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Tony Miliote

DNA of a VP of Construction

Tony Miliote HeadshotTony has been with Shawmut for over 10 years. As Vice President Tony has authority over the personnel and resources of the Tri-State portion of a $400 million division and draws on years of experience building for clients at academic, cultural and historic institutions. These clients include Yale University, Harvard University, Columbia University and Riverdale Country School. Tony is an expert at working within complex urban environments in occupied settings and brings a wealth of experience working within the confines of sensitive institutional environments. His diverse career has enabled him to build nearly all of the major components of research and teaching facilities, such as classrooms, arts facilities, laboratories, kitchen and dining areas, administrative offices, religious facilities, and parking structures. Tony holds a B.S. in Construction Science and Management from Clemson University and has more than 20 years of experience in the construction management field.  

Tony Miliote
Vice President, Tri State Institutional
Shawmut Design and Construction

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

I have always aspired to constantly, learn and grow. I have never chased a title – only my passion.  As you progress in your career you get more opportunities to mentor and develop people. This is a people business you can influence other people’s careers and ultimately affect them and their families.  

Was construction always your career path? 

Yes in fact, I worked as a carpenter from the age of 13. I worked every summer building homes, right through college. I initially majored in finance at college, thinking I’d follow my father into Wall Street, but I switched to construction management. There are actually a lot of similarities between finance and construction management, but I always enjoyed the human interaction with construction and being able to take pride in what I have built.   

Have you ever second guessed your career path? 

I think that is a normal part of human nature. Sometimes you have tough projects where you have to go back to your roots. Working in construction means problem solving, it means coaching and teaching lots of different people. You work through problems and projects getting built. When you lose sight of that sometimes you have to remind yourself why you do it. 

What technical skills do you think are integral to your role? 

On a basic level, you need to know how to build so that your decision-making process is informed. If you don’t understand that front line, you can’t expect to drive the business. As you develop further in your career, you need to develop more soft skills such as communication, the ability to motivate people, how to get consensus, and how to drive decision making.     

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

Trust. Your team needs to feel that you are on their side, that they can approach you without fear of judgment. Everyone you work with should know that you will follow through on promises. Do what you say you will do. Your only agenda should be to grow your people, your projects, and the company. 

Likeability is important, too. People like to work with people they enjoy being around.  

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

Ask a lot of questions. Sometimes people are worried this will make them look stupid, but there really are no stupid questions. Listen, observe, and when you don’t understand something, ask. No one knows everything, and no one instinctively understands business and leadership. 

I also suggest getting cross-discipline training such as estimating, field experience, and construction operations. This allows you to be well rounded and understand all of these roles. You learn by gaining exposure to other disciplines and functions.  

What’s your favorite part of your job? 

I really enjoy the relationships inherent in the business. All the people I work with - the Shawmut employees I’m teaching and developing they will be our future business leaders. Helping them achieve their professional and personal goals, which in turn grows and improves our business. 

The other aspect I like is problem solving. I think we do that really well here. When you get to combine your technical knowledge with your lateral thinking skills plus often some teamwork and learning new things - that’s when you can take your project to the next level. It’s very satisfying at the end of the day to have something you can point to and know you made it happen.  

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

Leadership. You need to be able to get people to follow you and believe that you are marching them in the right direction and that you have their best interest at heart. Many people reach senior leadership positions without developing the traits that make them a leader. It’s more than just business understanding and people management. Can you inspire and motivate your employees to invest in the company goals and believe that they play a role in its success? That’s the key. 

In your opinion, how important is networking? 

It’s important that you have relationships where people trust you, so that when challenges come up people rally around you. It is these relationships that will help you grow your business for you and for others around you.   

You are only as strong as the people who win the work with you. Having a network allows you to resolve challenges and identify ongoing project opportunities.  

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

It has a place and it is always evolving. You can’t always get in front of people so it can be powerful. If you’re reaching out to someone on social media think about how to talk to them. You should always try to interact on a personal level and have that personal touch. 

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

I have continued to drift away from the technical aspects of the jobs and move more towards high-level strategic thought. The further you go in your career the more the role becomes about business planning, people management, and strategic vision.  

Is there anything that the next generation should know? 

The business is going to constantly evolve. The way we do it today won’t be the way we do it in the future. New technologies will be used, there will be new methods of communication, and new types of construction. Because of that you need to be open minded and willing to learn new things. The attitude of “this is how we’ve always done it” is going to hold some companies back, while those lead by people willing to try new things, to embrace change, will excel. 

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

This is a winding road. There is no formula. It’s about how you develop through that journey, which takes time. 

Be proactive. Look for your next project, solve a problem before it causes issues or delays – anticipate what you will need both from an individual point of view and as a business leader. When you look at what future roles you want to have you can figure out what skills you will need. Take a course, find a coach, observe and listen to all the decision makers around you. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. You have to take action to get where you want to be.