Employee Spotlight: Mahalo for Improving Facilities

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An interview with Joie Serra, Regional Director of the Pacific Northwest

From the Sunshine State to the Aloha State, Joie Serra greets every new challenge with a sunny disposition. Joie’s family taught her to love construction when she was young and that love has flourished into a career that has taken off and literally taken her miles. It’s not just a job for Joie; it’s a life. In our interview, Joie explains her trajectory into a lead management position with Gordian, how she celebrates little wins and why it is so important to embrace new challenges.

“The work we accomplish together means something to our owners and to our community; it means something to me.”

Joie Serra

Can you explain your career transformation and success with Gordian?

I studied Architectural Engineering at the University of Miami. My love of design and architecture came from traveling to different northeast cities, including my home state of New York.  My interest in engineering came later.  After interning with an engineering firm just prior to graduation, I decided to continue learning in the field and became a Superintendent, Project Engineer and eventually a Project Manager.

The construction world was not something new to me; many of my family members are in the industry, including my biggest inspiration, my Dad. He had my sisters and I building decks and other things with him from a young age. His first construction company was named after him and me. I continued to work in construction for a JOC contractor for four years before joining Gordian eight years ago.

I started as a Project Manager (Account Manager) working with owners on Job Order Contracting (JOC) and ezIQC® programs in the West, Central, and South Florida areas. It was exciting to see JOC from a different angle and to continue to work with and learn from the Gordian team. In 2013, my role became Senior Account Manager. It was my first experience with hiring and managing and it taught me to look at the bigger picture.

In 2016, I stepped into a pilot position for a six-month period, the Enterprise Account Executive role. This expanded the regions I worked with from strictly the Gulf Coast to variations of the Southeast, South Central, Four Corners and the Mid-Atlantic. It was a great experience because I had a chance to create and influence different aspects of that position; it was also a more strategic position and one that focused on demonstrating value for our owners. I continued in that role for an additional two years before moving my family from South Florida to Hawaii as the Sector Manager for the Hawaii Department of Education account. I am currently living in paradise, serving as the Regional Director of the Pacific Northwest, comprised of Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii.

Briefly describe your job at Gordian and an average day.

The cherry on top of any day is when a client tells you that the program is working; that they can’t believe how fast the job was procured and into construction. It takes a team to make that happen. My days are dynamic, but the one constant is managing a team, being motivated and motivating them to do their best every day and to provide outstanding service to our owners.

Joie's Gordian Team

What do you like best about your job and career path?

It is the best feeling to know that I can continue to work hard and seek opportunities while being a wife and a mommy to two little ones.  I feel lucky to work for a company and for managers that have encouraged growth and exploration, often pushing me out of my comfort zone. I find that when those risks and challenges work out, it offers a great feeling of accomplishment.

Explain how the work you do impacts our customers. How does it impact the community?

It still gets to me—as a person in the community we service and as a mom—when a school classroom roof leak no longer exists, a children’s hospital wing has been renovated or a community center that provides after-school programs now has adequate air conditioning. The work we accomplish together means something to our owners and to our community; it means something to me.

Our products and services have helped provide improved housing and classrooms; renovated community centers or port and airport terminals; utility repairs to aging systems or beautification of main corridors and parks; even disaster response. Working with various clients in many states, the story for JOC or ezIQC is very similar; we can help them get work done. It is a simple concept, but an important one.

Tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you’re not at the office?

When I am not working, I am spending precious time with my family. I have a husband who is my number one fan and I am his, and two little ones that are growing every day. Sometimes we keep it simple and go walking around the neighborhood or beach; we dance around and sing, pretend to be dragons or princesses, play dress up or soccer or spend time with our families. Other times we enjoy traveling and immersing ourselves in different cultures and experiences.  My husband and I both studied engineering, so we also try to introduce science and engineering concepts into a lot of what we do with the kids. I personally love being creative; anything around drawing, sewing, crafting, or designing is a hobby for me.

What inspires you? Both in your career and personal aspirations.

I am inspired by others and because of that I never want to stop learning and improving in my own position and responsibilities. My children inspire me in my personal life. I want to be a good example for them and make them proud. I want to finish every day with big hugs and kisses, a sweet toothy smile from my son and a wide-eyed hug around the neck from my daughter.

Photos of Joie and her family.

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Women should not feel intimidated of a leadership position or to be a leader. Studying and working in a male-dominated field, I previously felt that I had to prove myself or that I should not express my viewpoint. Working for Gordian has changed that for me. I learned that feeling intimidated or constantly trying to prove I belonged was counterproductive to advancing in my career. We can continue to shatter the glass ceiling if we do what intimidates us the most: to speak up or out, to share knowledge and expertise, to ask for advice or help, to have hard conversations or show compassion. In other words, to lead.

What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?

There is a strong emphasis on equality at a young age with the addition of new science, math and leadership initiatives and programs focused around young girls. It is not just the Girl Scouts anymore that I grew up with. I want younger women to remember that there is plenty of opportunity and if it doesn’t exist where they are now, the challenge is to seek it out and push forward. Create the path if none exists.

There are two things that have stuck with me from my life as a sorority sister of Lambda Theta Alpha that fit in this context: the mantra, “don’t quit,” and the emphasis on the universal woman. “Universal” has taken on a new meaning for me now that I am a mom and I want the next generation, especially my daughter and my niece, to know that they can do it all, that anything is possible. Never quit.

What advice would you give a woman going into a leadership position for the first time?

Own it. Own that position. Wear it on your sleeve! You must believe in yourself and take on every task of every day with confidence. Having experience, being able to lead, understanding your business and possessing a desired skillset is not gender biased. Hold your head high, be true to yourself and work with integrity. Don’t be afraid to ask questions for fear of not being taken seriously.

How do you define success?

I think everyone I know has seen my “happy dance” at one point or another. It changes every time, but the feeling is the same. Sheer joy and excitement that cannot be contained after accomplishing something you put your mind to; that is success. It can come from many places. The joys of life can come from receiving your first purchase order with a new client or the executed documents for additional services, getting promoted, finishing a workout and even just getting your kids to school on time. You have to celebrate the big milestones and the little wins.

Can you give us a piece of advice that you would give others in your profession?

Challenge yourself. You will be surprised at how much you learn about your industry and what you learn about yourself.

Learn more about Job Order Contracting.