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A Conversation with Judy Denny

Assistant Project Manager, Judy Denny, supports our project management team in managing cost-effective, timely construction projects while ensuring client satisfaction. Guided by her philosophy, ‘of a mind to build,’ Judy believes a space's effect on the mental health of its occupants is as critical as its functionality. Her holistic perspective of the industry was achieved as a result of receiving a Master of Architecture degree and through more than 10 years of experience in facility operations. Judy hopes her work on educational facilities in particular will have a positive impact on the next generation of leaders.

Read on to learn more about Judy and her approach to project management at Colliers.

In college you studied architecture and psychology. How do these two disciplines relate to each other?

For my thesis at the University of Hartford, I designed a drug and alcohol rehab center in the city of New Haven, where I was born and raised. I did this because my father used to be an alcoholic and I wanted to show the correlation between psychology and creating a space that appeals to your mental processing. If you can design a space where the lighting is perfect, the flooring is more appealing, and the layout of the furniture is set up for flexibility – you can create a space of healing. So, my thesis was focused on not only psychology and architecture, but also on spirituality and how all three of those combined as a trifecta can create a space where a person is completely productive and efficient at their job.

Your professional philosophy is ‘of a mind to build.’ Have you had any specific projects with Colliers that enabled you to employ that philosophy?

Many of my projects at Colliers have started after the design phase, so I haven’t yet had a lot of input into design, but I can see where the architects on many of my projects appeal to a more productive space; particularly, the interior designers. They pick out different materials as well as furniture to make sure that a space is functional. They also take into consideration dimensions and the best layout in the space for the client. I can see how they attempt to implement psychology or ergonomics in the aspect of design to make a space more livable or desirable.

Can you describe the day-to-day of working as an Assistant Project Manager at Colliers?

I mostly assist our project managers on any aspect of their projects. I am involved in the move management and handling of FF&E (furniture, fixtures, and equipment). I also manage project financials, working on our budget block and processing the different invoices that we have with the project as well as with the construction manager. I develop invoice packets as well as change order packets and document meeting minutes. So, anything that the project managers need, I’m pretty much there to assist and support. I also go out in the field and cover for our construction representatives if they're not available.

Is there a specific type of facility that you feel more inclined to work with?

I particularly enjoy working with educational facilities because I have kids and I like the aspect of taking a building that has been used for so many years and reviving it. It's one thing to have a building that meets your needs, but it’s another thing to transform that building into something that works for today’s needs. What we had back in the day is different from what is current. As technology evolves, I want to make a positive impact on kids growing up to help ensure that they have all the things they need to be our next generation of leaders.

I also feel like it's my obligation to be out there in the field so students can see me create opportunities and demonstrate that construction is an industry for African Americans, women, and other diverse backgrounds. I want to make sure that I show somebody else the process of getting into the industry.

Do you have a favorite project that you've worked on at Colliers?

It would be Branford's Frances Walsh Intermediate School. I like the project – the design is cool – as well as the people and the way I was able to work with them throughout the process. I was heavily involved with the FF&E which involved the installation of new school furniture. It took a lot of coordination to move them from the temporary space, which was in phase one, into phase two, their permanent home. There were six different vendors that I had to coordinate for the move. I also managed the financials and developed the invoice packets for Building Committee approvals. Though I started in the middle of the project, I was able to be an asset to the completion.

What do you like overall about working as a project manager in the owner's project management industry?

I like representing the owner and making sure that whatever they want is implemented in the design and that everything that was proposed and bid on is delivered. I like making sure that the owners are happy at the end of the day because they're the ones who are going to be living in the space for many years to come. I appreciate the relationships I build with the clients as well as the construction managers and the architects.

I’m most proud when it’s the final move in and clients are getting settled in and seeing that their space is exactly what they thought it would be and that it meets all their needs and requirements. That lets me know that I did my job.

What advice do you have for people looking to get into the field?

Get prior exposure and experience in it. Transitioning to project management after more than 10 years’ experience with facilities operations provided me with an understanding of how buildings operate, but I feel if I had more experience in construction I'd be more knowledgeable now.

I appreciate Colliers’ willingness to teach me as I learn the process because there's a lot that goes into project management that you don't realize until you're in it. At Colliers you don't stay stagnant. If you want to grow, they will work with you to make sure you get to the next level. They expose you to different professional development opportunities and trainings which help make you a better professional.

My advice is to be open to learning new things. I've learned a lot within my first year at Colliers and I can only imagine the knowledge and additional expertise I'll gain in the next five to 10 years to come.

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