ARCADIS OF NEW YORK, INC.
Senior Project and Contract Manager
Barbara Chomicka is a creative thinker and problem solver: a registered architect and certified project, contact and commercial manager, she has been combining the design and management disciplines for over 20 years, optimizing the delivery of projects and programmes. She has received two doctorate degrees from British universities and has produced a body of published work endorsed by the leading global professional associations. She is a recognized thought leader in the areas of complex projects delivery, social value and ethics in contracting, recognized with fellowships for significant contribution to project, contract and commercial management professions.
Her professional, academic and voluntary work has been recognized with APM Herbert Walton Award, Women in Construction Project Manager of the Year Award and Communitas Making the Difference Award. Her approach to life exemplifies her belief that everything we face is a project – a collaborative enterprise requiring the right methods to resolve it. In her thought-provoking writing and presentations, she promotes a 360-degree duty of care inside and outside of work.
What is your professional background and how did you become involved in the world of commerce and contracting?
My vision for my professional career stems from my very early career as a volleyball player. At a mere 5’10’, I was at a disadvantage to the top European players who averaged 6’2’’ in height. What I achieved though, was a vast collection of fair play awards. This strong notion of fair play which accompanied me in sport, in the world of commerce and contracting context, translates to an atmosphere characterized by openness, co-operation, trust, honesty, commitment, and mutual understanding among team members. Considering this parallel between sport and contracting, I developed my professional brand as a trusted adviser around these values.
Following a change in vocation from being a professional volleyball player to becoming a contract and commercial adept, the progress of my professional career has been remarkable, from my first job as an architectural assistant in a very small architectural office located above a soap shop in central London, to becoming an elected Board Director of IACCM.
In addition, in the 15 years I have lived in the UK, I have progressed from learning basic English grammar to achieving a considerable body of published work in the UK, the United States and Australia and two doctorate degrees from British universities. I have developed from having to watch English films with Polish subtitles to speaking and joining panels at IACCM, Association for Project Management (APM) and International Centre for Complex Project Management (ICCPM) conferences and CFO forums.
Covid-19 has illustrated the critical importance of helping women to realize their professional aspirations - what role have you played or are you currently playing within your organization to support women in their roles?
Pre-Covid-19, as a mentor, advisor and line manager, I have always attracted women who were looking for support to do things better and to compete for best jobs and projects. My support revolved around generating ideas, provision of insights and outsights, facilitation of their efforts – all highly abstract, hands-off, expert knowledge ‘stuff’.
The Covid-19 pandemic, and lockdown in particular, has altered the form of empowerment women are looking for. They also seem to look for a more ‘authentic’ person and it is interesting to see how this ‘authenticity’ is now being judged. Certain behaviors, driven by gender-based biases, which persisted in the pre-Covid-19 world, are now being contested.
In a post-Covid-19 world, as a mentor and work colleague, I still attract driven women who want to succeed in provision of complex professional services in construction. They are less interested in my abstract knowledge though – they want to discuss how they changed the leaking tap first. They want to know what type of wet saw I used to cut the tiles for my kitchen floor. And while at start I thought it was perhaps a little hilarious when my colleagues started sending me images of their various diy enterprises such as toilet replacement for comment and guidance, I realized that if you are a woman working in construction, administer contracts of value exceeding $1 billion, certify compliance and final completion of bridges, skyscrapers and laboratories, and you never held a spanner in your hand, you feel you are missing out.
This sudden realization is not about scarcity of plumbers or builders in lockdown but women looking at ways to challenge and stretch themselves. They are seeing that there is a plethora of potential experiences and achievements in our industry they never considered because of gender-based bias. They are considering it now, and find empowerment, plenty of joy and pride in the outcomes they achieve. And since I installed several wall-hung toilet bowls, I am seen to be an ‘inspirational’ mentor; the right person to discuss various certifications offered by IACCM, after a discussion on various in-wall toilet flushing systems, of course.