Joe Portaro An Inside Man
Joe Portaro likes to look at the world from the inside out. Finding his niche in the interiors industry, Joe now works as an account manager at Dynamic Resources International, a global retail services company specializing in site survey and installation of store fixtures, graphics, retail interiors and visual initiatives. The Manhattan-based company handles more than 8,500 worldwide projects for clients in retail, wholesale brands, fixture manufacturers, and graphic suppliers.
Thanks to a college grant from the Construction Advancement Institute of Westchester & Mid-Hudson Region, Inc., which helped him with $3,000 for college tuition to Manhattan College in 2011, Joe is on a career track that, in a few years with the right experience, he hopes will lead to Project Management Professional certification as a senior project manager.
Currently, Joe is involved in a number of client interactions, handling shopping renovation bids for Sandro & Maje in Vancouver and back of house stock caging assessments for the company throughout Canada; various Estee Lauder brand maintenance requests at department stores; Coach Visual Tea Rose window rollouts (DRI manages changing out the company’s front window displays around the U.S. a few times a year); MAC campaigns for graphic swaps across the country for new product launches; and various survey reviews for Clinique, MAC and Origins shop relocations.
“My undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in 2013 was in civil engineering, but junior and senior year I began taking construction management courses. I realized I enjoyed interacting more with people than being on the strict structural side of the field. The scholarship money helped lessen the burden of schooling expenses, books, and some other study-related needs.”
His career path took off right out of school when Joe was offered an assistant project management position at a general contracting firm. His first job in the industry was as a college intern with a concrete contractor at the World Trade Center, Tower 4, where he worked closely alongside the survey team back in the summer of 2011. He was employed by Anthony Rodrigues of Rogers & Sons, a member company of the Building Contractors Association.
His most challenging project was a new construction site at the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, a superfund site for all the waste in the water—the area had been used as a dumping ground for years. Joe recalled the water levels fluctuated, so fencing the property completely was a challenge, with lots of toxic remains in the soil.
At one point taking a hiatus from the industry, Joe became a real estate agent, but his true calling came knocking again and he returned, becoming involved with a 30-story hotel project at 11 East 31st Street. It was a project he saw from beginning to end—and it cemented his return to the building and construction sectors of the industry.
“The role I’m in currently is a blend of some technical construction background mixed with client service for interior projects,” the Hudson Valley resident explained. “It’s a great union of the two for me.”
The job also entails project management for the site survey, installation, and maintenance of store fixtures, graphic elements, boutique vendor shops, and retail interiors. The majority of the project work is executed in the early morning hours before opening or late night when the stores are closed.
Joe doesn’t slow down off the job either. His favorite pursuits include CrossFit classes before work, skiing in the Catskills, Adirondacks, and Vermont since childhood, and he plays in an intramural volleyball league called Gotham.
Now 26, Joe considers the most important aspects of his work are team building, learning to adapt, and collaboration.
“I look forward to meeting lots of new people in the interiors industry,” Joe noted. “There are countless operations aspects behind the scenes. Any large-scale project cannot be done alone and having the right resources will make all the difference. It’s also our duty to our clients. We make happen and build what their visual teams imagine. Everything we produce shapes the market for retailers and the brand presence and familiarity for consumers.”
The Construction Advancement Institute Scholarship Program awards financial support to science, math, architectural or engineering students who are residents of Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, Orange, Rockland counties and New York City and are related to members of contractor contributors to the Industry Advancement Program of the BCA of Westchester & the Mid-Hudson Region, Inc., and unions participating in that Industry Advancement Program.