Meet Rich Cavallaro - overseeing U.S. infrastructure construction

1/19/2015 11:00 AM CET

Rich Cavallaro has been with Skanska for 21 years and active in the business for 34 years. After serving for three years as a member of Skanska’s Senior Executive Team responsible for overseeing global operations, he has chosen to return to his role as President and CEO of Skanska USA Civil.

Meet Rich Cavallaro, who has been involved in some of Skanska’s most important projects.

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, it’s up to you, New York, New York.” If Frank Sinatra was right, the future is all bright for Rich Cavallaro. A New Yorker by birth and by education, he has contributed to some of the most important structures and infrastructure in the city that never sleeps.

Rich has been with Skanska for 21 years – most of that entire time with Skanska USA Civil, and for six years as that unit’s President. He can pride himself on such landmark projects as JFK airport’s AirTrain, Oculus at the World Trade Center, as well as the rehabilitation of such great bridges as the Manhattan and the Brooklyn. And when New Yorkers turn the taps or flip the switches, the unit has built several of the plants that deliver power and water.

More than three decades of experience

After earning his engineering degree from City College of New York City in 1986, he started his career working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and later with a New York construction company. All in all, it amounts to 32 years in the business 

In the U.S., Skanska is growing at a good pace. And among those who follow Skanska, there are great expectations for continued growth in the U.S. market: What is required to succeed?
“The main challenge, I would say, is to maximize our potential. We have an amazing tool box with our strong presence in building and civil construction, as well as our extensive platforms for commercial property development and public-private partnerships (infrastructure development), coupled with our financial strength. With these, we have a great opportunity to deliver even better client solutions than we do today. The challenge is to completely work together.”

Learning at megaprojects

“We must continue recruiting and developing the right people to secure the next generation of great leaders. I think young people should consider how much they can learn from working at Skanska, with such a variety of megaprojects in different geographies.” 

Values bring value

In your view, what is Skanska’s competitive advantage? How do we benefit from Skanska’s global strengths? 
“In addition to our size, proven business practices and ability to manage very complex projects on time and on budget, we have our core values: Care for Life, Act Ethically and Transparently, Be Better Together and Commit to Customers. These values drive us to deliver projects in the right way. 

What is your vision of Skanska in, say, ten years? 
“Firstly, we are more profitable. Secondly, we work much better together as One Skanska and we have developed new products and solutions that you won’t find on the market today. We cover the East Coast, West Coast and the Gulf Coast areas within both building and civil construction, as well as commercial development and PPP projects. I also foresee that we have established ourselves strongly in the power and industrial sectors.” 

You have been with Skanska for 21 years. What made you stay? 
“I left the previous construction firm I worked for because I wanted to be part of a bigger, not family-owned, business, and I wanted to be engaged in the most amazing projects on the planet. Moreover, Skanska has always treated me fairly and made me feel appreciated.”

The art of team building

How do you become a leader among leaders? What were the defining moments in your personal development? 
“It was not a specific moment, but with the bigger projects I was involved in I realized the importance of teams. Firstly because such operations are not one-man shows and secondly because people want to be part of a team. Thirdly, every team needs people with different skill sets, people with complementing skills to be able to successfully deliver projects. If we all look and think the same, we cannot expect to come up with the innovative solutions that will take us to the next level!”   

Today, we are seeing a major shift towards a more diverse business. What is your take on diversity and inclusion and fostering an inclusive culture? 
“Diversity without inclusion is meaningless, and we are committed to becoming as diverse as the societies we operate in at all levels. Everybody should be heard and that should be an expectation from top management. Everybody’s view counts, and we are looking for diversity of thought, that’s what’s important. That will result in an altogether more innovative approach.” 

How do you spend your life outside work? 
“We have six kids in my family, so of course I spend most of the time with them. We are foodies, so we go out and eat or sometimes go to the theatre. As we live on Long Island, we love boating. And every other year, we visit relatives in Italy or they come over here.”

You have five brothers and you recently donated a kidney to one of your older brothers…
“Yes, he had a tough time and his kidneys were failing. With a living and related donor, the chances of a successful transplant are much higher, so it was natural for me. I am glad he is feeling okay now.”

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