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Director of Operations, Design & Construction

  • Industry: Facilities Management
  • Location: Maryland - Baltimore
  • Client: Higher Education
  • Search ID: 19-0511-16

Helbling has been retained by Johns Hopkins University, a long-term client, to conduct an executive search to secure a Director of Operations, Design & Construction. 

Position Introduction & Summary

Johns Hopkins University is facing an unprecedented period of significant and transformational development. In order to create the appropriate focus on a number of large, signature projects, the Senior Director, Design & Construction will be assigned to lead this special program, necessitating the creation of a new Director position to manage the large number of ongoing projects of various size and scope. This new Director of Operations, Design & Construction position will provide leadership and management of a significant portion of the Design & Construction unit of Johns Hopkins Facilities & Real Estate division, including a professional staff of three assistant directors, 13 project managers, and additional support staff. The Director will need to have the necessary technical expertise to play a key role in delivering a large and complex capital program, but more importantly they should be a leader of people, and champion for excellence around team collaboration, communication, systems, processes, procedures, and customer service. The leader should be able to respect and learn from the past accomplishments of the team and department while also not being hesitant to present new ideas that can improve overall efficiency, effectiveness, and positive outcomes.  
The Director of Operations will report to the Vice President, Johns Hopkins Facilities and Real Estate, and will also provide direct support to the Senior Director, Design & Construction in order to provide critical contractual, financial, schedule, and similar support services. Given the newness of the Director position and Design & Construction departmental structure, the new Director must make a proactive effort to establish and nurture departmental, team, and stakeholder relationships built on open communication and trust – up, down, and laterally across the organization. 
The Director is responsible for receiving, assigning, and monitoring project requests, as well as the management of the design, construction, and occupancy for a significant portion of new construction, renovation, and capital renewal projects on the historic JHU Homewood campus, Mount Washington campus, JH at Eastern, JH at Keswick, Washington DC campus, Montgomery County Campus, Bayview campus, and for all university schools and divisions except the Bloomberg School of Public Health, School of Medicine, and Applied Physics Lab.  For tenant fit-out services, the Director will provide services to the entire Johns Hopkins enterprise that, in addition to the above, includes the Bloomberg School of Public Health, School of Medicine, Applied Physics Lab, and Johns Hopkins Health System (Bayview, Community Physicians, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Howard County General, etc.).

The Director collaborates with a broad constituency of Johns Hopkins Deans, Department Chairs, Trustees, Faculty, Researchers, Senior Administrators, and Directors as well as outside architects, engineers, and constructors to ensure that project management processes support the completion of projects on time and within budget. The Director monitors project development to ensure effective fiscal controls and reporting are in place, and incorporates appropriate risk management practices related to renovation and construction projects.

Essential Job Functions

  • Responsible for building a high quality, service-oriented, professional design and construction team with an engaged staff performing at their highest level in a workplace environment where they feel empowered, respected, trusted, and valued.
  • Provides superior customer service to internal and external Design and Construction customers by understanding the programmatic needs of customers and translating them into completed projects in a timely manner.
  • Guides the modernization of the project delivery system to ensure accuracy, thoroughness, and consistency.
  • Establishes and ensures adherence to policies, procedures, and design and construction project management standards.
  • Promotes sustainable practices in the project delivery process.
  • Directs and participates in the analysis and definition of project budgets and plans, both long- and short-term. Monitors project development to ensure budget compliance.
  • Directs and participates in the development of project schedules and monitors progress to ensure timely completion of projects.
  • Represents the University to external constituencies, including architects, engineers, constructors, and regulatory agencies among others, on a variety of issues related to project development.
  • Provides oversight of the construction, fit-out, occupancy, and warranty phases of projects.
  • Develops an inclusive planning and review approach with internal operations, maintenance, management, and service peers to deliver projects that are appropriate for their function, easy to maintain, durable, energy efficient, integrated with existing systems, and aligned with the strategic mission.
  • Works cohesively with all units of Facilities & Real Estate to support the overall mission of the organization. Fosters collaborative relationships. 
  • Evaluates staff workload and assigns projects as dictated by project based demands.

