Follow us throughout our 12 part series as we sit down with the top Architects and General Contractors in NYC. This month we met with Joe Chiarelli of T.G Nickel & Associates.
Joe Chiarelli, Director of Operations for T.G. Nickel leads the establishment and oversight of all jobsite protocols, while also overseeing all project logistics, safety and scheduling activities. Since joining the company in 2000, Joe has played an integral role in transforming T.G. Nickel & Associates, a company that Adler Windows has been fortunate enough to call a business alliance for many years. We sat down with Joe to pick his brain about the New York City construction industry and how graduating with a degree in Architectural Technology led him to where he is today.
Adler Windows: What made you decide to enter the construction industry after spending four years studying Architectural Technology in New York Institute of Technology?
Joseph Chiarelli: There was a time when I was younger that I wanted to become an architect, however, while studying for my architectural degree I realized that my sights were no longer set on Architecture. I found that I was more drawn to the tangibility of the construction industry.
AW: Describe briefly your career journey so far?
JC: During College I began an internship with Turner Construction and continued working with them after graduation. After college I moved to Boston to work full time with Turner Construction in their Boston office – I stayed there for a year and then I moved back to NYC. In 2000 I left to help establish T.G. Nickel with my two partners, Thomas Nickel and Douglas Renna.
AW: T.G Nickel has won a number of awards – is there any particular award which the company has won that stands out to you above the rest?
JC: We were recognized as one of the Top Contractors by ENR. This was a major achievement for the company as we never set out to achieve something like this, so the fact we were chosen was a bit humbling.
AW: Tell me about when you joined T.G Nickel?
JC: A project that I worked on while with Turner Construction introduced me to my partners Tom and Doug. We all just clicked when we worked together and formed a bond that would last us a career. We continued to stay in contact even after we completed the project, we went on to grow our own company together and nearly 20 years later here we are.
AW: What is a “typical” day at work like for you?
My days are combined of a mix of site visits, client meetings, and contract document reviews to ensure that budgeting, scheduling and information is all being tracked correctly. Every day is different and brings new surprises which is an aspect that I really love about my job.
AW: What would you consider to be your biggest professional achievement to date?
JC: We started T.G Nickel with no real expectations, acquired some amazing people along the way and because of every single one of them we have grown into one of the largest and most reputable construction companies in NYC.
AW: You played an integral role in transforming T.G Nickel from a small LI firm into the hugely successful company that it is today. What is your secret?
JC: Staying close to and being attentive to our clients’ needs has always served us well. Day to day, many problems and issues arise, but proactively attending to them in lieu of waiting for someone else to do something makes all the difference. So many people are looking for that leader, and we take pride in being the team’s leader.
AW: What is one project that stands out in your mind as being one of your favorites/most memorable?
JC: Without a doubt, the project my partners and I worked on together where we dealt with adversity every day, but worked together to get things done, showing us all we could do anything together.
AW: Have you had any particular watershed moments in your career to date?
JC: The decision to join my partners in setting up TG Nickel as it required taking a leap of faith after being a very loyal employee to my prior company for a number of years. I genuinely thought I would be with that company until I retired so it was a very intimidating decision. The fear of the unknown was not only affecting me but my family too at the time.
AW: Tell me about being the founding member of Friends of NYIT School of Architecture and Design?
JC: It began with a group of around 7 or 8 former alumni who wanted to give back to the College, both professionally and financially. We started it 8 or so years ago, offering mentoring to students and scholarships to take part in trips that would further their education. What I have personally enjoyed the most is being able to give the career guidance that I believe students today really need.
AW: What are the unique challenges that you face working as Director of Operations for a thriving Construction company in New York City?
JC: Managing risk, be it the safety of the workers or the public, or the risk of schedule delay and time, which of course costs money.
AW: Has there been any major influences in your career? A mentor perhaps?
JC: My dad. When I was younger I would go with him in his dump truck to numerous sites and I would tell him just how much I wanted to be like him. He would sit there and tell me ‘no, you’re smart, you have a brain so use it, not your hands like me’ and that is what encouraged me to pursue a degree in architecture. However his hard work ethic has stuck by me throughout my career. My father would also tell me not to worry about thanking him for anything he gave me, he told me that by giving back and doing better for my family would be enough thanks for him, and that is what I have tried to do.
AW: What do you believe to have been the biggest attribute to your success?
JC: Following things through to completion, once I put my mind to it I follow everything through to completion. I am like that in all aspects of life.
AW: What advice would you give to someone who is currently trying to make it in the industry?
JC: Do what you’re passionate about and you will do well, do everything with integrity, surround yourself with great people but remember to be good to them and they will be good to you.