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MGAC Impacts: Tim McGarvey on Understanding a Client’s Perspective, the Oakland A’s, and Why Pressure is a Privilege


Tim with his fiancé Christina at Machu Picchu.

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 Tim McGarvey, Project Manager at MGAC.

MGAC: Welcome to the Impact Blog, Tim! Tell us about your role at MGAC.

Tim McGarvey (TM): I’m a Project Manager in our San Francisco office. Much of my time is spent on client projects: I’m going out to construction job sites, running client meetings, solving technical problems, and planning. But we’re also a growing group here in San Francisco, so a good portion of my time is also focused on Business Development and growing the team here. It’s exciting to be able to work on both of those things simultaneously.

MGAC: Nice! And how long have you been on board?

TM: I started in January. It’s been an interesting time to join due to the pandemic. But it’s been a great first several months here and I’ve been able to meet many of my colleagues across the country remotely.

MGAC: What kind of work were you doing before?

TM: I cut my teeth working for General Contractors (GC) up and down the Peninsula and San Francisco Bay Area. I spent quite a few years doing big ground-up corporate campus projects for large technology companies in California, including Intuit’s Global Headquarters in Mountain View and a well-known confidential technology company in Cupertino.

From there, I moved into the tenant improvement world, working mostly with technology companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It was a good change of pace. It really rounded out my experience to transition from long-term, slower-moving projects to fast-paced, quick-turnaround projects for growing companies where timeline was the most important thing. That work also involved managing multiple projects at the same time, so I learned to juggle different project deadlines and navigate various client personalities.

In my next role, I worked on the owner’s side—one of the clients I was building projects for as a GC brought me in to work directly for them. My time there really brought my experience full circle. When you’re working on the owner’s side of the table, you see how the sausage is made, so to speak. You understand how internal politics work—those relationships and dynamics clients deal with that may not always be as immediately obvious to contractors and project managers. Today, I’m able to approach projects with that experience in mind.

MGAC: Quite the well-rounded background! And what brought you to MGAC?

TM: I was seeking a position that matched my skill set and interest in the consulting / owner’s representative world. The stars aligned when I found MGAC. It was virtually an immediate fit. I got along well with everyone I talked to, and the range of project types and client-centric approach were a great match for my personal work style.

MGAC: Now that you’re a part of the team, what fresh perspectives are you hoping to bring to the table?

TM: I think my perspective from working on the owner’s side combined with the technical experience from the GC world is unique. Having that awareness and understanding and being able to speak to the types of problems and situations I faced in my time on that side of the table, will be invaluable.

MGAC: Absolutely. Safe to say you probably didn’t always plan to follow this path—what did you want to be when you grew up?

TM: Well, I thought I was going to be a professional baseball player until I was about 13 and I stopped growing! And true, I didn’t know a Construction Manager, or even a General Contractor, existed as a kid. But I always enjoyed building things—be it something for a science fair or messing around with Roller Coaster Tycoon. I liked having something to show for my work at the end of the day. I’ve also always been involved in team sports and thrived in a team atmosphere. And this role, to me, really is a true team sport. There could be 20 vendors working on a project and you’re at the center of it, coordinating technical issues while managing different skill sets and personalities. Ultimately, you have to figure out how to successfully navigate all of those elements to get the job done. So, looking back, it would make sense to fall into something like this—but it was an interesting journey to get here.

MGAC: Tell us about it!

TM: In college, I started out as a Computer Science major. I liked the problem-solving aspect, but it involved too much time at a computer and not enough time interacting with people and getting out and actually building things. From there, I transferred into City Planning. That was a little bit closer and more hands-on, but was still such hypothetical long-term planning. However, those courses ultimately gave me exposure to real estate development, general contractors, and this world of building. You could say I meandered my way into it!

MGAC: What do you think your younger self would think about your current job today?

TM: He’d think it’s pretty cool. Going out to the job sites, seeing all the equipment out there. And having something to show for all your hard work. It’s cool to drive down the highway and point out projects to people, telling them about the challenges and triumphs along the way.

MGAC: You mentioned you wanted to play baseball professionally as a kid. What’s your team?

TM: The Oakland A’s. It’s not such a popular thing to say around here with so many Giants fans! But I’ve been a fan since day one. I grew up in the East Bay, we’d take the BART train out to the Oakland Coliseum every summer.

MGAC: What keeps you busy these days?

TM: I’m working with a confidential biotechnology client. It’s pretty technical on the project level. My client purchases a lot of proprietary equipment overseas or will just build it themselves. It’s my job to figure out how that equipment will come together in the building, even what type of building or structure is needed. There’s also a permitting side to the work, ensuring City and County regulations, chemical inventories, and health and safety protocols are followed. And I’m in the process of helping them move one of their laboratories out of state to the Research Triangle area in North Carolina. It’s been an interesting process, because I have a strong network of contractors, architects, etc. in the Bay Area, but I’m now spending much of my time working with our East Coast teams to meet and interview firms in that region. I’m working to ensure everything goes smoothly as we bring the client into a new market—while managing everything remotely.

