Meet the Leaders: Cannon Renewal Project
As leaders for the Cannon Renewal Project, Construction Project Executive Robert "Skip" Vaughn and Program Executive Susan Wong are dedicated to managing the operation of the 10-year, five-phased project. Together they lead a diverse team of professionals through the planning, design and construction necessary to complete such a monumental undertaking. By fostering a culture of collaboration and partnership with the construction contractor Clark Christman Joint Venture, construction manager MBP-AECOM Joint Venture and design team Shalom Baranes Associates, they continue to set the project on a path for success.
Tholos sat down with Architect of the Capitol leaders Vaughn and Wong to discuss the Cannon Renewal Project and what leadership means to them.
Why is the Cannon Renewal Project so important?
Vaughn: The Cannon Building has an important place in history and very unique architecture that gives a sense of awe when you walk into spaces like the Cannon Rotunda and Caucus Room. We want to ensure the building functions for the next 100 years for the use and pleasure of generations to come. The work we are doing will ensure that happens.
Wong: This is the rare opportunity to complete a project of this magnitude the right way. We are utilizing the latest technology to enhance a historic building with more modern features, while at the same time preserving the building's historic fabric.
How did you get your start in the engineering profession?
Vaughn: I attended the Coast Guard Academy for four years, earning my degree in civil engineering. I then spent 10 years with the Coast Guard working as a Construction Manager and Facility Manager.
Wong: I went to the University of Maryland and earned a degree in civil engineering. My first job out of college was as a Junior Engineer Trainee on the Pentagon Renovation Project with the Army Corps of Engineers.
In your opinion, what are three attributes that make a great leader?
- Manage expectations: When communicating with any level of people you deal with, always manage their expectations so you minimize surprises. This builds trust and confidence.
- Be proactive vs. reactive: This mitigates problems and shows leadership.
- Be fair and reasonable: In everything that you do and every decision that you make, apply this principle so that even if itis a difficult situation, you gain credibility in the long run.
- Transparency: Be open, honest and inclusive with your team. Let them tell you hard truths that may be hard to hear, but can cause problems down the road. This will give you time to solve the issue.
- Mentorship: By delegating tasks and giving your team members opportunities to shine, you create a stronger team.
- Empowerment: As a leader, you provide guidance and vision. When you treat your team with professional respect, they will gain the confidence necessary to grow and learn.
What have you learned about leadership during your career?
Vaughn: On every project I've ever worked on, I've always been constantly learning. My goal going into any project is to improve my base of knowledge in every aspect possible. And by modeling this for my team, I hope to inspire them to do the same. Leadership is not always telling someone what to do — you have to model the behaviors you'd like to see others replicate.
Wong: I have developed my own leadership style from watching my own bosses over the years and learning from them. They supported my career and taught me trust, respect and loyalty in the workplace. I'm a strong leader because of their guidance — and now I want to do that for others.