TJ Sterba: Onward + Upward

insight

TJ Sterba: Onward + Upward

Oct 13, 2020

The DAVIS logo was created with the onward + upward ethos in mind. It is both our legacy and our vision for the future. We're interviewing 20 people in '20 to find out what onward + upward means to them (along with some other interesting details you might not pick up on at the jobsite). Keep up with this series to get more insight into the DAVIS team!

Meet TJ Sterba, Director.

We sat down with TJ (over a phone call) to talk about his role at DAVIS in our Government Interiors sector, his travel-hacking tips, and more! Keep reading to learn about him.

LIFE AT DAVIS

So, how'd you find your way to DAVIS?
At my alma mater (Penn State University) I fell in love with Architectural Engineering. When I interviewed with DAVIS, I felt a great connection--and I've been here ever since, for 19 years. 

What is your job like as Director?
A lot of juggling. In Government Interiors, we have three separate parties involved. The buildling owner leases the space from the GSA, and the end users are different agencies. Our goal is to make construction as smooth as possible and be fair and reasonable to everyone.

How do you maintain that balance?
The people you work with are the key. It's important to develop everyone on the project into rockstars, and that saves time while creating new opportunities to make construction even better. And you can't forget - pay attention to the details. Details are extremely important.

What's your biggest strength at work?
Staying calm under pressure. I had to develope that. When I was younger I used to get fired up over the smallest things, but along the way I learned how not to be so stressed out. 

Are there any projects that stand out to you?
It was a really small project, but we got to renovate the Washington Capitals' locker room, which was really neat.

You have a brother, Chris who also works at DAVIS, in our Business Solutions department. What's it like working with family?
That's right, and my sister actually worked at DAVIS before, so at one point there were three Sterbas at DAVIS! Since we're in different departments, Chris and I don't actually interact all that much at work, but it is nice to know that he's there in case I have any issues.

DAVIS is a great company, with great leadership and a family atmosphere, so it made sense. You want to spend your time with the people at DAVIS, and develop relationships with them, because there's that connection there.

THE ART OF TRAVEL HACKING


If you weren't in construction, what would you be doing? 
I love to travel, so definitely something in the travel industry. I love exploring different cultures. 

You have a side project dedicated to "travel-hacking." Can you tell us about that?
Years ago,we had a couple of kids and things were tight. But, we still wanted to travel. I stumbled across some articles about using miles and points to cut costs. We booked a trip to Hawaii in 2004 at a fraction of the cost--and from there I took it to the extreme.

I did a lot of learning about different loyalty programs and promotions that airlines run--and as you can probably guess, signing up for credit card bonuses, since those are obviously the quickest and easiest way to accumulate miles and points. Once you spend enough time gathering your options, it's actually pretty easy.

How many trips do you usually take?
This year is obviously different--we've had to cancel several trips, unfortunately. Usually, we do two big trips a year, and a bunch of weekend trips.

What's your favorite travel spot?
Probably The Maldives. The resort we stayed in is a single island you can walk around in 20 minutes. You're isolated, disconnected from everything, and it's amazing.

When I went to The Maldives in January I actually had a conference call, so I dialed in from an airport lounge in Abu Dhabi. Soon I got a call from our Business Solutions team because they thought I was being hacked--but I let them know everything was okay.

What is some advice you would give for someone who wants to get into travel hacking?
Start slow. Also, signing up for credit card bonuses doesn't ruin your credit--it can actually improve it. Just pay your bills every single month.

Finally - what does Onward + Upward mean to you?
It means doing our best, no matter what your role is at DAVIS--and continuing to improve ourselves. One thing I had to learn is you can't be shy in this business. For DAVIS, we can't be afraid of putting ourselves out there.