Tom Gnecco: Onward + Upward


Tom Gnecco: Onward + Upward

Sep 1, 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 Tom Gnecco, Project Executive in our Residential sector.

We sat down with Tom (over a phone call) to talk about his role at DAVIS, his early beginnings as a neighborhood lawn mower, and more! Keep reading to learn more about Tom.


So you've been at DAVIS for a little while, right?
It'll be 21 years soon, which is amazing. I've been able to see the company grow, as well as the people in it. Being a part of that growth is a really rewarding thing.

You've gotten to see the DC area grow, too.
The region has diversified a lot from just being government-centric. It’s still the underlying economic driver, but there’s been a shift away from that. It’s becoming a lot more culturally diverse, and I think that’s really made it a much more interesting and lively place. Things that you had to go to new York to see or experience, you don’t have to leave for now. DC went through some really hard times, and to see it overcome those times is great. Working for a construction company, you get to play a part in that development.

When did you know you wanted work in construction?
I grew up in Vienna, and there was always a lot of construction in Tysons Corner. I used to see that and think about being a part of something like that, so I went into civil engineering and then immediately into building.

So, is it everything you hoped for? 
I really enjoy it. Our business is great because it's like a peek into other companies' processes. We become so close with the owners and partners on projects because we're basically living with them for a couple of years. We all evolve together--developers, architects, everyone. Then, we take the lessons from that job onto the other. 

What does it take to make those partnerships successful?
You've got to have your heart in it, and you need to understand your team and know what's important to them. For instance, there are certain components of the building that architects hold sacred, and you have to make those things happen while achieving your scheduling and budget goals. They're give-and-take relationships, but that's why they're invaluable. I've been around long enough to know that at some point, after that project, you're going to cross paths with those partners again. I joke with my wife that we're all characters who get written back onto each other's show. 

Is there any project you found especially memorable?
My favorite projects are the ones that many people get to enjoy. We built the Washington Canal Park about 8 years ago, and it was really challenging, but when I drive by and look at a project like that and see the people in it and the neighborhood that's grown around it, I get a really good feeling. You see the results come together. 

The Residential sector has been crushing it lately, hitting milestones even in the middle of 2020. How have you reached that success?
It hasn't been easy. We've all had to adopt new practices. The toughest thing has been finding the balance. you need to keep your focus on the end vision, but at the same time, you can’t compromise the safety of the workforce. I’ve also told my teams time and time again, it’s important to be aware of what others are going through right now. You can’t just be thinking about your own problems—that supplier you’re calling might be having a tougher time working from home with a bunch of small children running around, or something similar. We’re all going through it, and the most important thing to me is just staying connected and being in contact with the team. Communicating that end goal is easier when you have your finger on the pulse.


If you weren't in construction, what would you be doing?
I think I'd be a teacher. I'm a big history buff, but I could make math class a lot of fun. Working with kids is great--I found coaching youth soccer really rewarding.

Do you have any role models? 
I'll tell you, my fitness role model worked at DAVIS and just recently retired: Ridge Kelly. When I first started, I was a little out of shape. I remember looking at him and thinking "He’s old enough to be my dad, and he’s in better shape than me. Am I going to be like him when I’m his age or am I going to go the other direction?" 

Did you have any childhood jobs in Vienna?
In junior high and high school, I had a whole list of clients whose yards I mowed in my neighborhood in Vienna. That was kind of my first bite of something entrepreneurial—it was all word-of-mouth. I had an electric weed trimmer that I strapped to my bicycle to bring along, too.

Are you keeping yourself busy with any hobbies these days?
I try to do anything I can do get some exercise in with my wife and dog. My wife and I go to Chincoteague and surf every now and then, and my dog and I will go running in Rock Creek Park and hike together.

You've been a big supporter of Jubilee Housing.
Absolutely. There are a lot of families who have been really impacted this year, and their mission is really important in our region. There are a lot of people--service workers,  who really make the wheels go around in this economy, and affordable housing is incredibly important for them. The fact that DAVIS has that experience is really great, and I love seeing those tangible results.

One last question - what does Onward + Upward mean to you?
Continuously improving ourselves and our game, and doing it in a way that brings everybody along. We’re elevating our game with subcontractors, architects, and even our owners—which makes the industry a better place.