Naomi Kroth, Bachmann Construction

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Naomi Kroth, project manager and vice president of marketing, Bachmann Construction.

1. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

Rewarding — I love being a project manager at Bachmann Construction. I’m a Type A person, so the process of studying a building project, making a plan, and then working the plan is extremely engaging to me. I like checking off the to-do list. But unlike my previous work as a project manager at Epic, where I was working with the installation of software for large health care organizations, being a construction project manager I literally get to see my projects come out of the ground. When we built the software at Epic, we logged on and clicked our mouse around to open different activities, and it felt successful when it worked the way we wanted. But it’s just more viscerally satisfying to watch steel being erected, the roof going on, the walls being built, and getting to walk inside the construction project once it’s done. It’s also so satisfying to drive by years later knowing I helped create that place where people now live and work. For example, Bachmann built all of the benches in Library Mall, and if you’ve seen them they are a real feat of geometry. The concrete portions of the benches are both angled and curved, and if you know anything about concrete you’ll know angled and curved is not its natural resting state. I was assigned the task of figuring out what shape the foam inserts that would go into the concrete forms needed to be in order to create theses bench profiles. I had to call on trigonometry skills I hadn’t used in over a decade. But they turned out great, and now every time I’m down on State Street I tell everyone I’m with that I did the math that created those benches.

Challenging — There are no take backs in construction. When working on a software installation at Epic, when someone misses something or someone changes his or her mind, you have to invest man-hours to update or fix it. The issue is how long will it take to change something and how much will those man-hours cost. And every few months, new software updates come out to improve the system, and keep it modern. But with construction, once work is underway, having the owner change the scope of a project or make a different decision is not so simple. It is much more imperative to get all of the details correct up front and think about how this building will function, not just for the next year, but for the next 10 or more years. You’ve got to get it right the first time.

2. Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I really look up to my father-in-law, Ed Kroth. He is a master electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and also teaches electrical codeology for apprentices. Ed will do the job right, do the job safe, and he will be straight-arrow honest with you whether or not that’s what you want to hear. In the short term this hasn’t always made him a lot of friends. But you never have to worry about the quality of anything Ed has worked on. I’ve been to several IBEW events with Ed and we can’t walk 10 feet through the crowd without someone stopping him to say, “Thank you.” Former students, colleagues, tool-partners, you name it. Ed will bend over backwards for you once you’ve asked for help, and will defend what is right all the way to the end. He’s a reminder to me that in the long run, to be respected and have a successful career you can look back at with pride is far more important. Live and work by your principles and always be honest, rather than worry about what answer will make people happy.

3. What has been the high point of your career so far?

This last summer I attended an open house at Colony Brands’ Studio 26 (a state-of-the-art photography studio) and Design Center in Monroe. These were two multimillion-dollar construction projects that I managed for Bachmann Construction. It was really gratifying to walk through the facilities now that they are fully in use and seeing that we created a quality place for all of those folks to work. Our team did a great job and I know that I played a very big role in that success.

4. Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Get an engineering degree! I graduated from UW–Madison with a degree in mathematics, which is nothing to sniff at. But looking back, I wish I had been given a little more guidance and really asked the question of what I wanted out of my education. I use the logic and problem solving skills I got from my degree every single day, but with an engineering degree I would have had more applicable and detailed knowledge. But then again, maybe I wouldn’t be in the job I am now if I’d been an engineer.

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5. What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

I’ve lived in Madison all of my life and really love our community’s commitment to our neighbors. Working in a small business, I see all of the administrative hoops that companies like ours have to go through, and the costs that it implies, and that can make working here challenging. But I really believe all of that comes from Dane County’s desire to do right by all of its citizens. And we citizens are engaged members of our communities. We care about how everyone is doing and when we see a problem, we try to address it. Sometimes it doesn’t always work and we’ve got a ways to go, but we care and participate and I think that makes Madison a great place to live, work, and raise my two kids. That and the lakes!

6. Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I think upon first meeting me people might be surprised that I have a very artistic side. I’m a knitter and I crochet. At home I have several ceramic dishes, cups, and wall-art pieces I created and glazed. I have many pairs of earrings and necklaces that I wear regularly, which I made. I have no one artistic medium that I’m an expert with, but I dabble in quite a few.

7. What are your guilty pleasures?

I’m a fantasy and sci-fi nerd. I love escaping into fantastic worlds of magic, aliens, and space travel. Recently my husband and I were at a friend’s dinner party when my friend Ben stopped us to say, “You know, I think this is about the fourth time we’ve argued over which Star Trek series is the best.” In case you’re wondering, it’s Deep Space Nine.

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