As a way to get to know the CREW Atlanta leadership better, we will be interviewing the board members on their thoughts on CREW Atlanta, the commercial real estate industry, workplace issues and life in general. This month, we caught up with CREW Atlanta Delegate and Pond & Company Associate Principal and Program Manager Pamela Little.
Q. What attracted you to design and engineering in commercial real estate?
I chose civil engineering as a profession because I liked the idea of building something tangible. I worked in construction for several years and then I spent time working on the design side. Now I am in program management, which is a great combination of planning, designing and implementing projects while incorporating the input and requirements of the stakeholders.
Q. What do you like about working at Pond?
I like the variety of projects we work on and although it’s a big company – more than 500 people – it feels like a small team because people get to know each other and work collaboratively. The company invests in its employees with training and we learn so much here.
Q. What keeps you up at night?
On the public project side, it’s estimating costs. Once a government entity commits to an expenditure, it creates a lot of problems if there are unanticipated costs. We have to get it right the first time.
Q How has COVID changed your work?
In the short term, it has created a difficult market for commercial space. We don’t know yet if there will be a long-term shift to more people working remotely or perhaps working a combination of remotely and in the office. We’re taking this into consideration as we design offices and other commercial space for the future both in the public and private spaces.
Q. What is your biggest challenge?
Staffing and getting the right people for the right project always is a challenge. Team dynamics are very important.
Q. What is the most important thing you’re working on right now?
We are part of a team that is rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Fla. Hurricane Michael in 2018 passed directly over Tyndall and nearly flattened it. One of the challenges of the rebuild is to make Tyndall as resilient as possible so that it can continue to function after natural disasters, energy shortages, power outages and other external events. We can apply what we are learning to other projects, too.
Q. What makes a successful leader?
Leaders should be committed to constantly learning and to listening to their teams. Leaders also should make sure that they share their knowledge so that their team members are given the opportunity to grow, building the next generation of leaders.
Q. What commercial real estate trend is top of mind?
We’re in an interesting place now with the pandemic and I think we’ll see a lot of repurposing of spaces and a stronger focus on sustainable practices such as bringing more daylight into buildings and integrating natural elements into indoor areas.
Q. What is your best advice for women in commercial real estate?
Get yourself a mentor and build relationships with those who have marched before you. I have had several mentors and allies help me in my career, and now I’m able to help others. You may have to go out of your comfort zone and reach out to someone in an executive position and ask them for help. Be brave and do it. CREW is one place you will find people who are willing to help you.
Q. What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of starting my own business and seeing it through (EcoWise Civil Design and Consulting Inc.). After six years running my own business, I decided that I prefer working in a large organization such as Pond, but I learned so much in that period. I joined Pond when it bought my company. On the project side, the work I am most proud of was some that I did while working with Planners and Engineers Collaborative, on Coolray Field, home to the Gwinnett Stripers, the Braves’ AAA affiliate team. We had 14 months from design in 2008 to getting the stadium ready for the first pitch in April 2009, and we did it.
Q. Who is a mentor or a personal hero?
At Columbia University, I was one of just two women in the civil engineering program. I had a professor, Col. Fletcher “Bud” Griffis, a former Army Corps of Engineers district commander, who took extra time with us and really wanted us to succeed. He was my first mentor and he encouraged me to be seen and heard. He also made sure his engineering students understood finance, and that plays a big part in what I do today.
Q. What keeps you busy outside of work?
I love traveling. In the past few years, I’ve been to Yellowstone, South Africa, France and Zimbabwe. I’m fascinated by other cultures.
Q: What has CREW done for you?
It’s been an amazing organization for me. I tried several other organizations and they just did not fit me as well. At CREW, I have a network of women I can call on for a number of things. I joined as a result of entering the mentoring program. CREW Atlanta paired me with Sara Silvio, president of Construction Ingenuity, who, like me, has an engineering background. She helped me work through some things while growing my own small company and now our companies are working together in a joint venture on multiple projects. That’s the way CREW works – people help each other and build relationships.