Opportunity knocking may have put John Cahill in the right place at the right time, but his professional advancements and successes have been the result of a strong work ethic, an in-depth knowledge of building infrastructure, and the ability to communicate well with colleagues, consultants, and suppliers. With approximately 10 years of experience working in heating, refrigeration, and air-conditioning, Cahill brought his expertise to the Federal Reserve in 1974, starting as a lead engineer in the operation of the physical plant; moving to assistant plant manager in 1985; and advancing to plant manager in 1992.
While the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System guides the nation's monetary policy, Cahill, with assistance from his adept staff, guides all facets of the Board's physical plant and facilities. That includes the Mechanical section craft shops (electrical, carpentry, elevator, audio/visual, controls, painting, maintenance, refrigeration, watch engineer, and the building service office staff). "I'm responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing the performance of the personnel in the Mechanical section, and work in conjunction with the division management to develop goals and objectives, both immediate and long range. Gathering and submitting budget requirements for the section includes projecting utility costs, facility enhancements, equipment replacement, and system renovation," he explains. "Additionally, I coordinate the work with outside contractors and supervisors from other organizations and divisions and am responsible for the submission of specifications and statements of work for major contractual job requirements."
This is no small task - and it's a continual learning process.
"When I first started out in the trade as a building maintenance person, you had to know your equipment and you worked with your tools," recalls Cahill. "Operations and equipment have become more technically advanced. I have had to learn different systems and operations pertaining to the way buildings are designed and operated. Every day, something comes along to make our jobs easier - but we still need the technicians to perform manual tasks."
In offering advice to his peers, Cahill suggests, "Do the best job you can, complete the job within the allotted timeframe; be courteous, punctual. And, barring all unforeseen complications, complete all projects within budget."
A true people person, Cahill enjoys working with his staff and within a "first-class organization like the Federal Reserve, which is one of the most employee-oriented places I've every seen." The downside includes rush projects, last-minute changes, and problematic situations that, even with a strong plan, seem to take forever. Cahill's credo, however, remains constant. "I try to do my job, and I do the best I can," he notes.
Obviously, this belief works. Just last year, Cahill was one of a select few receiving special honors as an outstanding employee of the Federal Reserve - an even more significant accolade when one considers the organization prides itself on hiring the best.Up Close and Personal
John, what resources do you value most?
Employees who are always willing to assist where needed to accomplish an objective. Employees who work hard and can still have fun and a sense of humor. Employees who are dedicated to doing the best they can always.
After-hours, what are some of your personal preferences?
I enjoy working around the house doing carpenter work and gardening. [For hobbies,] I always look forward to hunting and fishing. [My hidden talent?] Tinkering with things that are broken.
Do you have favorites in books and movies?
Favorite books [focus on] Civil War and World War II; [for movies,] action films.
What do you consider your most important tool?
At work, it has to be the computer. At home, the lawnmower and my chipper/mulcher.
If you weren't in this profession, what alternative occupation would you
What is your least favorite buzzword?
Impact and transparent.
What is your personal motto?
When asked to do something, do it the best you can and move on to the next job.
Who are two people you'd like to meet?
The Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. J. L. Jones, and Ms. Madeleine Albright.
The Marine Corps is one of the smaller services - about 170,000, compared to 350,000 to 475,000 each in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. They are a tough and disciplined group. I think [the Commandant] has to be a proven leader of men, dedicated to his profession, very observant, and selected for the post because of his past performance. I like that.
Ms. Madeleine Albright impressed me when she was the Secretary of State. I liked some of the things she did and some of the decisions she made, and how she worked with the President. Most of the dignitaries she had to work with were of the other gender. I believe she did what I thought was an excellent job in a difficult situation.
Linda K. Monroe ([email protected]) is editorial director at Buildings magazine.