Most of the people who work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are specialists. Beyond engineering, USACE employs a variety of experts in their field: lawyers, contracting specialists, safety managers and even divers in some cases. Project managers however, require generalization rather than specialization. Keeping projects that run into the hundreds of millions on schedule, within budget and meeting customer expectations means having oversight of budgets, schedules and hundreds of other moving parts.
Deanna Hardy, an interior designer with the Transatlantic Middle East District, was recently given the opportunity to experience both sides of that dynamic when she was offered the opportunity to be the lead project manager on a building renovation in the district’s headquarters.
Hardy came to district in 2016 as part of the Army’s pathways intern program. Her normal duties involve assisting customers on the selection and design of items of equipment and furnishings, reviewing shop drawings, certificates of compliance, laboratory analyses, paint certifications, and other submittals and data, for technical feasibility, adequacy and compliance with specifications.
When the district came due for a major over hall as part of its normal lifecycle Hardy was offered the chance to manage the whole project which includes significant changes to the building as well as furniture and information technology upgrades.
“With there being so much furniture and space planning involved, I was asked if I wanted to manage the whole project,” said Hardy. “It seemed like a good opportunity.”
Hardy said that there were several things she’s learned along the way that factor into managing a whole project verses providing expertise in your specialty.
“There were several things I’ve learned as I’ve worked on this,” she said. “Just one example is the need to understand the different types of funds used the caveats the come with those as far as how and when you can use them.”
Dan Echols, a TAM project manager who is providing Hardy with advice and feedback during the project said he’s been impressed with her leadership skills.
“The best project managers I’ve worked with excel at communicating and giving everyone on the project development team a voice,” Echols said. “Deanna excels at that. She makes sure everyone on the PDT is heard and feels like a valued member of the team. That’s something that’s hard to teach and it’s great to see that enthusiasm.”
Hardy also said that many of the things she’s learning while working as a PM will also help her in her interior design work.
“It’s really solidified the importance of coordination between the disciplines. Whether it’s the architect, an electrical engineer or other area, it’s allowed me to better see the impact of my design choices on someone else’s are of expertise. Being in constant communication, and to be able to understand what the other person is saying is key.”
Jason Zorger, TAM’s Deputy Division Chief for Programs and Project Management also sees a benefit in developing project managers with the district.
"One thing the district has always tried to do is grow project managers. It's a great way to maintain talented people in the district throughout a career but more than that, they also have a different perspective than someone who has strictly done only project management,” said Zorger. “Not only did Deanna accept being the interior designer for this project she also accepted the PM duties as well. Don't get me wrong, we have great project managers who have always been PMs, but in my mind, the more perspectives we have, the better we are able to serve our customers.”
“This project is fast paced with a significant amount of moving pieces throughout TAM and TAD and Deanna has done a great job planning, organizing, communicating, briefing, and coordinating as well as completing the interior design scope of work. This project has demanded a significant amount of overtime to meet the demanding deadlines,” he said.