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A Day in the Life of a Project Manager

March 7, 2022 | Kyle Spearin

A project manager’s job is to keep everything running smoothly. Let’s learn what it’s like to be a project manager at Sundae.

Behind every flip, there’s a project manager. We’ve all watched those home flipping shows on TV. What quickly becomes clear is that flippers have systems and processes. They often rotate between the same few tile samples for bathrooms, pick similar flooring each time, and go with the same color palette in all their designs. 

Sundae does things different. We take pride in creating unique flips rather than sticking to the cookie cutter mold. Each house has distinct features that our teams try to highlight whenever possible to maintain character and charm. 

Every step of the way, contractors and subcontractors also need to execute their work in a timely manner. In construction, that’s way easier said than done. Project managers play a crucial role in this process and the success of any given project.

Meet Sami Wendee

Focusing on San Diego, Sami works to prepare homes for their final listing. She creates the scope of the entire project when it comes to rehabbing a home in need of a little extra attention. This covers everything from working with contractors to planning the budget to establishing what specific work needs to get done.

Sami is all about, “getting my hands dirty to keep things moving and on time.” That means she’s constantly keeping tabs on the work of others within one of her homes. It also means she’s not afraid to get in there and do what she can herself. 

We asked her a series of questions to get a detailed look inside of her day-to-day. See how Sami’s project manager journey began and much more below.

What does your day-to-day look like?

After the property is purchased, project managers make a plan that will prepare the house for its next sale. Sami works closely with Sundae’s market experts to establish a work list.

From there, each day is bustling with activity as Sami manages all the details that go into completing the projects around the home. She mentioned that “a typical day varies, based on where a specific house is in the pipeline of a rehab.” In other words, no two days are ever the same. However, at some point all these activities hit her to-do list:

  • After closing, Sami begins making calls to bring in all the proper inspectors and finalizes the work that needs to get done.
  • This helps her create a plan and design for the home.
  • She shops for and orders all finishing materials needed for a given project.
  • She then collects bids on the projects, within home, that need attention.
  • After, she locks in contractors and sub-contractors while negotiating prices for work and the timeline for completion.
  • Throughout a home’s rehab, Sami walks the property many times with different professionals. This continuous checking-in ensures the quality of all the work and that everyone is sticking to the timeline.
  • As the team prepares the property for its next listing, Sami may also find herself helping get the place ready for an open house or for its final photo shoot.

Sami has managed upwards of 15 rehabs at a time. Having a clear vision for what needs to be done and when to do it is essential.

What skills do you think a project manager needs to succeed?

Project management involves a variety of tasks and responsibilities. Versatility is key in this role because not all job sites are the same. However, Sami identified these three skills as must-haves for successful project managers.

Communication 

Coordinating between various stakeholders such as contractors, real estate agents, and other parties makes communication crucial to an effective project. Upon entering the field, Sami quickly learned that a cell phone would be her best friend.

Contractors are typically working on a project and might not pick up a call on the spot. A great way to remind them or follow up is through texting. Sami said “I create a written record by texting. Contractors will see that I left them suggestions alongside pictures to show them exactly what I want them to do.” That way, there’s no miscommunication.

Organization

Sami works on many projects at a time, all at different points in the rehab process. To keep everything moving along, you need to be organized. That means “keeping a calendar to know who is going to be doing what. If I have a reminder in my calendar that we have a specific deadline, it’s easy to follow up with contractors.” 

Anticipation

Anyone who has been on a construction site knows that what can go wrong probably will. As a project manager, you need to anticipate issues that could arise and take action before it does. For starters, this means building a timeline with contractors and plotting out the subcontractor rotation as well. Everything in this process has a domino effect, so if one thing doesn’t happen, it changes the rest of the timeline.

In addition to following up, Sami recommends knowing common pain points in the process and knowing the order of operations. For example, “ having a painter come early on would be a huge mistake. We always bring in painters after rough trades like electrical and plumbing because if there’s a pipe leak or an electrical problem, all of the work they did would need to be done again.” With experience, you can anticipate potential issues at each juncture. 

Do you have advice for women aspiring to be project managers?

Sami and many other project managers at Sundae are female. This isn’t the industry standard, though.  You shouldn’t be discouraged if this is something you want. From the very beginning, “my dad was a huge supporter. He constantly reminded me that gender doesn’t matter.”

That initial support was pivotal in Sami’s decision to pursue her dream of becoming a project manager. Being female was certainly not a deterrent whatsoever. Here’s her advice for those contemplating next steps:

    • Be persistent. At times, she didn’t hear back on her job applications. Sami stood out by following up: “I was persistent to get more interviews. I’d reach out personally rather than doing a one-click application. I wanted them to put a name to my credentials. This showed people that I was serious.” 
    • Go hard or go home. It’s clear in speaking with Sami that she is in pursuit of excellence; she said  “put your all into everything you do. The rest will follow.”
    • Find ways to stand out. As a woman in real estate, Sami had a new way of looking at an age-old industry.  That’s not where it stopped, however. She would network and personalize given the opportunity. She also wasn’t afraid to go to a site and get to work. 

By following this advice, you will become a standout candidate for any project management position.

How do you get started as a real estate project manager?

Maybe you’re changing jobs. Perhaps you just got out of school and are looking to build a career as a project manager. Whatever the case may be, Sami offered three quotes as her advice to aspiring project managers:

    • By waiting to take action, it’s delaying your progress. Instead, “just do it! Get started and figure it out as you go.”
    • It’s not where you start, it’s what you learn. Sami started in real estate by working in the office and gradually built experience as opportunities arose. Her advice is to “be OK starting lower and working your way up.”
    • If you want something bad enough, you can do it. With a specific end in mind, “determination will get you there.”

Join our dynamic team 

While Sami didn’t start her career in real estate, she’s happy that’s where she finally landed. In her current role, it’s the creativity that is her favorite part. Although she loves the whole job, and the entire process of readying a home for its next owner, realizing a special vision for each property is very rewarding.

Sundae has job openings in a variety of fields. Learn more!

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