MGAC Impacts: Ted Silence on Going Vertical, the Power of a Great Team, and Following Your Family Legacy
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 Ted Silence, Vice President at MGAC.
MGAC: Hi Ted! Welcome to the blog. What’s your role at MGAC? Do you work in a specific sector at the firm?
Ted Silence: Vice President. I work in the Hospitality group, leading project teams to deliver large, mixed-use tower projects.
MGAC: And how long have you been with the company?
TS: Four years now.
MGAC: What were you doing before you came to MGAC?
TS: I was working abroad in Edmonton, Canada, as an owner’s representative overseeing the construction of a 29-story LEED Gold office tower, along with the design and construction of a 69-story LEED Gold office and residential tower. When the first tower was complete, my wife and I decided to return to the U.S. to be closer to our families. We chose Seattle, since my wife’s family lived there. I noticed MGAC had a job posting in Seattle for a Senior Project Manager with tower experience. They flew me out to DC to interview and I really enjoyed meeting Dermot Ryan, Mike Lee, and Mark Anderson. They offered me the job—and the rest is history.
MGAC: That’s great. Tell us about your upbringing. What did you want to be when you grew up?
TS: I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. As a child, I was always fascinated with construction. I used to love walking through construction sites, which is not a safe thing to do nowadays! But back then, there were no fences. I was enthralled with how everything was coming together. I knew from a young age that construction was what I wanted to do.
MGAC: And you stuck with that plan?
TS: I did. When I was in high school, I was in a work co-op program; I could work construction to get credit. So, I’m sixteen and they gave me my own saw and air gun, and I thought, “This is the greatest thing ever!” I worked construction throughout high school and college. They say the average person changes their focus in college three times, and I could never understand that. I locked-in what I wanted to do in high school.
MGAC: What would that kid think about your current job today?
TS: He would think that I hit the jackpot. I love what I do. I feel grateful every day to work with such talented project team members and co-workers.
MGAC: What impact do you hope to have here?
TS: I look forward to helping MGAC build a robust team that can deliver highly successful mixed-use tower projects throughout the U.S.
MGAC: What challenges have you been faced with so far?
TS: There have been times that I have found myself working on three separate projects for the same client with a combined total of seven towers, which is a lot of moving parts! It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you are working by yourself. Luckily, I have an awesome group working with me: Tracey Bernardo, Ryan Fiesta, and Dermot Ryan. Together, we’re a strong team. I’ve worked with bigger firms, and there can be a lot of politics and red tape. One thing I love about MGAC is that everyone is really down to earth and easy to work with.
MGAC: What have you learned during your time with MGAC?
TS: I have learned a lot about overseeing hotel projects from our Hospitality Managing Director, Dermot Ryan, and my colleagues Dale Stern and Kirk McGough.
MGAC: Any interesting takeaways?
TS: One of the biggest differences is the FF&E, which stands for fixtures, furniture, and equipment. Normally when I build a project, you build the core and the shell and walk away, and the tenant or resident will move their furniture in. But on a hotel project, you have to coordinate the purchase and shipping and installation of everything: beds, nightstands, desks, chairs, towel racks, everything. There is so much stuff that I normally don’t have to think about! There’s the whole selection process: you build a model room for the owner to view, and sometimes you end up renovating it three times before the owner finalizes the finishes. And then you have to order everything, and there’s always some kind of delay with FF&E. Something is coming from China and it’s delayed, or a ship is delayed at the port and you can’t open a hotel until there’s a bed! Sometimes, you ultimately have to rent furniture to finish a hotel on time.
MGAC: How do you hope your work will impact your community at large?
TS: Knowing that the projects our team works on will be around for one hundred years is amazing. People will live, work, shop, and vacation in the buildings that we help oversee and deliver. When I think about making an impact, I also think about my grandfather. When I was a kid, he would drive me around Red Oak, Iowa, in his pick-up truck and point out all the buildings he constructed. I found myself doing the same thing when my son was young, which gave me great pride.
MGAC: That’s a wonderful story. So, your grandfather worked in construction too?
TS: He did. He owned his own construction company. He used to work with his father and his grandfather. My grandfather had two daughters, and the construction company phased out with them. My mother didn’t go into construction—but she was very handy!
MGAC: So, you really were born into the industry!
TS: You could say that! Back in the old days, they would ride the beams up as the crane hoisted them into place. There’s a great picture of my grandfather standing on a curved wood beam in the air. The project he was building was my mother’s high school gymnasium. And I have another photo on the wall from an old brick church project that my grandfather was able to jack the roof structure up and add another story to the building. As a kid, I thought that was the coolest thing.
MGAC: What at MGAC has made an impact on you?
TS: I really relate to MGAC’s slogan: “We treat your project like it is our own.” Because that’s exactly what we do. It’s great to be surrounded by like-minded professionals.
MGAC: It sounds like your team is very important to you.
TS: Exactly. Everyone at MGAC is so dedicated, and they all truly want to do a good job and have a satisfied customer.
