This post originally appeared as part of a two-part series with Real Estate New Jersey. See also, part 1, “You Build Trust by Trusting People,” which outlines DMR’s culture of empowerment. In this article, RENJ sat down with several DMR staff members to understand their experiences growing their careers at DMR.
Pradeep Kapoor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Chief Operating Officer, Partner (21 years)
Pradeep Kapoor was a junior architect in 2003 when the sustainable design movement was taking hold. He recalls that Lloyd Rosenberg, DMR Architects’ president and CEO, saw the trend as a potential game-changer and asked his team if someone was interested in helping to build a practice in the emerging growth area.
Kapoor stepped forward, studied and soon became certified in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. By 2005, DMR had secured its first assignment in the field, the Carlstadt Elementary School, which in 2007 became New Jersey’s first LEED-certified public school.
“We not only give people opportunity. We ask people to bring opportunities that they would like to explore,” Kapoor said, adding: “That was something I learned from Lloyd because, when I wanted to pursue LEED and other avenues of architecture, he always encouraged me.”
Kevin Johnson, Project Manager (10 years)
Job jumping may be a common practice among young professionals, but not for Kevin Johnson, who joined DMR in 2012 and has never looked back.
Here’s one major reason: He has the tools he needs to do his job.
“I’ve always felt supported with technology,” said Johnson, a project manager. “That’s been a huge issue with some people I know — they don’t get the support they need, the computers are too slow, they don’t have the programs they need.
“So not only did I start with a good system in place, but any time I’ve had a concern about something, I’ve brought it up and it’s been looked into.”
Janet Pini, AIA, Sr. Project Manager/Associate (20 years)
Janet Pini has only ever known DMR Architects, the company she has called home since she graduated from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2002. The firm “afforded me the opportunity to learn right as I got started,” she recalls, noting that she quickly worked on different aspects of the profession — from design and production to construction administration — along with different industries and asset classes.
“That’s been a theme through my whole career here, and I think one of the reasons why I’ve stayed is I’m not doing the same thing every day,” she said. “I’m working on municipal projects and school projects, which really has become my focus here, but I still do get housing projects, health care projects. So there’s that variety.”
Pini now spearheads a mentoring program for the firm’s junior-level talent, hoping to engender the kind of creative freedom and hands-on, supportive learning environment that have kept her at DMR for two decades.
Kurt Vierheilig, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Director of Design, Partner (23 years)
Collaboration is key, but it’s not the only ingredient for thriving in a group setting. It also comes down to being able to understand the creative choices, opinions and suggestions of others — even if they don’t always align — and ultimately find a solution.
“I always felt that the people that worked here were really working in sync,” said Kurt Vierheilig, who was named a partner in 2017. “Everyone respected everyone else. Even if you don’t agree, you understand why you don’t agree, but there’s a goal that you’re trying to reach toward.
“I think if people understand why you might have a difference of opinion, that also helps them develop, but it also helps to keep things going in the right direction, in a respectful way as co-workers. And I’ve always felt that, no matter where you were, no matter what level you’re at, there’s always a good collaborative process. Because buildings are complicated — there’s so many different ways you can do it, different approaches you can take and a lot that goes into it.”
Fassil Zewdou, Sr. Project Manager, Associate (21 years)
Fassil Zewdou is candid when he notes that “I really don’t like to move around.” But even he is amazed to have spent more than two decades with DMR Architects.
Why has he stayed? There’s the ability to learn, the attention from senior leaders and the strong business fundamentals that help the firm endure even in leaner times. But he also points to something that can’t be so easily quantified — company culture.
“You can define value in terms of what the company stands for — if it is employee-centered as opposed to just financials,” said Zewdou, who focuses primarily on education projects in New York City. “You can’t quantify that distinction — you just know it.”