suggestions, and you might just find a better way to solve a problem—and learn something new in the process.
MGAC: Building on that, how do you hope your work will impact your community at large?
NA: As I mentioned earlier, our work for T-Mobile has everything to do with creating more engaging, collaborative workspaces for its employees. I hope that by creating something so unique and amazing, it inspires others to do the same. Indirect karma, in a way! But it makes sense: If you really enjoy your work, you tend to share that. And that might end up being the inspiration for someone else to do something equally remarkable.
MGAC: Very true. Have you found that kind of inspiration at work?
NA: The freedom that you have to do your job. You have the opportunity to take on amazing projects here. MGAC’s perspective is, “Do you know how to do it? Then go do it!” You’re granted a license to work on so many different things and truly grow as a person through that experience. This also means that everyone is super motivated. And when I see others as excited to work on a project as I am, their motivation rubs off in a good way.
MGAC: What have you found most rewarding about your work with MGAC?
NA: There’s nothing like seeing your work come to fruition. To go on site and see something you thought about at the start of a project, perhaps a year and a half earlier, be fully implemented. And to see it turn out amazing. It gives you an incredible sense of accomplishment when you’re passing by that building, and you can say, “I was part of the amazing team that executed that project.”
MGAC: What gives you energy?
NA: Quite literally, I start every morning with a cup of tea—Indian-style, with milk. It’s funny because I used to avoid caffeine. But it’s safe to say I’m now addicted to tea. In terms of work, I’d say being involved with really cool projects with a great team and client.
MGAC: What is your secret to winding down at the end of a long day?
NA: My house is pretty close to a public park with a tennis court. I try to play either tennis or badminton every day. It also gives me an excuse to have an elaborate dinner! Which is great, because I love to cook as a way to relax.
MGAC: What about your secret to starting the morning off on the right foot?
NA: It’s pretty simple: Going through my day and prioritizing my work. When you have many things to do but no plan for getting it done, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not accomplish anything at all. So the first thing I do is look through my calendar to see what meetings I have and check my emails to determine priorities. From there, I’ll make a list for the day. Once I have a general direction of what I want to do, it gets easier.
MGAC: Name a book that has made a significant impact on your life.
NA: I’ve learned a lot from reading Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win. It’s about how to make the best of every situation. Many people tend to say, “That’s not my job, not my responsibility.” But this book teaches the value of truly taking ownership of your work—and your life. There are real-life situations about Navy Seals woven throughout. It’s about thinking for yourself and your team, because you cannot win alone.
MGAC: How about a favorite quote that inspires you?
NA: A couple come to mind. “No one can save you but yourself” and “This too shall pass.” I try to remind myself that some situations are out of my control, and I just have to make the best of what I can.
MGAC: What do you want your lasting impact to be?
NA: I would like to think I’m someone who can be counted on and depended on by others. And at MGAC, the systems I put in place or some of the visualizations I did are just that. They are useful for those coming after me and my hope is that they can help them in some way. There’s always room for evolution and improvement in this field. Even considering my work with T-Mobile, the things we used to do when I first started versus today are quite different. I hope to always stay ahead of those changes and, in turn, help my colleagues and clients continue to do great work.
MGAC: Absolutely! At this point in the interview, we’d like to ask you a few rapid-fire questions. Are you in?
NA: I am!
MGAC: Describe your job in 5 words or less.
NA: Solve problems, get everyone paid.
MGAC: What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your desk or work bag?
NA: I’m not a person who cleans out my bag very often. You’ll find receipts from three to four years ago, old chocolate wrappers. Who knows!
MGAC: What’s your go-to weekday lunch?
NA: Anything fried. There’s a really nice taco place that was near our old office—I’d find myself going there every day. And I do dream about Nashville hot chicken from Howlin’ Ray’s in Los Angeles.
MGAC: What’s the most used app on your phone?
NA: Twitter. You really find out how funny people are. The sheer number of one-liners and witty comments—it’s a great way to relax.
MGAC: Top 2021 work goal?
NA: Well the year is almost over, so I guess getting ready for a final push to end on a high. Bar the COVID-19 restrictions, get in touch with people and work on unique projects that may come my way.
MGAC: Tell us something your colleagues don’t know about you.
NA: I have taken up software coding as a hobby these days. I’m trying to make my own apps that can automate some of the things I do, from investments and personal finance to my work to-do lists. There are so many apps out there, but I’m keen on customizing a few.
MGAC: Very cool! Finally—where do you see yourself in 5 years?
NA: Considering how the last year and a half has gone, I’m super open-minded on what can be. One thing that’s for sure, I still want to be working with amazing people and with amazing clients. Who knows, with all the billionaires wanting to go to space, maybe they’ll set up a moon base soon and MGAC can be part of the team!