Rod Nobrega is a great example of how a business community can combat brain drain. That’s what happens when young people are educated in a community, leave to work elsewhere and then never come back.
Nobrega is a project executive for the Southwest Florida region of Suffolk Construction, a position he’s held since 2016. In that role he’s overseen some of Suffolk’s largest projects for Moorings Park, a high-end senior living community in Naples. That includes supervising a collection of projects totaling more than $250 million, including Moorings Park Clubhouse, Buildings A, G and R, as well as its newest endeavor, the 55-acre Moorings Park at Grande Lake.
Yet Nobrega, an Orlando native who grew up in Fort Myers and graduated from Estero High School, first sought to build a career outside of Southwest Florida. With an interest in architecture, he transferred from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers to Florida International University in Miami. After graduating from FIU, he got a job with Thornton Construction Co., a Miami-based builder that handled a variety of projects. “The company grew rapidly, and I grew with them,” Nobrega says. “It was a great experience.”
Nobrega was with Thornton for nearly a decade. The call to come home, to the Fort Myers area, was based significantly on Suffolk’s presence in the region, which, Nobrega says, gave him an opportunity to do some bigger and different projects. Boston-based Suffolk, with more than $4 billion in annual revenue, is one of the largest builders along the west coast of Florida, with projects in Tampa in addition to Fort Myers and Naples.
Joining Suffolk gave Nobrega a chance to follow one of his passions: working with and teaching up-and-comers in construction and the trades. He’s a mentor for Suffolk’s Career Start Program, a "boot camp" for construction management graduates nationwide, including many from FGCU. “I enjoy being able to mentor and see young people move up in the ranks,” Nobrega says.
Nobrega says another part of the job he enjoys is the job itself — being out in the field, working with the diverse parties that have to come together to make a project successful. “You’re not sitting in a cubicle everyday for eight to 12 hours,” he says. “It’s something different everyday.”
Years on the Gulf Coast
Married with one 8-month-old child
Florida International University, construction management
What community group or organization are you most involved with?
What's your top tip for being productive?
Planning. For me productivity is almost always a function of planning ahead. Understanding what needs to be accomplished today, next week, next month and so on. Knowing what the potential obstacles might be, so you are ready for them and react quickly. Working a calendar or agenda on a daily basis.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be?
Small restaurant and wine bar
What's your favorite off-hours activity?
Spending time at the beach
What's your favorite board game, game show or video game?
What do you use most — Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams or Google Meetings?
What’s the best binge-worthy show you have enjoyed during the pandemic?
Not a big TV watcher
What’s the longest virtual meeting you’ve been on since mid-March?
Probably three hours
How many times had you used video for a work meeting prior to the pandemic?
Maybe a few times a week
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Teams that are passionate and motivated about their work and the goal of their team will find a way to achieve the goals despite circumstances nobody could ever expect that might get in their way. Company culture is just so important not only for a successful business but also for each individual involved in it.
What do you miss most about the world pre-pandemic?
Traveling. We love to travel and have had to cancel or reschedule many events this year. Weddings, vacations and opportunities for remote family to meet our new son.
What have you been spending more time doing during the pandemic?
Spending more time with my family. The pandemic hit about two months after my son was born. It created a hectic schedule for us but oddly enough created an opportunity where I got to spend many more hours with him at a very young age that I would have never been able to on a normal work schedule. It was a huge turn-a-negative-into-a-positive opportunity that I am extremely grateful to have had stumble into our life if a weird way.
Do you prefer working from home or working from an office?
How have you kept up camaraderie with colleagues during the pandemic?
With working remotely it created the necessity to chat (usually video) on a more regular basis. Naturally, people were more curious about how others families were doing and how they were handling everything. In that aspect I think it actually improved many relationships because they became more personal day to day rather than the fast pace hustle of all business. All of this naturally kept moral high as relationships were getting stronger knowing we were all in together.
What’s the first thing you’ll do after the pandemic?
I am really looking forward for cruises to start back up and be able to take Chase on his first cruise vacation.