September 5, 2019
SPW General Superintendent Pete Catalano has a goal: to leave something behind. Getting his start as a carpenter almost four decades ago, he has always focused on doing great work. And over the past nine years he has put this focus to work at DPR, an organization that empowers him to be a more confident communicator and contributor. He has been instrumental in bringing DPR’s New Jersey office online and helping to forge a strong SPW crew in the Northeast. For Pete, it’s not just about building structures, it’s about crafting a great team to strengthen DPR.
Q: What is your role at DPR and describe the path you took to get there?
Catalano: I’m an SPW superintendent for DPR in the Northeast—mainly in New Jersey, but sometimes in Boston and Virginia if they need me. I started out 35 years ago with a union company that self-performed carpentry. I’ve run my own business and worked for a large drywall company. Then, I decided I wanted to be a superintendent who ran the entire job, and DPR put me in that position. I never dreamed the opportunity would turn out the way it did.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to build/type of project to work on?
Catalano: I like when we get into buildings that are already occupied. We go through special measures to get things done and to work with the occupants, and we’re extra careful with how we conduct ourselves. But what I like the best is building from the ground up—starting out with nothing, seeing something come up out of the ground, and leaving something behind.
Q: What do you love about construction/your job?
Catalano: The people and the challenges. We work with people we’ve worked with before, and also a lot of people we’ve never worked with. But we’re all working toward a common goal, and we align ourselves to get to that goal. With DPR, I’ve had the opportunity to work with people in different parts of the country, which was really cool. That’s what I like the most, figuring out who plays where to get the work done.
Q: What are you most proud of/what is your proudest moment at DPR?
Catalano: Bringing an office to New Jersey so everybody here could have a home base. I think that was a huge step for us in New Jersey. I ran that job as superintendent, and my team did all the carpentry work. That’s probably what has made me most proud. Everyone has a home to go to every day. It’s great to be in on the ground floor of SPW here, building the group up from nothing. That’s really my passion here. I want to get the SPW group running strong for DPR so that when I ride off into the sunset, I know that I left something behind.
Q: How have you grown since you started here?
Catalano: DPR has allowed me to learn how to communicate better because of the position I’m in. I’m in the trenches every day, yet I can go into the office and sit down with our business unit leader to figure things out. As a person, I’ve grown a lot. It’s not about the project size, but about understanding how the business works from top to bottom. I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in that way. One of the other superintendents told me, “When we first met, you were only about doing your job. Now you’re coming up with ideas about how to do things better.” When you start a job, you’re just focused on doing the job. As you get more confident, you can contribute more. Because DPR is confident in my abilities, I feel empowered to contribute to the success of the company.
Q: To be successful in your role, what skills does a person need?
Catalano: You absolutely must be skilled at your trade, to hone your skills and learn from the more experienced people. Our level of skill tells our customers they are getting quality work on a building. You also have to be a good problem solver. Our jobs are always a little different, so we have to think on our feet and anticipate problems before they happen. Awareness and skill are very important.
Q: What would your advice be for the next generation of builders entering this field?
Catalano: First, to learn everything you can about the trade you’re in. Second, to learn as much as you can about the other trades. No matter what your role, you need to get actual boots-on-the-ground, field experience. That’s where you really learn this industry, by getting out in the field and asking a bunch of questions. Experienced people in the field are always willing to help those just getting their start.