Executive Spotlight: Jeromy Richardson, CEO of EDM
PITTSFIELD — Jeromy Richardson didn't take the traditional route to his position as CEO of EDM, an engineering, architectural and design firm based in Pittsfield.
Richardson holds a college degree in engineering — a two-year associate degree. He used 12 years of industry experience to make up for the academic work that he missed, and he relied on personal perseverance to pass the two tests he was required to take to become a licensed professional.
But, maybe his rise to CEO, a position he has held for a year, isn't so surprising. A chaotic childhood — "I witnessed five divorces and a parent doing jail time" — caused Richardson to bet on himself at an early age. The North Adams native, now 41, has lived on his own since he was 17.
We met with Richardson recently to talk about his interest in engineering; his path to his current position; EDM's major role in helping to turn Cranwell Resort, Spa & Golf Club in Lenox into Miraval Berkshires; and his vision for the company's future.
Q: In your bio on EDM's website, its states that you became interested in engineering through a high school internship that you did in 1996. How did that come about?
A: It was an internship at North Adams City Hall. At McCann Tech, in the ninth grade, I got into the CAD (Computer Aided Drafting) program. You can start interning in your junior year if your grades are good. I worked for the city's engineering program for two years part time. ... I helped create the city's GIS (Geographic Information System) database.
Q: What happened next?
A: I decided I wanted to go to school for engineering. Berkshire Community College was close. It was inexpensive. I didn't have [any money]. It took me three years to get my associate's degree, which was a little longer than I expected.
I couldn't afford to go on and get my bachelor's. So, I said, "You know what?' I'll try and find a local, small engineering firm to work with." I went to Scalise Design in 2000 and stayed there until 2013. But, midway through, I started saying to myself, "How can I grow?" So, I decided to become a licensed building inspector.
Q: How does your career path differ from other engineering CEOs?
A: It was a very unique approach. ... I never thought I could do it, because I didn't have a bachelor's degree. But, the more I learned about the program, I learned you could become licensed as an engineer in the field with 12 years of experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree. The problem is, in order to do it, you have to pass two exams.
Q: How did you do that without the extra schooling?
A: The EIT [Engineer in Training] exam is based on everything you learn when you take a bachelor's degree. Of course, I didn't have one. So, I sat home and trained myself on how to pass it. I had tutorials and books, all kinds of stuff. ... I did fail it the first time, but, I passed it the second time. ... As soon as I did that, I sat for the PE [Professional Engineer] exam right after, and I got it. I only became licensed in 2014.
Q: What was it like when [EDM founder/president] Ron [Griffin] named you CEO last January?
A: It was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I'd never held a position like this before. I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be where I am today. Not that it wasn't within my capabilities, but, I never thought I'd get there. Ron has been like a father to me. He's been like my mentor. He believed in me.
Q: Tell me about EDM's contract with Miraval to renovate Cranwell Resort.
A: It's a $110 million contract. EDM has never done anything like that before. It came to me based on my relationships with attorneys and other engineering firms. ... We're doing all the engineering and all the construction oversight.
It's a lot of work. When [Miraval] first came to us, they were using a New York City-based architectural firm and an engineering firm from Texas. They fired them both and gave us everything.
Q: What will the property look like when the project is completed in the spring?
A: It's Canyon Ranch (and alcoholic beverages will be served). It's mindfulness, well-being, a resort. The biggest difference between Canyon Ranch and this place is that [Cranwell] offers alcohol. ... The total number of new buildings, either brand new or under renovation, is 26.
Q: EDM recently opened a new office in Troy N.Y., and added 10 employees. Where do you want to take the company?
A: First off, I know the company is no longer a mom and pop [operation]. We've grown significantly. It doesn't run the way it used to run. I've hired an outside consultant to help us develop a true strategic plan. Come February, that strategic plan is going to be in place for where the company should go based on what we've been doing. ... I can't say to you that we're not going to be a 200-person firm with offices all over the country. But, I'm also not going to say we're going to sit here stagnant and do nothing, either.
This story has been clarified to reflect that Jeromy Richardson had one parent in jail.
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