Those suits in the corner office–what do they do anyway? Well, they manage employees, set budgets and goals and plan for growth. Oh, and some math.
Gina Foringer is an executive vice president for Versar, a publicly held, departement of defense contracting company in environmental, construction management, engineering and emergency response. She heads up the Professional Services Group (PSG), a division that provides professional services for government, private and non-profit entities throughout the world.
I also feel obligated to tell you that Gina doesn’t have a corner office.
Can you explain what you do for a living? My division is responsible for marketing our environmental contracting expertise, which means I spend a lot of time estimating the costs of projects. Then I help my team manage the projects we already have.
When do you use basic math in your job? Always! Part of my work involves writing proposals for work that is estimated in hours. I use estimation, then drill down to the details by adding varying fees to an hourly rate. At the end, I have to “reality check” the bottom line.
Do you use any technology (like calculators or computers) to help with this math? While on the phone with customers, I use mental math to approximate percents for labor. That gives me a ballpark figure. When I do the estimate, I use Microsoft Excel with linked tabs rolling into a master spreadsheet. It’s fun!
How do you think math helps you do your job better? If I didn’t know the basics of percentages and applying them, I’d be lost. I’ve done it so much, I do it in my off-time, too. If someone tells me an annual number (salary, car insurance premium or groceries), I have to stop myself from generating an hourly rate in my mind that has nothing to do with the conversation. Crazy, I know.
How comfortable with math do you feel? I feel comfortable with it now. I still have to check myself because the rates we use change. Basically, I calibrate my math skills every fiscal year.
What kind of math did you take in high school? I didn’t take much in high school, maybe basic trigonometry. I had low self esteem in high school. I think math actually made me feel better. It’s how I think, and was probably the beginning of discovering my self. I ended up getting a degree in math, and when I got my MBA, I was surprised by how much calculus I got to use.
Did you have to learn new skills in order to do this math? I developed the process. The hardest part for me is guiding others between estimating, calculating, then coming back to estimating for cost quotes. Oftentimes, the calculation comes in too high or low, and we have to change things that don’t make sense. The numbers are not right or wrong, but have to come to an intuitive place where we know it’s just right for that particular situation.
Do you have a question for Gina? Ask it in the comments section. (I can tell you that she has some really interesting ways to figure out percents!)