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The Future of Home Building and Residential Construction

Image Credit
Gina Bertolini, CFO, Nicholas & Associates. | Photo: courtesy Taylor Johnson, Nicholas & Associates

In honor of Women in Construction Week, Utopia conducted a Q&A with several women in the construction industry. From property and project managers, to engineers and CFOs, these women have climbed the ranks and made a name for themselves in their respective companies.

Gina Bertolini, CFO for Nicholas & Associates, is one such woman.

Here's her story on industry passion, pains, and shifting perspectives for women in construction.

Q+A With Gina Bertolini

Could you tell us a bit about your market, company, and what you do?

Based in Mount Prospect, Ill., Nicholas & Associates provides comprehensive construction management, general contracting, and design/build services. I’m the chief financial officer for the company as well as its subsidiaries, including Wingspan Development Group, a national development firm active in multifamily and mixed-use properties; Architectural Door Solutions; Nicholas Sportsplex; and Big Fish Hospitality. Our family of companies has a national reach, with a current focus on suburban Chicago and suburban Milwaukee as well as Tampa.

What sparked your interest in the construction industry?

Nicholas & Associates is my family’s business. My father, Nick Papanicholas Sr., founded the company in 1978, and I’ve grown up with the firm. My first job was stuffing paychecks into envelopes at age 7! Over the years, working alongside first my father, and now my brothers, I’ve been responsible for our firms’ financial health while touching every aspect of the business, from construction and marketing to recruitment and design.

What do you love most about your job?

First, I love the variety of my work—no two days are the same. Second, the people are amazing. We have an incredible team and pride ourselves on building strong relationships within the company and the communities in which we work. Third, our reputation and legacy are very dear to my heart. Nicholas & Associates is well known for its high-quality work and outstanding customer service. I’m so proud to be the second generation shaping the future of this firm.

Do you face any challenges at work because of your gender?

While I don’t discount the barriers, my family has always viewed me as an equal partner. I am happy that more women are following this path. Although construction continues to be male-dominated, women have made, and are making, tremendous strides. We have earned our seat at the table.

What has been the biggest barrier you've faced in your field? How did you overcome it?

Truthfully, the biggest barrier is one created by our success. Nicholas & Associates and its related companies have grown exponentially during the past few years, making work-life balance more challenging with my four young children. I’m lucky enough to have worked with my father and now my brothers, who treat me as an equal business partner through-and-through, but also who are very much about spending quality time to raise our respective families.

What has been your greatest career accomplishment so far?

The Mount Prospect Ice Arena, part of the Nicholas Sportsplex, in Mount Prospect, stands out. In just six months, we converted a 70,000-square-foot credit card processing center into a twin sheet ice facility that is one of the nicest in Illinois and has become a community hub in Mount Prospect.

It wasn’t easy to get the financing, design, construction, and operational aspects up and running in that time frame, but we did it. It also was one of the last projects my father worked on before he passed away, so it holds a special place in our hearts. The development has since grown to a 100,000-square-foot three-sheet facility with other sports facilities, a pro shop, and a restaurant and tavern.

Do you have any advice for other women in the industry regarding navigating gender bias?

It’s the advice I give to everyone in the business: Listen, learn, follow through, and treat everyone with respect.