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Peter Morandi

DNA of a VP of Construction

DNA Construction Peter Morandi headshotPeter comes from a long line of contractors. Growing up just outside Boston, he watched his father, grandfather, uncles and cousins build the business by managing workers’ personalities, keeping the equipment running and living up to clients’ expectations. He learned a lot in those formative years, and never doubted that construction would be his life’s work. Peter studied Construction Management and Engineering at Roger Williams University and headed south to New York shortly after graduation.

After 10 years as a construction manager, director of operations and chief operating officer for a leading NYC contractor, Peter started Eastman Cooke in 2009.  Taking great pride in his team and projects, he runs the company with a focus on collaboration, innovation, safety and reliability.  He believes in asking clients the right questions, creating solutions, and delivering projects without surprises. He brings more than 20 years of experience managing the construction of out-of-the-ground buildings, infrastructure and interiors for retail, corporate, healthcare, industrial and academic projects.

Peter Morandi
CEO
Eastman Cooke & Associates

DNA Construction Eastman Cooke logoHave you always aspired to becoming a leader of a construction company?

Yes, I was exposed to the industry at a very young age. A lot of my family owned construction companies or worked in the industry and I was really drawn to the entrepreneurial spirit of the business. I started as a mason in trade school and opened my own business to fund my studies in Construction Management at Roger Williams University and then entered the commercial world from there.

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

Learning that you can’t do it all yourself was the biggest challenge I faced. I like being able to see everything and to have a hand on all the moving pieces. This is challenge in two ways The first is purely time - no one has enough time to manage every facet of every project and the business and the second is that you can’t be an expert at everything. I learned quickly that I have to surround myself with talented people and to trust them to make the right decisions or to give me the right information. I am always networking with creative, intelligent problem-solvers – the type of people who can challenge me, expand how I think about the industry or how I approach problems.

What skills do you think are integral to role?

The leaders that last negotiate with integrity. Communication is key and is the foundation of our business.
The way I run my business is still on a handshake and you only pull out the contract on the rare occations when there is a difference of opinion. Our industry is all about the relationships.

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

My advice is to have a very clear understanding of what you want, and what you are willing to give. This isn’t an easy industry, you can’t rush your career and you will only get out what you put into it. That’s not to dismiss anyone who chooses to limit their trajectory - you can still have a great career in construction, but you’re not going to become a company president or CEO. If an executive position is really your goal, you need to have the grit to back up your ambition. You will work hard and it can be the most rewarding career in the world.

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

It’s absolutely critical to be exposed to all the facets of the business, as it is just as important to have the great resources to rely on. Certainly it’s to ones advantage to have an understanding of legal, HR, finance, codes, technology, and to know when you don’t need to be the resident expert. Always know who to call when you don’t have the answer. The key to the success is having great attorneys, accountants, subcontractors, and advisors that have your back. It’s about aligning yourself with great people in the industry so you can pick up the phone and get expert advice.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

I am so proud seeing something we have built stand the test of time. Watching a project that has our signature on it come together, knowing that it’s serving a purpose and will remain there for many years is a feeling like no other.

What is the one thing you have to have to be a construction leader in your opinion?

You need to have a willingness to listen. If you can practice that skill - and I do think it’s a skill - through your early years, will be a huge advantage when you reach a leadership position. Maintaining that flexibility and openness to new ideas opens up a whole new world. When you stop listening to the people around you, you’re missing out on all that expertise and different perspectives that drive innovation and results.

In your opinion, how important is networking?

It’s huge. Networking is a critical part of what we do. My network ranges from a single proprietor sub-contractor to a billionaire developer. Networking isn’t about making a sale, it’s about building relationships.

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

I believe social media is a great platform to highlight your activity in the marketplace. For us it’s a conversation starter and social media allows us to expose our recent projects and profiles in the industry as we build our reputation.

Is there anything you would have differently looking back at your career path?

The only thing I would change is having a better work and family balance earlier in my career. The amount of time, mental capacity and dedication required for the business takes a toll on your personal life. As the company has grown, I have more time to spend with my wife and 4 kids as well as compete in triathalons and running competitions

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

The evolution for me has been from tactical to strategic thinking, moving from operational to long range planning. It’s thinking about objectives and how we plan for the future. Having foresight and planning the overall direction the company is headed is critical.

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

My advice to the next generation is to be passionate about the process and to embrace that it takes years of experiences to get a real feel for all the aspects involved in the industry. AS important is to seek out mentors, attend networking events and find opportunities for professional development. The people who are really successful in construction are proactive about learning.There are lots of different paths to success, but they all include a lot of learning and exposure to different parts of the industry.