Nick Catona – Interview with a Construction Manager
March 03, 2021
When Nick Catona moved to Arizona from Chicago in 2005, his life was on a completely different track. He planned to work in the hospitality field, taking classes in Hotel Management back home and working as a restaurant server. Once here, life took a turn. He picked up some skilled craft work just to pay the bills, even though he didn’t have much experience in the field at all. As time went on, and he settled down to raise a family, Nick started to see a different plan for his future. He spent the next few years on different job sites, honing the skills he still uses today. Flash forward to 2021 and Nick has his dream job, working for Lennar as a Construction Manager. What started as a gig to pay the bills became a fulfilling career – one he can’t imagine ever leaving!
Our interview with Nick unpacks what a Construction Manager does each day and shows that you don’t need a 4-year degree for a successful career in the Construction field.
1.You had a completely different plan when you started working. Can you tell us a little bit about how you landed in Construction?
I never thought I’d be in the construction industry like I am now. I thought I had to go to college and get a degree. Then, once I had my degree I could go work here or there. Everyone thinks it has to go that way. When I first moved out here, I’d never even used a drill before.
Before I got hired by Lennar, I worked with one of their trade partners. It takes time and it doesn’t happen overnight. You do have to put in your dues. But you learn a trade and you’ll never go hungry in your life. I can support my family now. My wife used to work full time and still take care of the kids. Now I’m the sole provider and she stays home.
2. What does a Construction Manager do, exactly?
Basically, I schedule everything. I have to make sure that the schedule is 100% on point.
I spend a lot of time on the phone with trade partners, ensuring they are meeting the scheduling deadlines. I review the previous day’s tasks and make sure they’re being tracked. I also troubleshoot partner questions and be quick to respond with resolutions, so we avoid production delays.
A project starts with dirt patch and ends with homeowners moving in and being blown away by the product. I’ve literally had homeowners cry when they see the finished project. At the end of the day, seeing a homeowner’s smile makes it all worth it.
3. How did you go from working as a skilled craft professional to a Construction Manager?
It takes time and some networking. Eventually, one of the area managers from Lennar saw me and my work ethic and helped me get my foot in the door. He recommended I put in an application with the company.
One of the great things about Lennar is that they don’t require construction schooling. You don’t have to go into debt of getting a degree to climb that ladder and become a Construction Manager. It’s really beneficial. I’m really so grateful for the position that I’m in now. Every supervisor that I’ve ever had, all started as a beginner. A lot of people think this kind of work doesn’t go anywhere, but it does. It goes very far.
4. Do you have any tips for someone who may be short on experience but hopes to get into the field?
Being a part of the trade partner crew is nothing that’s looked down upon. As long as you put in your time, and you learn every day, you’re valued. It’s something to take pride in and the backbone of our country. If you’re young, say 18-19 years old, and you put in the time you’ll definitely be making more money in a few years. If you do the job you’re paid to do and working hard, you’ll be within the reach of great pay. It’s good to see the younger generation in the construction industry. You can start at the bottom and one day you can be a field supervisor. But it all depends on one person – YOU.