Jonathan Fiato, senior director of commercial for the New York Metro Region, was named to New York Real Estate Journal’s “Ones to Watch.” Recognized as a top leader in the region, read Fiato’s Q&A below and in New York Real Estate Journal for insights into current work, his approach to leadership, how he contributes to the local NYC community, and his construction career journey.
What recent project, transaction or accomplishment are you most proud of? We’re currently working on a 150,000-square-foot nonprofit food rescue facility in New York City, which consists of industrial distribution, high-end offices, and event spaces. It’s a great project with a great purpose—serving those experiencing food insecurity across the city. During the pandemic, this organization experienced its highest demand to date, and our team has remained laser focused on delivering this project to allow the facility to meet current and future demands. I'm proud that our team is building such an integral part of the New York City community.
How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles? It’s incredibly important to have an empathetic view of what teams are going through—both professionally and personally. The pandemic has demonstrated this more than ever—to effectively support my team members, I need to understand where they’re coming from. In the same vein, they know that I would never ask them to do something I wouldn’t do myself. This shared appreciation of each other’s perspective is key.
Problem identification is vital to helping everyone grow. I sit down with teams to figure out what is creating the challenge and remind everyone of our common goal—excellent client service and the best final product. By having a conversation, everyone has a hand in the solution, setting the project, team, and each individual up for success.
Who was/is your mentor and how did s/he influence/help you in your career? While I was an undergraduate, Professor Tom Zimmie had a profound influence on my early career that extended well past graduation. He showed me that architecture, engineering (and their associated calculations) are lines and numbers on paper, yet you must never forget that there is art that goes into design, and you need to tell the story. Professor Zimmie had a great ability to tie the left and right brain together!
How do you contribute to your community or your profession? As a father of two young boys, I've been lucky enough to coach their soccer and baseball leagues over the last four years. The games are exciting and a lot of fun, while also instilling a sense of teamwork and building comradery. In a similar vein, we spend every Thanksgiving morning volunteering with various outreach groups, delivering holiday meals to New Yorkers in need.
Through Shawmut, I’m an active member of Summer Search New York City. I get to share my passion for construction with high school students as they explore different career paths, providing them with support and guidance.
What did you want to be when you grew up? At the age of nine I helped my father design and remodel our kitchen. I drew up shop drawings, took measurements, and helped him build the kitchen. This spurred my interest and helped form my career decision—I was lucky to know at an early age that I wanted to be in construction.
What led you to your current profession? Following my kitchen remodeling career, I went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for my degree in structural engineering, and then graduated from Columbia University with a master’s in construction management. Construction energizes me—looking back on a project and seeing the tangible results of a beautiful space that wasn’t there before.
Top three things on your bucket list.
1. Learn how to scuba dive.
2. Hike Machu Picchu.
3. Continue to lead and grow Shawmut’s New York City office and commercial division, creating as many opportunities for our team as possible.
Favorite quote. My wife, Kate, and I were out to dinner with our sons when they were both toddlers. They were melting down and an older gentleman at the table next to us leaned across and said, "The days are long, but the years are short." I've since looked up the quote, and it's attributed to Gretchen Rubin. It really puts it all into perspective.