CREW may stand for Commercial Real Estate Women, but membership is open to anyone who supports the CREW Network Mission Statement: We are committed to strengthening and expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our global organization. One of our members, Christopher DiCianna (he/him) of WNA Engineering, has been very vocal about the value of his CREW membership. Meet Chris and learn why he remains a very active member of CREW Pittsburgh.
Why and when did you join CREW Pittsburgh?
I joined CREW almost 10 years ago after having attended several CREW events. Fran Colby was instrumental in bringing me to CREW functions and Jessica Jarosz pulled me in as a member. I was initially hesitant to join. CREW is an organization geared to ‘advance women in commercial real estate’. I didn’t see a place for me but after a few events and meetings I realized that CREW was much more encompassing than its mission statement. I felt welcomed even though I was one of only a few men who regularly attended meetings and events.
What has been the most valuable benefit of your membership?
Friendships, Contacts, Networking and CREW events have all been important. My continued involvement in CREW is because of the friendships I have made with CREW members. The business contacts and networking have become secondary. BUT There have been tangible business benefits! When we started what is the predecessor to WNA Engineering our first and largest projects were a direct result of my CREW contacts. I get and share project leads with CREW members regularly.
CREW is among the best of not the best professional organization that I belong to or am active in. Each month there is one or more events, the events are diverse and enjoyable.
How do you share information you learn with other CREW members and/or your co-workers?
Direct networking and in person contacts. Lunch and coffee meetings remain my favorite way to connect and share information. I think we’re all weary of ‘virtual’ networking and meetings. Social media remains important as well. I try to post on LinkedIn when there is an opportunity to highlight CREW events or industry news concerning WNA Engineering.
What role do you play in the commercial real estate industry?
I’m a professional engineer and have practiced in the industry in Pittsburgh for over 25 years. Working in the commercial building design world brought me into contact with the real estate community. Building MEP systems represent about 35%-40% of the construction cost and value of a property. Often those systems are overlooked in the planning and sale of properties – especially when energy costs were low. MEP systems are now viewed as important in the consideration of building or purchasing a property and the role of the engineer in supporting the commercial real estate industry has increased.
How did you get started in your current position?
My professional background before coming to Pittsburgh had nothing to do with buildings or commercial real estate. I was designing submarine systems for the US Navy. I started in Pittsburgh with a large Architectural firm that had an engineering division. In 2012 I joined a small engineering firm started by two individuals who had also been with the same architectural firm.
In 2015 we merged with another small engineering design firm and formed WNA Engineering. We started with 8 individuals in 2015 and have grown to 50+ people in three offices in the state.
What are your interests and/or hobbies outside of work?
I read a lot. Non-fiction exclusively. Anyone who gets to know me for a short period of time will hear me talk about my interest in collecting antique toy trains. And no, I don’t sit around in a conductor’s hat watching toy trains on a table going around in circles. At least I’ll never admit it.
Where is your favorite place to go out in Pittsburgh?
Tough question. So much to mention. The number of new, small breweries and distilleries is amazing and fun. I’m sure I’ve been to Mad Mex enough in the past 20 years to buy a franchise.
What is the best professional and/or personal advice you have received and/or given?
Two pieces of advice were given to me at the start of my career. The first was to “Be a sponge”. Learn and absorb all you can as fast as you can. You are always learning. The second was an off handed remark by my first boss. I was 24 and he was maybe all of 31 years old He once said: “I hope never to lose my youthful enthusiasm for work”. That always stuck with me, and I still like to think I have a youthful enthusiasm in what I’m doing.
How have you been a mentor to others in CREW?
I hope that I have. I’m less likely to give unsolicited advice but I would repeat my comment about “be a sponge” to anyone – especially younger professionals.
How do you achieve balance between work and home life?
I always thought this to be an overthought question and the answers are equally overthought. Someone once described life as a pie with work, faith, family, and relaxation as slices of the pie. It’s never that clearly defined. It's less clearly defined now with so many people working from home where work/home-life never physically separate.
For me personally, I recognize when I need to pull back from working and enjoy family or leisure.
Tell us something people may find surprising about you.
Then it wouldn’t be a surprise any longer.
Who inspires you and why?
I’m often inspired by peers and colleges in the industry. When you see someone who clearly enjoys what they do and are good at it there is some inspiration there. I see that CREW is a great example of professionals who enjoy what they do, and that enjoyment translates to success not matter how you measure success.
Where have you traveled? Where do you wish to travel?
I’ve been fortunate to travel through most of the USA while working. Far and away my favorite places are Italy and London. Offer me a ticket to anywhere and I’ll likely say ‘Rome’.
Do you have any pets? What kind(s) and what are their name(s)?
No pets to call my own but I am fond of Old English Sheepdogs and each of my kids have a pet that they continually send me pictures of.
What is your favorite quote?
“Make haste slowly” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations