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Case Study

“Hey, I built that!” Ken Weinberg’s Groundbreaking Journey

Kevin Wein Headshot

Monument-Building: the Career that Almost Got Away

It’s a scene straight out of every high school-themed movie ever made. A talented but bored student is stuck in a stifling office with a guidance counselor (would somebody please open a window in here?), preparing to suffer through yet another mind-numbing speech about the importance of applying oneself, seizing the future, yada, yada, yada. But suddenly the counselor says something that veers off the usual script, the lights come up, and it feels like someone just opened a window. Cue the student: “I can do what?”

Today, that student is Ken Weinberg, The NRP Group’s Vice President of Business Operations. So, was it his destiny to spend his life in the built environment, part of NRP and its award-winning multifamily business? Yes, sort of—let’s just say at some point he had an epiphany. We sat down with Weinberg for the scoop on how he got here, and why just “checking the box” is no way to spend a career.

Where did you first get the inkling that construction was out there somewhere? And that your name was on it?

I was the traditional high school student that didn't like school but really liked working with my hands and building. I was fortunate enough to have a guidance counselor who said, "Hey, there's this new college program called Construction Management, where you can learn about the business side of construction and still be building things." Once I got to college, I discovered that when you’re doing what you love, you go from being a C student to an A student pretty quickly. I dove into Bowling Green State University’s Construction Management program and never looked back.

Did that come as a revelation to you as a young man? Construction as an academic and professional pursuit with a whole educational superstructure devoted to it?

Yes—I didn't really know anything about it back then. When I was in high school, people thought about being a business major or an education major. Today, of course, lots of colleges have construction management programs or construction engineering programs. Construction has become a very professional business at every level; it’s no longer just two people shaking hands and saying,“Let's go build something”. When you’re doing it right, it’s a career you can devote yourself to—a fact that young people need to realize before they get into it.

What surprised you when you first got into construction? What surprised you the most when you first started? What continues to surprise you today?

After all the projects that I've been part of building or managing, what still amazes me is the feeling I get when we finish. It’s incredible to be able to pass by an occupied building that was just a sketch on a piece of paper three years ago. It still amazes me how we actually pulled it off. Everywhere my wife and I drive, I’m pointing out properties and saying, "Hey, I built that!" She’s probably sick of hearing it by now.

Is there something in NRP's mission that particularly speaks to you?

We have a compelling mission and eight shared values, but the most impressive core value to me—and I think most NRP employees would agree—is how much the company focuses on respecting each employee’s unique talents and expertise, and ensuring each has opportunities to grow professionally. We also put a lot of effort into providing a great working environment, so employees feel like they’re team members or family members. That really surprised me when I came here—it’s one thing for a company to talk about that when they’re interviewing folks; it's another to live it, and I get to experience that every day.

We use a term at Procore—Groundbreaker—to describe somebody who inspires and innovates and leads from alongside. How might you personally define a Groundbreaker based on your experience in the construction realm, Ken?

A Groundbreaker never accepts the norm. A groundbreaker in construction is always looking to challenge the why and figure out a better way to accomplish something. In construction, there’s lots of people who only know how to work a certain way because “it's always been done that way.” Groundbreakers in construction are the ones who find joy in challenging themselves to find a better way to build the mousetrap. I've always enjoyed challenging the status quo and finding a way to do things more efficiently. I don't want to be handed a manual and told “check this box because it says so on page 2.” I always want to find a better way, and that rarely has anything to do with checking the box.


What project are you most proud of?

I helped conceive, develop and launch Elevate U, our continuing education curriculum. And when I was Vice President of the Midwest Region, we delivered 11 multifamily developments that included a mix of market-rate and affordable communities.

What was your first job in construction?

Project Engineer at Marous Brothers Construction.

What’s one piece of technology, besides your phone, you can’t live without?

Procore software, of course!

If you could do anything other than construction, what would it be?

That’s a tough one because I really do love the construction business. If I had to pick something, maybe I’d try my hand at managing a bar on some sunny Caribbean beach.