FME Senior Project Managers: A Juggling Act of Multiple Projects

By Peggy Pearl, Contributing Writer
Group of men viewing plans.

The Facilities Maintenance and Engineering senior project managers (from left): Craig Robillard, Bruce Fernalld, Joe Hall, and Bart Christy, with Talal Khalil (far right), manager.

By Peggy Pearl, Contributing Writer

It was not until the 1950s that organizations in the United States began to apply project management tools and techniques to complex construction and engineering projects (

Today, construction projects at NCI at Frederick are managed by Senior Project Managers (PMs) Bart Christy, Joe Hall, Bruce Fernalld, and Craig Robillard, in the Facilities Maintenance and Engineering (FME) Directorate. They are supervised by FME Project Operations Manager Talal Khalil.

A Day in the Life: Keeping “Many Tasks in Motion”

A typical day for a senior PM can be pretty tricky business, according to Robillard. The senior PMs could be working on an average of 15 different projects in various stages of design and construction, according to Hall. Christy and Hall both said that managing these projects is like a juggling act—and you don’t want to drop any of the balls. “There are many tasks in motion at the same time that must be brought to a successful conclusion,” Christy said.

The senior PMs are responsible for communicating with the project team, controlling and maintaining project scope, and coordinating the technical criteria necessary to successfully complete facility construction projects within budget and on schedule. The FME senior PM team works strictly on construction projects for FNLCR. The team works closely with the FNLCR customer, outside contractors, engineers, designers, construction administrators, estimators, schedulers, cost analysts, shop personnel, construction contract personnel, and administrative staff on each project.  These construction projects could cost anywhere from five thousand to millions of dollars, according to Fernalld.

Senior Project Managers Reflect on Favorite Projects

Christy, a 19-year veteran of the senior PM group, said that transforming the Building 549 cafeteria into the Discovery Café was one of his favorite projects.  He enjoys working on highly detailed architectural projects of significance. “There is no greater satisfaction than providing an aesthetically pleasing project that continues to be enjoyed by all,” Christy said, adding that the café is one of the most visible projects that he has completed for the facility.

Hall, having worked in FME for over three years, said his favorite project so far was installing the new emergency generators in Building 539. While managing the project, Hall learned that the generators were different from others he had installed because they could operate with two different types of fuel: natural gas and diesel. “The Building 539 generator provides emergency power to one of the largest animal facilities on campus,” Hall said.

Robillard noted that he is more of a “people person” type of PM. He prefers to work on projects where he can have a lot of interface with the requester(s). “An effective PM must master the art of managing expectations, behaviors, attitudes, and personalities, in addition to understanding and anticipating project metrics,” Robillard said.

Khalil, recently promoted to manager of FME Project Operations, was the senior PM for the Advanced Technology Research Facility (ATRF). He said one of his greatest accomplishments was completing a preplanned project of this level of complexity on time and on budget, with “an excellent and highly responsive project team.”  The project/building size and the number of programs housed in the building, including research laboratories, the data center, and the conference center, were the reasons this project was more complex than others, according to Khalil. “The ATRF is the largest design/construction project ever undertaken by FNLCR,” he said.

The FME senior PMs said they are proud to be part of a team of FME design and construction professionals dedicated to successfully completing projects that ultimately support the mission of NCI at Frederick.