The list of destinations sounds like it came from a travel or food channel show: Toronto, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, India, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil, to name a few.
But these are actually some of the stops of Hope G. Spadora, the new senior associate vice president of Facilities Planning & Management (FP&M). During her high-flying career, she has completed more than 590 real estate, design, and construction projects in over 120 countries. She has managed capital construction budgets ranging from $230 million to $4.6 billion.
Since May 4, Spadora has planted roots at Cal Poly Pomona and is tasked with overseeing FP&M, which manages planning and construction and supports the natural and built environments consisting of over 200 buildings on more than 1,400 acres of campus land.
Spadora brings a large portfolio of experience in facilities, finance, real estate, construction, high tech and life science. She earned a Master of Corporate Real Estate from the Institute of Corporate Real Estate as well as a bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Cruz. She is also a licensed general contractor and a licensed real estate broker in California and six other states.
Aside from her professional work, Spadora is a volunteer for the Humane Society, the Foundation for AIDS Research and Habitat for Humanity. She also is a member of the Human Rights Campaign, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and a 37-year member of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
On the personal side, Spadora has a son who is a pilot and flies a refueling tanker at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington, and she will become a grandmother in November. She has been a die-hard fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers since 1972.
Spadora worked at real estate and construction firms in Northern California for nearly two decades earlier in her career. After spending the last three years at Metrolinx in Toronto, Canada, she finds herself back on the West Coast.
She gives insights about her long career, managerial philosophy and challenges that are on the horizon.
You’ve been most recently working in Canada and the East Coast, but you’ve spent time in California. How does it feel to be back?
“I grew up in New Jersey and moved to California in 1981. I lived in the city of San Francisco for 19 years, mostly in the Financial District. I worked with HOK Architects when the Giants stadium was built. I got to go on the field before it was completed and run around the bases. Work has always been the catalyst. It drives me. Most of my positions have been global positions. I’ve been to Japan 40 times or more. I built a manufacturing plant in Scotland and another manufacturing plant in India. I’ve also been to different parts of Europe. You could say I’ve lived in California, but I really lived a lot of my life in a hotel and on an airplane.”
With all the accomplishments you’ve had in real estate and construction, what attracted you to Cal Poly Pomona?
“There were a couple of factors, but I really loved the polytechnic part of Cal Poly Pomona. My discipline of construction is very hands-on. I would see a building and look at how we could renovate it or I’d look at land and say we could build this. When I thought about Cal Poly Pomona, it’s really about how students are preparing for their future with learn by doing. Cal Poly Pomona really teaches what it preaches. That was really a big part of it. The other big part of it was President Soraya Coley. I love her leadership style and her diversity and inclusion. I spent 1½ hours speaking with her during my interview and that’s what really made me decide that I wanted to be here and work under her leadership.”
What was your first impression of Cal Poly Pomona?
“I felt that there were certain aspects that were out of place. You have buildings that are 40 to 50 years old, then you’ve got a brand-new Student Services Building. In my mind, the first thing I thought of was what can I do to create a look and feel to really make it feel like a campus and pull it all together? The one building I love is the CLA Tower. I think it should be a monument. I’m working to make that happen. That building has such historical significance.”
What is the biggest initial difference between working in the private sector and the California State University system?
“I worked for the Canadian government and that’s not too far off from the CSU. People have asked if I have ever worked in higher education. I don’t look at it that I work for higher education, I work for the government of California. That has been different. And, of course, the budgeting component of that and with 23 campuses how that gets shared.”
What are the highest priorities for you in Facilities Planning & Management, especially with the impact of COVID-19?
“Definitely the Campus Master Plan. People have been working on it for about 10 years and, of course, things have changed here and there. I would love to make the CLA Tower a monument and I would love to build out the areas that really do take care of our student base. I would love to expand the University Library and make Zoom rooms and new computerized labs so it can be open 24/7 for people who don’t have access to laptops or any kind of digital equipment. That’s a high priority for me. I want students to have access and be able to achieve their educational goals.”
What are the biggest challenges facing the department moving forward the rest of this year and beyond in the face of the pandemic?
“In a word, funding. That is the biggest challenge. The second biggest challenge is staff leaving. I think people are deciding if their quality of life and their family are worth more than a paycheck. They’re thinking about whether to take a smaller paycheck and being able to work from home. I have to really look at my team and be mindful about how all this affects their families. We need to think in very smart and very compassionate ways. It’s important that we do that.”
How would you describe your management style?
“I think I’m a very loyal manager and I treat everyone with respect and integrity. That’s really important to me. My team is an extension of my family. Even through Zoom, I know about them. I know what makes them tick, I know what works for some people and what doesn’t, what hours work better for some people and doesn’t for others. It’s because I care. It’s the most important thing you can do as a manager. And also hire people who are smarter than you. If you think you are smarter than the people around you, you’re missing out on potential opportunities, innovations, ideas and collaboration. So I don’t micromanage. I like to have free expression of opportunity and thoughts.”
You’ve been in the real estate and construction for four decades. Why did you choose this path?
“I think the path chose me. My great-grandfather was a Mason and built monasteries in Ireland and the United States. My grandfather also was a Mason. Three of my brothers are in construction and I naturally fell into that. It’s part of our heritage. I remember my grandfather going down to the beach on the Jersey Shore and picking up pebbles. He built a whole porch out of all these little stones. I put myself through college as a financial analyst at a construction company handling the books. I then went to Lam Research, a semiconductor company, and they said we are starting a real estate group and we’d like you to be portfolio manager. I told the vice president that I don’t have a real estate background but I do know construction and design. He said you have all the financial components. You’ve been working with my team for years so you understand what we’re doing. That’s how I originally got into construction.”
Ten years from now, what do you want people to remember most about you?
“That I was a very kind, considerate person with a very high degree of integrity. And that they knew I cared about them. I’ve had teams say to me that we would take a bullet for Hope, but she would jump on a hand grenade for us. I think that says it really well. That’s how my teams have felt about me and how I felt about them. I hope to always live up to that.”