As Willmeng’s director of client and pre-construction services, Keyvan Ghahreman works to further develop and deliver client service strategies as the company and it’s project work expands. With 20 years of experience in several aspects of Arizona’s construction industry, Keyvan offers a very thorough understanding of the business and a unique blend of skills from pursuit to execution. Learn more about him in this month’s executive team Q&A:
How did you get started in your construction career?
My undergraduate degree is in theater arts, and shortly after I graduated from Occidental College, I was hired as the technical director for Occidental’s performing arts facilities. I was basically running a scene shop, which entailed planning, estimating, scheduling and building scenery for theatrical productions. At a fairly young age, I realized I had hit somewhat of a ceiling in the technical world of theater, and I knew I wanted more opportunities for career growth. I figured I could use some of the skills I learned in theater on a larger scale in building construction. I decided to apply for graduate programs in construction management, and I landed at the Del E. Webb School of Construction at Arizona State University. While obtaining my masters, I started a field engineering internship in 1997, and I have worked in many different capacities in construction ever since.
What advice do you have for the next generation of construction workers?
There has been a tremendous amount of attention on efficiency and multi-tasking in the business world. Dealing with tough issues in business requires care, focus and clear purpose. As a leader, you must allocate the time to place aside daily distractions, and by doing so, you gain real understanding and insight to come up with workable solutions.
What are you known for?
People who work with me and know me would describe me as level-headed, easy-going and having a disposition that fits in just about any situation.
What is your favorite leadership quote?
I watched an interview with Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks a few years ago. When asked about his humility as a person and as a player, he said, “If you don’t stay humble in baseball, you’re about to be.” I think that attitude applies well to leaders and life in general.
What is your best advice for succeeding, but also having fun in the workplace?
Approach your work with purpose, but don’t take yourself too seriously.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
Earlier in my career I went through a period of working crazy long hours on a high-profile project that was going to a guaranteed maximum price right as the recession was starting. I had a one-year-old daughter and I was devoting far more time to my professional life than my personal life. My wife and I had a heart-to-heart about life priorities. That conversation helped me change my entire approach to balancing work and family, for which I’m eternally grateful.
What is your leadership philosophy?
The best leaders are those who are able and willing to get in the “trenches” with those they are leading. My leadership philosophy is focused on leading by example and servant-leadership.
Growing up, what did you aspire to be?
I didn’t aspire to be a specific thing, but I knew I wanted to provide the type of life for my family that my parents were able to provide for my brother and me.
What is the best compliment you have ever received?
I have been called a gentleman, and that’s not a word used to describe people very often these days. It’s how I would describe my dad, and I’m glad that trait has rubbed off on me.
What are you favorite things to do outside of work?
I love just about any outdoor activity, but hiking, biking, skiing and camping definitely float to the top. My family and I are also big fans of Disney, so we can be found at Disneyland several times a year.