MGAC: That’s awesome. What have you found most rewarding about your work?
TS: Having a satisfied client. Finishing a project on time and turning it over to a happy client is very rewarding.
MGAC: Is there a favorite project you’ve completed in your time with MGAC?
TS: One that comes to mind was the Oaksdale Campus in Renton, Washington. Our client had just bought a five-building business complex and hired us to spruce up the campus. By the time we left, we had transformed it with new landscaping, painted exteriors, new signage and renovated interior spaces including the lobbies, fitness center, conference room, and restrooms. It was great to see the transformation. And we were even able to save a bit of money. The project came in quite a bit under budget, so the owner was extremely happy. That’s a good place to be.
MGAC: What gives you energy?
TS: Working with a project team of talented professionals energizes me. You learn something new every day.
MGAC: How do you start the morning off on the right foot?
TS: I love listening to classic rock in the morning to get me going, while I drink coffee or green tea.
MGAC: So, you’re an alternating tea- and coffee-drinker?
TS: Yep! but I drink decaf coffee and tea.
MGAC: What is your secret to winding down at the end of a long day?
TS: With the COVID-19 pandemic, everybody is working longer hours than usual at home. It can be hard to stop working since you don’t have to commute home. I try to force myself to stop working at a reasonable time. My wife and I enjoy going for a long walk around the neighborhood. I also enjoy catching up on the evening news to see what is going on in the world. Sometimes, I’ll work in the garage on my car or other projects.
MGAC: That’s a good point. It really is so important to self-enforce the end of the workday right now.
TS: I hear it from everyone, even my son who’s a financial analyst. He’s working long hours from home. You have to pick a stopping point, otherwise, you’ll just work away your entire night. You need some time to unwind, so your brain will relax.
MGAC: Name a book that changed your life.
TS: The Millionaire Next Door. It’s about living below your means in order to avoid debt and save money.
MGAC: Sounds useful!
TS: It really is. What I found most interesting was that it teaches you that you don’t have to go to Saks 5th Avenue to buy your suit; you can go to JC Penny’s or wherever. And that’s what millionaires do. They don’t live in mansions; they live below their means. Oftentimes, people don’t even know they are millionaires. That’s how you accumulate wealth.
MGAC: How about a favorite quote that inspires you?
TS: General Patton once said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” As project managers, we are forced to make important decisions in a timely manner—sometimes with limited information—in order to keep the project team moving forward so we can finish the project on schedule.
MGAC: That’s a great quote. It’s applicable to so many projects.
TS: I’ll tell you why I like it. So many people have a hard time making a decision. They want to wait and drag it out. But, on a big construction site like a tower project, you may have 300 workers in the field. And when there’s a question on how to handle something, say a rebar detail so they can pour concrete, they need to know now. If you don’t make a decision quickly, you’re holding up the project and causing delays.
MGAC: What do you want your lasting impact to be?
TS: Great quality projects that stand up against the test of time.
MGAC: At this point, we like to ask a few rapid-fire questions. Let us know the first answer that comes to you!
MGAC: Describe your job in 5 words or less.
TS: Leading project teams to success.
MGAC: What’s the first thing you do at work every day?
TS: I review my meeting calendar and scan e-mails to prioritize the workday. I say to myself, “What is the most critical thing I need to do today?” and that goes to the top of my list.
MGAC: What’s the last thing?
TS: Similar to what I do first thing, I take a look at my meeting calendar for the next day and prioritize the tasks that need to be completed first thing in the morning.
MGAC: What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your desk or work bag?
TS: I have incense on my desk at my home office. I burn it to help relax during the day, though I couldn’t do that at the MGAC office!
MGAC: What can’t you leave home without?
TS: My iPhone.
MGAC: What’s the most used App on your phone?
TS: The calculator. We get a lot of proposals for change orders and other things from consultants. I’m always spot-checking their math.
MGAC: What’s your go-to lunch order?
TS: When I’m in the office, a garden salad with salmon or a spinach egg wrap.
MGAC: What about now that you’re working from home?
TS: My wife does a cleanse once a year, and this year I agreed to do it with her. So, all I eat at lunch is a salad and half an avocado. It’s been the worst two weeks!
MGAC: Name a co-worker who inspires you.
TS: My co-worker Dale Stern. He and his wife workout every morning, eat healthy, and spend their weekends and vacations hiking all over the world. I inspire to be as active and healthy. If you ever go walking with them, you have to run to keep up with them!
MGAC: What’s your biggest work goal for 2021?
TS: It would be to finish the Construction Documents for the Cloudvue project in Bellevue, which involves three 600-foot towers.
MGAC: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
TS: I’d say completing the 5th & Stewart tower in Seattle and perhaps midway through construction on the Cloudvue towers in Bellevue. Each tower project takes three years to construct. When you finish one of these big projects, it’s like a chapter of your life.
MGAC: What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
TS: I’m a second-degree blackbelt in Hapkido, and I competed in the Taekwondo Junior Olympics twice.