Power Movers: ‘Bid Well, Plan Well, Execute Well’
Jason Ko, Nan Inc. vice president of Big Island operations, combines technical prowess with interpersonal skills

Nan Inc.ʻs Vice President of Big Island Operations, Jason Ko

QUESTION: What are Nan Inc.’s leading Big Island projects in 2024?

ANSWER: We are currently in the final stages of the Hilo Correctional Facility medium security housing project and the Laiopua HEMA infrastructure project. Additionally, we have several ongoing projects at the Kona Airport, namely the restroom renovation project. Hilo High School track and field improvements are ongoing this year. We anticipate breaking ground on the Hilo Medical Center Acute Expansion Phase 1 this spring, along with a few other potential multifamily affordable housing projects.

What projects have provided you with the greatest opportunity for professional growth?

When I began my journey with Nan Inc., I had no prior construction background. Everything was entirely new to me on my first project. If I were to highlight two significant ones, it would be my initial project with the company as project engineer — the Fleet Store project at Pearl Harbor — followed by my role as a project manager in the Hilo ARFF Facility project.

How did you make the change from project engineer to manager?

Transitioning into the role of a project manager brought a different set of challenges. While not much was new technically, a key aspect was managing people’s expectations. This aspect delved more into human and social sciences rather than the technical aspects of AEC. Learning how to effectively manage people’s expectations became a pivotal lesson for me.

Are technical and interpersonal skills equally important?

For me, a technically challenging project is not synonymous with impossibility; there’s always a solution. I often say, if a problem can’t be solved with money or resources, it means we haven’t allocated enough. However, the true challenge arises with individuals who aren’t cooperative. Generally, people are pleasant to work with when there’s mutual respect and open communication. However, certain individuals, due to various reasons, may not be in a position to cooperate. Handling projects with such individuals becomes a real challenge and can strain the project team’s mental well-being. In cases where all options have been exhausted, there’s no specific solution. The best approach is to embrace the idea that “this too shall pass” and cope accordingly.

How do you use these skills?

Bid well, plan well, execute well. The right mix of a project team with a defined workflow based on facts rather than emotions tends to make projects progress smoothly.

What do you feel are the most valuable skills that you bring to Nan Inc. leadership?

I am highly attuned to macroeconomic forecasting, which aids in choosing the right tune in the grand scheme of things. As a millennial with an old soul and a deep appreciation for culture, I excel at connecting people from diverse backgrounds and generations. This ability allows me to draw respect and strength from people, uniting them towards a common goal.

What advice would you give a first-time project manager?

Do everything within your power to initiate change and control what is “possible.” However, also acknowledge that some things are beyond anybody’s control. Don’t dwell on or become upset by them. Move forward. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. You have a team with common interests. Take care of them, and they will take care of you.

What should new Nan Inc. team members bring to the table?

Skills can be acquired through learning and training, and experience can offer a wealth of knowledge to most individuals. Fancy lines on a resume are necessary only if a specific project demands them. What truly matters to me is whether an individual possesses purpose, ambition and a positive attitude that fosters harmonious collaboration with others.

How do you like to celebrate when a project wraps on-time and on-budget?

Providing catering from various favorite locations for the entire project team is a nice touch. Additionally, offering a project bonus for the team is always appreciated!

Where is your favorite plate lunch?

I really miss Steak Out at Pearl Harbor. My favorites here on the Big Island are the ‘ahi poke bowl at Da Poke Shack and the Yoshino Burger at Pine Tree Café.

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