Zack Secilmis is the Managing Director of New York-based Michilli Inc. He talks to The Industry Leaders about how he went from working in the field to teaching at NYU and working on multi-million dollar homes in New York City.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I started in the construction industry right after graduating from high school, beginning with a job working in the field. At that time, I worked during the day and went to school at night to get my degree. After a few years, I enrolled in the Construction Management program at NYU, where I currently teach. I also moved from working on the job site to working in the office as an Estimator and Project Manager. My experiences in the field and my education, have given me the skill set I needed to advance.
Since that time, I have acted in various capacities in the industry: Business Owner, Consultant, Adjunct Instructor and through my contacts and relationships, it led to my current position as a Managing Director.
What kind of work does your role involve?
My current role revolves around the luxury construction market, mainly in the Residential sector. I am asked to develop the Pre-Construction aspect of multi-million dollar homes, specifically the estimate, schedule, permitting, material-sourcing, financing, and other aspects.
What gets you excited about your industry?
What gets me excited about my industry is the changing dynamic and the people I have the privilege of working with and the clients I work for.
My client base is mainly owners of luxury homes, who ask for a custom home be built for them. Every home is different, and many of them are featured in magazine publications as well as other media outlets.
I also enjoy teaching at university level as an adjunct. Instructing students about building the right way, what paths to take, and what to look for when developing and executing a construction project also excites me.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Throughout my career, I have had many people who I have seen as a mentor. The advice and guidance that I have been given is not really something that can be summed up in a simple statement, but a sense of building properly, learning from your mistakes and not repeating them.
Something that has resonated with me is to not let failure or mistakes discourage me, but to learn from them.
What, or who inspires you?
Aside from my family members and former mentors, the public figure that inspires me is Elon Musk. His story of being bullied as a child, teaching himself how to code at an early age, repeatedly overcoming adversity throughout his career, and using his current status for others' betterment with electric vehicles, exploration, and other means, is incredible.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in the industry?
I keep up with my industry in various ways, for instance, I read a lot, and my day starts with reading news and social media platforms such as LinkedIn. I also subscribe to several industry magazines such as Architectural Digest. This gives me the "Big Picture". I also regularly speak to my peers and associates to gain insight into current market trends.
What was the most challenging project or assignment you've worked on?
One of the most challenging projects I have worked on is a multi-million dollar, townhouse in New York City. The townhouse was approximately 30,000 square feet in size. We had to excavate for an Olympic size swimming pool, extend the rear facade, provide new structural steel, and provide a luxury level of finishes within a very short period. The design, manpower requirements, and scheduling were all very challenging.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
The first thing I would do is to try and find the rightful owner. I am a big believer in Karma and doing the right thing. If that avenue failed and I was proven to be the rightful legal owner of the ticket, I would first address my family's immediate needs and then try to use the earnings towards helping others.
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I read and exercise a lot. I have found that reading helps me clear my mind and gives me a different focus and viewpoint on issues that I face.
I also exercise and compete in various non-professional athletic competitions such as New York Road Runners races, Spartan Races and Tough Mudder. Having a competitive race to train for helps me to continue an exercise and conditioning regimen.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I would want greater connectivity between industry leaders. The current market is designed for competition between contractors.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
How should people connect with you?
You can connect with me via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zack-secilmis-535922b9/
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