Aimee Siemianowski, Sr. Vice President of Driver SPG, started with C.W. Driver Companies over three years ago. Prior to joining C.W. Driver Companies, she worked in many different facets of the real estate industry including, both residential and commercial architecture, construction management, and owned and operated her own hospitality design firm.
What made you transition over into the builder side of the industry?
I did not make a conscious decision to move over to the construction side of the industry. Before working at Driver SPG, I felt uninspired and stressed. Finally, in the summer of 2016, I made the decision to quit my job. I did not have a back up plan. The opportunity to work at Driver SPG fell into my lap. I had already worked with Driver SPG many times while working at other firms. Out of all the General Contractors I ever worked with, Driver SPG was one of the few that stood out to me. I was impressed at how everyone I interacted with there was truly a good person. It is unbelievable to have every employee at every level of a company always looking out for the right outcome for all parties involved, not just themselves. I knew something good was happening at Driver SPG, and I was honored to join.
How has your diverse experience aided in your professional success as Sr. Vice President of Driver SPG?
I have worked in every facet of this industry. I started my career on the design side then moved into project management and development for owners before working in construction. With my comprehensive experience in the industry, I can help anticipate potential challenges with any project partner. I have a clear perspective of how every stakeholder involved may react to hurdles that a project may face. I find that since using these lessons learned to mitigate issues before they arise, I no longer second guess my decisions and am confident in my direction. This does not mean my day-to-day life is not stress free. Driver SPG is different than my previous firms. Our main focus is on fast-tracked tenant improvement projects. At this accelerated pace, it is critical to make decisions quickly that benefit the entire project team. Even with my technical skills, strategic capabilities, and wealth of design and construction knowledge, my days are anything but boring.
What traits and skills do you think are necessary to be able to succeed in this industry?
Regardless of what stage of your career you are in, always be sure to do the right thing. It seems simple enough, but what does that mean? It is straightforward. Look out for the greater good, and everything you are trying to achieve will fall into place. For example, if you leave the grocery store and realize you did not pay for an item, doing the right thing is to turn around and pay for the item. If you are striving for a promotion or a salary increase, do the right thing every day and you will get there. Sometimes it is hard to make the right decision. Doing the right thing daily may not benefit you in the moment or be convenient. At 37 years old, I was promoted to Vice President. The reason? My boss said that he could always trust me to do the right thing. So, if your coworker needs help sifting through plans right as you are about to leave the office, you stop and help them. It is important to change your mindset, and base every decision around what will benefit the team, not yourself. Your superiors and coworkers will recognize this and trust you.
What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?
One leadership lesson I have learned is the importance of leading by example, no matter what the team is trying to accomplish. For example, I lead with the mantra of, “Do the right thing.” I cannot expect the team to make decisions for the greater good if I do not do that myself. Another lesson I have learned is the importance of a balanced workplace. It can be challenging as a leader to embrace a fun environment while maintaining a structured format to reduce risk. How do you keep a fun culture, but make yourselves the best at what you do? It is the people. I try to connect with everyone on my team. Here at Driver SPG, we are family. I truly care about everyone at the company, and I know everyone cares about me. The last three years I was faced with some health issues and the team was there for me and picked me back up. I have worked at a lot of companies during my 26-year career in the industry, but nothing compares to my Driver SPG team.
Women are expected to make up 25% of the construction industry by 2020 and Driver SPG is one of the few construction firms in Southern California managed by a woman. What is the biggest advantage you see in increasing the number of women in construction?
The shift to a more diverse workplace in the construction industry is very important. For too long it has been normalized that this industry is for men only. The lack of diversity in construction has not been recognized until recently. For so long we have been missing out on half of the world’s representation in one of the largest industries in the country. It is still a fairly new concept for women to join construction. That is why there are few women at the executive level! Thankfully, the industry has seen unprecedented change in recent years. This means diversity not only in gender, race, and religion, but also diverse experience. Everyone’s experiences and backgrounds give a unique perspective to bring to the table. At Driver SPG, I am proud to have a diverse team who challenges the status quo. Our team has seen growth and stability, and I attribute this to our incredible team. I encourage all leaders to seek out different people to be a part of your team. The world is changing, and we need to change with it.