Carnegie Mellon University

Kseniya Slavsky

September 25, 2019

Breaking Ground: Slavsky Helps Clients Build for the Future

Throughout any given day, Kseniya Slavsky (CEE MS, BS ’03) wears many different hats for her clients: engineer, financial analyst, manager, contract writer, negotiator. It is the variety in her workday, the opportunity to solve problems and the reality that, in the end, she can see the physical manifestation of her efforts, that makes her job so rewarding.

“You could slice my day up and give each slice to different people and it would be called a different profession,” Slavsky says. “I love that I get to see the physical product of my labor, because when we are done it is actually standing there – and it is really large. It is not a hypothetical thing. The product of your labor is completely tangible.”

Slavsky is a Senior Project Manager for Anser Advisory, a Massachusetts-based firm that specializes in capital programs advisory as well as owner’s program and project management. Anser Advisory’s clients – which could be anyone from a private business to a hospital, a school district, or even a transportation system, are entities that need to renovate or build a new facility but do not have on staff someone with the time or expertise to oversee the project so they might hire a firm like Anser Advisory.

In her capacity as an Owner’s Project Manager, Slavsky essentially becomes an extension of the owner’s staff. She helps develop the project’s budget, helps locate the new building, develops parameters for the building and determine the appropriate size for the project, helps secure funding, helps the owner hire the design team – the architects and engineers, oversees the design to ensure it suits the owner’s needs, helps to bid out a project and select a contractor, oversees construction and helps the client move in.

“We manage the whole process basically from inception to completion, and move-in,” she says, adding that each client is unique in its needs.

CEE’s emphasis on collaboration and problem-solving – especially on solving ill-defined problems, has helped her do her job well and to excel as a woman in a still predominately male-dominated industry. Slavsky, who for four years worked as an Owner’s Project Manager for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority managing rail construction, bus stop, subway and maintenance improvements, began her college career at CMU with the idea that she would pursue electrical and computer engineering.

However, in her freshman year, she took an introductory civil engineering class from Professor Irving Oppenheim that changed everything. She said Oppenheim taught the first portion of the first day in a suit and tie, delivering a very traditional presentation. After a break, he returned to class in jeans and a plaid shirt, and carrying a banjo on which he played the students a song. He showed them photos from a rock-climbing trip he had taken with his son.

“What I took away from that is that civil engineers live very presently in the physical world,” she says. “Our work is connected to nature and physical infrastructure. It’s tangible. As a group, we all tend to be drawn by that.”

Throughout her career, Slavsky has come to realize that CEE stands out in how it prepares students for hard work, collaborative work skills, and an ability to work through issues and from different perspectives to solve problems – without panicking.

“That is something CMU in general, but CEE in particular, does a really good job at teaching,” she says, adding that because of the way the curriculum is structured both for undergraduates and graduate students, and the emphasis on problem solving, group work and presentations, the university sets students up well for their professional lives.