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Meet the Expert: Jan Inguagiato, Army Engineer & Builder's Risk Leader

J.S. Held’s Inaugural Global Risk Report Examines Potential Business Risks & Opportunities in 2024

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October 25, 2022
 
Senior Managing Director – Builder’s Risk Practice
Senior Managing Director – Builder’s Risk Practice

What truly differentiates J.S. Held is our people — world-class talent driven by a common set of core values. Together, these shared values inspire a culture of integrity, excellence, teamwork, and service.

 

For Jan Inguagiato, the U.S. Army was a great opportunity to use her undergraduate degree in civil engineering and expand on her family tradition. She served in the Army Corps of Engineers as a Captain and worked on projects that led to her current career as a builder’s risk expert, where Jan is engaged in multi-million-dollar claims and disputes throughout North America.

Read more of our conversation with Jan below.

Was there a person or event that led you to your profession?

Both my father and grandfather received their civil engineering degrees, so I’m a third-generation civil engineering graduate. Both of them were also in the military. My grandfather was in the Army Air Corps and served in the Aleutian Islands during WWII. My father joined the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in college, was later commissioned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and served in Korea during the Vietnam War.

I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and on Saturdays, it was my father who took me, when I was young, to construction sites where he worked. Later, when I attended Clarkson University in upstate New York, I followed in my dad’s footsteps by joining ROTC during my undergraduate years.

I briefly started down a path to becoming a helicopter pilot. When you’re graduating from college and going into the military, you have to request a branch. I was trying to decide between aviation and civil engineering and my dad steered me toward the latter. I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and – like my dad – joined the Army Corp of Engineers.

Share with us your experience in the military and your move into civilian life.

The summer after I graduated college, I initially went to Fort Bragg in North Carolina and spent the next eight years in the Army all over the U.S. I never had to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan but did get to experience deployments to places like Thailand. Every other year, the Army Corps conducts a joint exercise, Operation Cobra Gold, with the Thai military – primarily doing humanitarian projects. I was in charge of the purchasing for the construction of four one-room schoolhouses in rural villages in northern Thailand. I was also able to experience a deployment to Greenland, to assist the U.S. Air Force with the construction of an emergency temporary bridge for their fuel farm.

As part of my time in the Army, I attended the Engineer Captain’s Career Course, during which the Army allowed me to attend Missouri University of Science & Technology and earn my master’s degree in engineering management.

I liked the Army because they kept asking me to do interesting things. I also met my husband at Fort Lewis, Washington when we were serving in the same unit.

I left the Army in 2004 after eight years because of my children. My husband and I were both on active duty in 2002 when the Iraq War began, and our oldest daughter was born. In the Army, after your child is four-months-old, both military parents are deployable. We were worried we would both end up in Iraq. My husband was deployed to Iraq for most of our eldest daughter’s first year.

After my military service, I worked for an architecture and engineering firm for three years where I managed both design and construction staffs on a top secret facility. I joined J.S. Held in 2007 and have enjoyed the last 15 years here.

Describe the typical projects you work on and how you apply your expertise.

I am a Senior Managing Director in our Builder’s Risk Practice, which is focused on providing specialized consulting expertise in insurance claims and disputes involving active construction projects. My team and I have to understand various types of buildings and structures, whether they are commercial, residential, or industrial. I also have to understand the scheduling and related processes for each one, so that when an insurance loss occurs, we can go in and assess how long and how much it will take to repair it. I have managed projects in both the U.S. and Canada which include everything from conventional buildings to light rail systems, wind farms, power plants, bridges, and highways.

Where are you located and what is it about your region that makes it unique?

I am based in Charleston, South Carolina and cover the Southeast U.S., South Central U.S., and all of Canada. I manage a large territory, and I travel often in both Canada and the U.S. for projects.

What are the most critical aspects of your role?

Project management. Sometimes it is just keeping up with everything. Plus, we have to make sure clients have everything they need and there is the internal paperwork. On the technical side, every job has its own challenges because they are unique. We are always trying to determine how to best help our clients. I have more than 80 active files. Some go quiet, while aspects of other matters pop up and require a quick response. For example, I was one of our first team members on the ground in Florida following Hurricane Ian to work on major catastrophes.

As in the military, no two assignments at J.S. Held are the same. There is always something new and different. I started with the company in Washington, D.C., then moved to Charleston, then Florida, and then back to Charleston. I love the integrity of J.S. Held. It’s been a great place to work because of the flexibility it has given me.

How does your military background inform and help what you do at J.S. Held?

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the experience of being on active duty. I worked in construction in the military so from that perspective, the skills were transferrable.

The Army teaches you wonderful leadership. I was 21 and coming out of college and I was put in charge of 36 people and several million-dollars-worth of equipment. I learned how to manage people, take things in stride, and also how to learn new things quickly. When you are in the Army, you essentially have two full-time jobs. You have your technical engineering knowledge, but you also have a full-time job as a soldier. You have to know how to lay a minefield, blow things up, and keep yourself and your soldiers qualified on your weapons. At the same time, you are responsible for people. You get a really broad exposure to humanity. I have bailed soldiers out of jail, dealt with car repossessions, and even done some marriage counseling. You are much more involved in a person’s life and that’s challenging when you are young, and most of the people are older than you.

Also, you change jobs in the Army about once a year. You might stay in the same place but won’t have the same job, so the military is really good at teaching you how to get it done.

That translates directly to J.S. Held, especially the insurance aspect of our business. At J.S. Held, you’re always looking for new and interesting ways to attack the challenge you are trying to solve. Even if you’ve built 1,200 apartment buildings, there is going to be something different about every single one. No two projects are ever the same. That variety is what makes this job compelling.

What are your personal interests?

Our family loves to camp. We have an RV and have done all types of travel with our girls, one of whom is in college and the other who is in high school. We are also big into home improvement. I sew and my husband owns his own carpentry business.

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To view Jan’s professional bio and contact details, click here.

To learn more about J.S. Held’s Culture & Careers, including our Military Hiring Program, click here.

 
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