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A conversation with our Intern, Gene Mongan: His View from the Construction Site

December 2023

Northstar is committed to mentoring and nurturing the next generation of talent with a passion for pursuing careers in project management. As part of our internship/co-op program, we collaborate with institutions such as Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and CREST (Commercial Real Estate Success Training) to identify exceptional candidates.

We had the pleasure of introducing Gene Mongan to our team for the past six months. Gene joined us from Northeastern University, where he recently graduated with a degree in Architecture with a minor in Business Administration. Gene began his graduate degree studies in Architecture this fall. We took the opportunity to sit down with Gene to gain insights into his experience as a part of our Northstar team throughout his internship.

Tell us a little about your background

I am originally from London but have been living in Upstate New York for most of my life. I am currently studying for my Master of Architecture at Northeastern University and will be graduating in Spring 2024.

I was interested in working at Northstar because I wanted to expand my interest and knowledge of the business side of the design process. I also wanted to branch out from the architect role and learn more about how a project is realistically funded and organized through project management.

This is also my third co-op, and as part of the Northeastern Co-op Program, I was interested in drawing comparisons and discovering the benefits that the role of project manager has over architects or designers. Additionally, I was eager to experience the variety of projects and industries that Northstar works with and to have the opportunity to make connections and learn more about key professionals who contribute to the success of these projects.

How would you describe your internship experience at Northstar to others?

My experience at Northstar was packed with involvement in several diverse projects from well-known clients, such as Sanofi, Takeda Pharmaceutical, and BioMed Realty. I was much more involved with the hands-on, on-site tasks and responsibilities compared to previous co-ops. I also greatly enjoyed the variety of tasks and challenges that I was given, such as developing site reports, performing inventory counts, and managing coordination between the owner, architect, and contractor. Out of all of my responsibilities, performing site walkthroughs was my favorite. Not only was I able to meet a variety of people in the design, construction, and management of the projects I was involved in, but I also got the exciting opportunity to see, in person, several instances of interior and exterior building progress.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned with your internship at Northstar?

Never be afraid to ask questions! When working in an ever-evolving profession like project management and with a diverse range of projects and consultants, there will always be problems or circumstances where a second voice can help. By collaborating with knowledgeable people on-site and at the Northstar office, I received information and answers to subjects and challenges that, as an architecture student, I was not originally familiar with. Additionally, asking questions allowed me to tie information to past co-op experiences and provided me with a clearer and more detailed understanding of the design and construction process.

What was the most rewarding thing about working with the Northstar team?

The most rewarding thing for me while working with the Northstar team was having exposure to a wide range of projects throughout various stages of the design and construction processes. Everyone I spoke to at Northstar was very knowledgeable on these subjects and possessed backgrounds from various professions such as architecture, engineering, and business administration that further facilitated my learning. I also had the chance to visit projects I was not initially assigned to and learned more about what others were working on and how their experiences and lessons could be applied to what I was doing in other projects.

What new skills and knowledge did you gain through your Northstar internship?

Working with Northstar’s project managers and coordinators for the Takeda Pharmaceutical, Sanofi, and BioMed Realty projects, I developed a much better understanding of project tasks and responsibilities and gained many new skills. With Takeda, I learned how to perform punch list checks and inventory counts and how to properly manage cost books, which consisted of organizing invoices, writing accruals, and attending monthly reconciliations.

For Sanofi, I was able to deepen my knowledge of the complexities surrounding construction scheduling and participated in design revision meetings with the architects and owners. The BioMed Realty projects also provided me with the skills needed to develop and market proposals and charters for building redevelopments. They gave me a better understanding of all the key players, especially from the weekly OAC meetings.

Lastly, Northstar taught me how to effectively use digital means of sharing information and data, from collaborative sites such as SharePoint to project management tools such as Procore.

What career path are you looking to get into and why?

Based on what I enjoyed from my past co-op experiences and what I worked on throughout my time at Northstar, I see project management as the career path I am looking to get into. While I am still interested in the design of a project, I believe project management still provides me exposure to this while also allowing me to work with and gain experience in a wide range of professions and real estate sectors. Additionally, this career allows for more involvement in the project in general. Working with different professionals throughout varying types of projects gives more opportunities to express opinions and ideas and provides a more interesting and active variation to everyday tasks and responsibilities.

How would you describe the Northstar culture?

Very collaborative and inclusive! Even when people were working on different projects from mine, I always felt like I knew what was happening and what major company developments were occurring. This was largely due to our business development meetings held every other week, which provided me with information on real estate statistics and current trends in the industry. I could also stay in the loop by talking with others and discussing what they were working on and why they were so interested and invested.

Everyone at Northstar was friendly and easy to talk to, which made me comfortable asking questions about topics I was unfamiliar with. Lastly, the Northstar culture is very involved, participative, and just plain fun. The working environment is one full with easy-going conversations and chances to connect with others through shared interests, humor, and past experiences in design and construction.

Outside of work, I took advantage of the many opportunities that further contributed to my professional and experiential learning and connected me more with my coworkers, from NAOIP Developing Leaders meetings and additional site visits to summer sailing and the Northstar Holiday Party. Through these opportunities, I really felt like part of the team!

A few photos from Gene’s intern experience with BioMed Realty’s Assembly Innovation Park and Sanofi.