MGAC: And how are things going with the San Francisco office?

TM: That’s actually my other major focus: big-picture growth for the San Francisco office. I’m looking at getting new work and trying to enter new market segments. Like so many places, the commercial office market in San Francisco has been slow for a year and a half due to the pandemic, so a lot of building owners and clients are trying to pivot in the way they’re using space. We’re working to be ahead of the curve in giving them recommendations on what other companies are doing, what the market is doing, and what the area is going to look like in the future.

MGAC: What challenges have you been faced with so far?

TM: The pandemic has obviously presented its own set of challenges, including, for me, onboarding into a new role remotely. But something I noticed right off—and really appreciate—is how MGAC operates as one company, a continuation of all the different offices together. Every single day, I’m talking to people in DC, LA, Seattle. The offices are truly an extension of one another. It really made a potentially difficult situation of getting to know everyone and getting up to speed much easier.

MGAC: That’s great. Thinking beyond day-to-day work, what larger impact do you hope to have here?

TM: I’d like to leave every single project I work on, everything we interview for, and everyone I’m meeting while out and about with a positive impression of who we are. I want to be an advocate for the company and leave a good impression that we’re doing things the right way.

MGAC: What have you found most rewarding about your job?

TM: At the end of the day, I really appreciate having a finished product to show for my work and stories to tell. Every project has its challenges, but ultimately there’s just one goal, and that’s to get the project done and get the client into the building. Being able to get to that finish line and create bonds and relationships with people along the way has been really rewarding.

MGAC: That’s so true. Taking a step back, how do you hope your work will impact your community at large?

TM: I’ve always liked to work on landmark projects. Most of those I’ve done in my career have a story attached to them, and they provide something to the community that hasn’t been there before. I think MGAC’s resume is a lot like that; we’re very strategic in the work we take on. We don’t build cookie-cutter buildings for sub-par developers. We’re choosing projects that provide an impact and leave stories to tell. Projects that leave a positive impact on the community.

MGAC: Well said! And what at MGAC has made an impact on you?

TM: Everyone just does the right thing. There’s a lot of transparency in the way that the people of MGAC go about business. They put the project first, period. It’s really refreshing, because it’s how I’ve always operated as well.

MGAC: What gives you energy?

TM: Difficult problems give me energy. I like to keep my plate pretty full with challenging tasks.

MGAC: How do you wind down at the end of a long day?

TM: Watching baseball. I like having it on in the background. It’s a nice, slow pace to end the day.

MGAC: And what’s your secret to starting the morning off on the right foot?

TM: I try to solve big problems first—with a cup of coffee in hand. Getting those out of the way gives me momentum to move through the rest of the day.

MGAC: Name a book that has made a significant impact on your life.

TM: I read pretty frequently; I try to read 15-20 books a year. As it applies to my work, I like The 80/20 Principle. It’s about leveraging your time. For example, 80 percent of the work you accomplish is done through 20 percent of your time. Or, in a company, 80 percent of the sales are from 20 percent of the products. So, it’s about finding the high-leverage parts of your work and trying to focus on what’s truly important—that 20 percent—so you can get things done more efficiently.

MGAC: How about a favorite quote that inspires you?

TM: “Pressure is a privilege.” It’s the title of a book by Billie Jean King. I like the perspective it offers. Whenever something feels overwhelming because there are a lot of expectations, it’s important to remember that you earned the right to be able to have that. Your experiences along the way put you in the position to feel that pressure. And if you weren’t doing something important, you wouldn’t be experiencing it.

MGAC: Great one! What do you want your lasting impact to be?

TM: I think it’s pretty simple: That I went about my business in the right way, and that people liked working with me. That’s what I try to do on a daily basis.

MGAC: Are you ready for a few rapid-fire questions?

TM: Sure!

MGAC: Describe your job in 5 words or less.

TM: Solving complicated problems for clients.

MGAC: What’s the first thing you do at work every day?

TM: Drink coffee.

MGAC: And the last thing?

TM: Answer all my emails and clear the inbox before the next day.

MGAC: What’s the weirdest thing we might find in your work bag?

TM: I am pretty minimalist. It’d be the essentials only: my computer, charger, and mouse.

MGAC: What’s your go-to workweek lunch?

TM: I’ll go with a deli sandwich. Smoked turkey on Dutch Crunch (a bread staple in the Bay Area).

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

TM: Google Maps. I’m in there a lot. I love being the navigator of the group. And I enjoy just exploring it to know the context and orientation of where we are while driving.

MGAC: What’s your biggest work goal for 2021?

TM: My main, time-sensitive goal is to relocate my client to North Carolina and get them moved in. In a more open-ended sense, it’s also a goal to continue to grow the group in San Francisco and make good progress on our Business Development efforts.

MGAC: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

TM: In a leadership position at MGAC, growing and managing a team while leading Operations and Business Development efforts.

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

TM: Maybe that I’m a baseball encyclopedia. I’d go toe-to-toe with anyone on baseball stats and general knowledge.

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