Scope of Responsibility

  • Provides strategic leadership in planning and guiding the transition of Design & Construction within the Facilities & Real Estate department while managing the accompanying structural changes.
  • Develops high value service ethics such that internal clients rely on Design & Construction for professional advice, guidance, and project leadership.
  • Works with senior Design & Construction staff to develop project management procedures. Lends expertise on matters related to design and construction issues.
  • Develops excellent vendor relations based on reasonable expectations, consistency in project execution, fairness, prompt payment, and enjoyable working relationships.

Decision Making

  • Develops and promotes economic inclusion opportunities in the project delivery process.
  • Develops and reviews RFPs to ensure fair and accurate vendor proposals.
  • Develops and reviews vendor contracts to ensure scope of work is accurately defined and consistent with institutional business practice.
  • Provides final approval of vendor contracts.
  • Negotiates and executes contracts consistent with the Trustees Delegation of Authority. Provides oversight and guidance relative to vendor changes in scope and resolution of contract disputes.


  • Decision making authority for all assigned projects, including program design and construction scope, schedule, and budget.
  • With the assistance of Human Resources, directs personnel issues including, but not limited to, hiring, firing, mentoring, coaching, goal-setting, disciplining, and conducting performance reviews.
  • With the assistance of Human Resources, develops functional area leadership by identifying skills gaps, ensuring the availability of appropriate training, providing coaching and guidance, empowering employees to enhance their performance potential, and conducting or overseeing the annual performance appraisal process.
  • Develops and directs Design & Construction support staff to provide administrative and financial support of the project management process, including procurement, contracting, analysis, and reporting.


  • Exchanges routine and non-routine information to staff, vendors, and internal and external clients using tact and persuasion as appropriate requiring good oral and written communication skills.
  • Communicates with Hopkins constituents so they are informed of project planning and progress.
  • Clearly communicates performance expectations and job responsibilities to staff.
  • Possesses the ability to advocate a position and negotiate or compromise as necessary.
  • Builds staff camaraderie and alliances, and develops high-performance teams.
  • Uses verbal and written communication to establish a culture of collaboration, consensus based problem-solving, and positive diplomacy.

Our Client

The Johns Hopkins University is one of the world’s leading research universities. Based in Baltimore, Maryland, the University comprises 10 academic and research divisions and numerous centers, institutes, and affiliated entities throughout the Baltimore-Washington area and abroad. Divisions of the University include: the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the G.W.C. Whiting School of Engineering, and the School of Education on the Homewood campus; the School of Medicine, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the School of Nursing located nearby in East Baltimore; the Peabody Institute and the Carey Business School in downtown Baltimore; the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. with campuses in Bologna, Italy and Nanjing, China; and the Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.  Johns Hopkins has a total enrollment of more than 25,000 students and an endowment of more than $4B. The University attracts the finest undergraduate, graduate, and professional students and receives more federal research and development funding than any other university in the United States. 

The mission of the University is to educate its students and cultivate their capacity for life-long learning, to foster independent and original research, and to bring the benefits of discovery to the world. Johns Hopkin’s planning, design, and construction initiatives are closely tied to both the mission of the university as well as President Daniels’ vision for the university as expressed in his Ten by Twenty goals. Johns Hopkins is extraordinarily entrepreneurial and excellence-driven, and this entrepreneurial spirit generates the innovation for which Johns Hopkins is known internationally—innovation that often happens through collaborations that harness complementary strengths to find solutions to the greatest societal, philosophical, and scientific challenges. 

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  • Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management, Architecture, Engineering, or other design-related discipline preferred.
  • Additional graduate level education may substitute for some experience.


  • Ten (10) to fifteen (15) years related experience with a proven track record of providing excellent customer service to internal and external clientele.
  • Five (5) years of progressively responsible management experience with both projects and professional staff.

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Proven leader, manager, and mentor with demonstrated successful change management skills.
  • Collaborative, inclusive, consensus-building management style.
  • Superior written and oral communication skills, including the ability to present complex material in a useful and understandable fashion to diverse audiences.
  • Builds and sustains positive and collaborative working relationships with a wide range of constituents.
  • Strategic thinker with proven planning skills.
  • Committed to the mission of the University, customer service, and best practices in design and construction delivery.
  • Extensive customer service skills.
  • Ability to create an environment encouraging collaboration, consensus-based problem solving, and positive diplomacy.

Search Consultant: Wendy Zang

This description is a general statement of required major duties and responsibilities performed on a regular and continuous basis. It does not exclude other duties as assigned.

Johns Hopkins University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer.

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