Mike Gailey joined Shepley Bulfinch in 2005 and, like many before him, worked his way from a mailroom coordinator to a project manager for major healthcare projects. He believes in serving our healthcare clients for the long term, by being there for all the projects before and after “the big one.” His passion for creating buildings and solving technical challenges has made him integral to teams and clients. Read more about what brought him to architecture and how he approaches the riskier phases of projects.
What brought you to architecture?
As a little kid, I wanted to either be a carpenter like my grandfather or a lineman like my father—they were my heroes growing up. In high school, I took drafting classes and even started my own roofing company that I ran on the side through college. Once I started college, I focused on construction administration until I discovered the architecture program and realized how much I enjoyed creating and solving technical challenges.
I joined Shepley Bulfinch as a mailroom coordinator in 2005, and was very fortunate to work under Barbara Giurlando. She always showed me her list of previous coordinators who had gone onto project roles in the company, like Carole Wedge, FAIA, our former CEO and president. Barbara always reminded me to make the most of the opportunities given to me. I transitioned to an administration role where I developed my understanding of the company, and then later moved onto project teams. At the same time, I attended Boston Architectural College and received my Bachelor of Architecture in 2012.
You started your career in architecture in the construction administration phase, notably the riskiest phase for clients, working on several major Shepley Bulfinch projects at Yale New Haven Health and Boston Children’s Hospital. How has that impacted your career?
I love to solve complex problems and I love seeing our work get built, so the late design development, construction documents, and construction administration phases are the perfect marriage of these passions. It’s essential for architects to see how designs come to life, beyond the conceptual, planning phase. Someone shouldn’t put pen to paper without seeing a hammer to the wall as well. Architects shouldn’t solely draw designs but also consider how the space is adapted for installation. That’s how we create better buildings.
I consider the construction administration phase to be the best for building relationships. There will inevitably be challenging scenarios that arise on a project—it’s how you handle it that determines the team’s success. My dad and grandfather taught me to “whistle while you work,” and that’s a motto I try to instill with all my teams. Being an optimistic and happy, helpful architect can create happy work relationships and build a foundation for open communication. Plus, it makes the job more fun.
Knowing that the spaces I’m designing are literally saving people’s lives, that’s what drives me. Serving people was a big part of my upbringing—my parents did a lot of traveling for mission work, building schools and churches particularly, and when I was at Boston Architectural College, I went to Guatemala to build a school for the community. With healthcare, I’m helping to make sure systems work so that doctors and nurses have what they need to save people’s lives, while considering the many socioeconomic backgrounds of families.
What do you do in your spare time?
I’m a member of the Technical Leadership Group, the Sustainable Design Leadership Group, and the Staffing Responsible Body at Shepley, so when I’m not working on projects, I’m working on solutions for staffing, exploring ways to improve our processes, and doing research. Outside of work, I volunteer with my kids’ Cub Scouts pack and coach their baseball and soccer teams. I love being outdoors and creating. I designed several gardens in my backyard when the pandemic started, and we also started an egg business, which we’ve named “Old Man Gailey Farm.”