Skip to content
Hays - Recruiting experts worldwide
  1. I am
    I am

Oscar Vera

DNA of a VP of Construction

Oscar Vera HeadshotWith 20 years of experience driving strategy and operations for diversified, multimillion-dollar real estate portfolios, I combine unsurpassed strategic and decision-making skills with hands-on experience in critical areas including negotiations, renovations, and property development. My proven ability to analyze deals and effectively handle transactions ensures that the needs and objectives of my employers are held paramount, while my commitment to efficiency and cost-effective operations guarantees optimal ROI for stakeholders. Throughout key positions with diverse companies, I have led building construction and design, space planning, and relocation initiatives that involve managing teams, schedules, and budgets. By building strong, collaborative relationships with key partners, I am able to move projects forward and deliver outstanding customer satisfaction, which in turn leads to repeat business and revenue opportunities. As a professional who has been active at every level, from direct management of facilities to oversight of high-value deals, I offer a unique perspective and the expertise to advance the goals of all parties.

Oscar Vera
Vice President of Purchasing & Estimating
Cauldwell Wingate

Cauldwell LogoHave you always aspired to becoming a VP (or above) of a construction company?

No, prior to the Cauldwell Wingate, I was Vice President of Real Estate at JP Morgan Chase, overseeing their design & construction functions. Prior to that I was in Facilities Management so I actually came into my current role from a different angle.

I wanted to move into a more entrepreneurial role and the move into a VP position with a builder offered that challenge.

Was construction always your career path?

I have always been a builder per se, and right out of college I was involved in construction, albeit on the owner’s side. I was an Engineering major before deciding to change to Finance half way through my course. This obviously gave me greater exposure to the technical side of deals and terms etc. but I was still drawn to the brick and mortar side of things.

The financial skills are certainly transferable, and being well-versed in financial language as a Construction Manager helps when dealing with various stakeholders. 

Have you ever second guessed your career path?

Sure, given all the twist and turns of the industry. Making the move over to the builders side was the most difficult change, certainly compared to moving between institutions on the client-side. Results are more tangible and immediate in construction and the human resources management aspect is key. People build buildings so your ability to manage people while staying focused on the business aspect is critical.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path and how did you overcome it?

When I made the transition from Engineering to Finance during college. I was working full time and studying at night so there were some very long hours. It took sheer will! 

I needed to have the attitude of “I want to do this and nothing can stand in my way”. I had to make sacrifices but it was worth it. In fact, I actually went back to school again a few years ago to do my MBA.

I do believe that staying in higher education – whether it be a Masters or MBA – gives you an extra edge. I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for the skills I was taught in my MBA. 

What technical skills do you think are integral to role?

You definitely need an understanding of the basic principles of business – time, value, money, and human capital. As previously mentioned, you also need strong HR management skills. This business is very much about people management, management skills and organizational psychology.  

You also need a basis in one of the technical disciplines – engineering, architecture etc. Having this technical basis has given me the ability to visualize the job and build that bridge from concept to cost. 

What attributes/characteristics do believe are integral to the role?

You need to be level-tempered. You have to approach things in a dispassionate way so that you can make a sound business decision rather than an emotional one. You also need to be a natural leader. I don’t mean you need to be a Napoleon or Patton but you have to be able to share and convey your vision to your staff. The organization of your business will be built through leadership, so this is key.

What is your advice to someone who is moving up the ranks in the field and wants to pursue a management/executive career?

Learning the field is integral to being successful in construction because, quite simply, you need to learn how to build. However, in order to make that transition out of the field, you need to learn the business side of things and that happens in the office. Projects are built on paper first and then put into concrete and steel. If you haven’t already done so, you should also pursue a formal education to a Bachelor’s level or higher.

How important is it to be exposed to all areas of the business? 

To be an executive, you need to know all aspects. All the executives on the board here at Cauldwell Wingate have done it all – progressing from field to project management to executive positions, and with additional exposure to estimating, purchasing etc. on the way.

What is the one thing you have to have to be a VP of a construction company in your opinion? 

You really have to like people. If you don’t like the interaction with people, you won’t be successful. There will always be a healthy dialogue and a healthy debate but your ability to deal with people will ensure this is done constructively. 

In your opinion, how important is networking?

Networking is critical to your career. You need to build a strong network that you can rely on in the tough times because they will come. Every position I have held at a Vice President level has been a result of having a relationship.

In your opinion, how important is social media for networking/helping one achieve their career goals?

It is very important in this day and age. If you don’t embrace the current technology, you’ll be left behind.

Compared to 5 or 10 years ago, in your opinion how would you say your role has evolved?

Going back 10 years ago, my role was much more functional; 5 years ago it was tactical; now it is strategic. 

Is there anything that the next generation should know?

Put the device away every once in a while and think more freely. This isn’t a criticism of the current generation because it is a natural consequence to the increase in technology; however, there is a tendency to get easily distracted and lose focus.

What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become a construction leader?

Working hard is automatic but be strategic of where you invest your time and effort. The difference is in honing certain skills and being cognizant of them. You need to hone your presentation skills so you can sell to clients with confidence and professionalism. If you can’t do that then you will miss the point. The MBA helped me in this regard but there are plenty of other courses and trainings you can do.