Chitani Ndisale, AIA, NOMA, LEED AP, is project manager with Flad Architects in Madison, WI. Lab Manager recently spoke with Chitani about his career, experience, and personal interests.
Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?
A: My initial interest in architecture stemmed from my interest in art and other creative pursuits. I always enjoyed drawing and making things with my hands from a young age. Just before starting high school, I convinced myself that architecture was the most functional form of art and was set on pursuing a career in this field.
I majored in architecture at Iowa State University College of Design. I was a competitive student at ISU, but as an international student, I did not have the right network and struggled to find internship opportunities. Fortunately, I had dedicated professors who provided me some opportunities over the summer. I was also able to land some construction jobs, which has proven valuable now that I engage with our construction partners.
Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?
A: Architecture is highly collaborative. My typical day primarily involves coordination sessions/meetings with disparate groups that are engaged in the process of designing and building facilities. A day can consist of programming meetings with clients, coordination sessions with the A/E and construction teams, or strategy huddles with upper management.
I also have some quiet time where I can focus on the project management tasks that help drive a project forward, i.e., developing project scope proposals for clients and conducting the focused work needed to ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget.
Q: Tell us about a great book, movie, song, or TV show you’ve enjoyed recently.
A: I’m obsessed with the notion of innovation as the primary driver for economic growth and activity, which is why I enjoy practicing within the S&T sector. I’m grateful that my deep core values are in alignment with Flad’s mission statement, “We create environments that enhance human potential.” It’s no surprise that my favorite recent read is Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance. I was given the book as a part of a Christmas gift exchange. What a great gift!
Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job would you like to have instead?
A: This is a tough one. If I had to pick a different line of work, buildings would still be the picture, most likely as a real estate developer.
Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?
A: The biggest challenge has always been associated with personal growth in the industry. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had thus far, but must confess that each incremental step has been associated with some level of pain and some steep learning curves.
Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?
A: There are so many wonderful buildings, some of them designed by Flad Architects. However, if I were to pick one, I would say The California Academy of Sciences by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The building represents an amalgamation of what good architecture can achieve. It builds on the existing historical content while employing forward looking technologies. The function is a museum, but the building itself serves as a lab for cutting edge sustainable design.
Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment?
A: I’m grateful to be working on projects for wonderful clients who are at the forefront of the mission to eradicate cancer. I lost my father to cancer in 2020, so it means the world to me to be able to contribute something to this great mission.
Q: What’s your typical order when you visit a coffee shop?
A: It depends on the day. Americano on the lean days, mocha when I want to spoil myself.
Q: What is one important skill you think that all lab design experts should have?
A: The ability to listen. We work for brilliant clients that are experts in their trade, but also happen to be extremely busy people. You want to be efficient with their time. To achieve that, you have to listen with intent, quickly capture their needs/objectives, and convert them into physical realities.
Q: If you won a multi-million-dollar lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your winnings?
A: I would most likely invest a portion to safeguard my family’s future and donate a portion of it to a worthy cause.
Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?
A: I love to travel, read, and connect with a tight knit group of friends and family.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years in this new position?
A: I look at our clients as strategic partners. My key mission is to grow with them. If my team and I can achieve that, then we have been successful.