Finding a home at Gray: Q&A with Daniel Ayalde
Gray is proud of our Core Values, and we work hard to ensure that Gray is a place where we treat others the way we want to be treated, where everyone is welcome and respected. Construction Inclusion Week, which runs from October 16 – October 20 this year, strives to build awareness of the need to improve diversity and inclusion in the construction industry by providing content and resources.
We spoke with Daniel Ayalde, project manager with Gray Southwest, about his career at Gray, the Gray culture, and what Construction Inclusion Week means to him.
Tell me about your career arc and what led you to Gray?
I started right out of college, and it’s sort of a funny story. I attended the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, career fair, and the individual working at the booth was none other than Abdul El Baba, current Gray Vice President, Advanced Technology. We had a great conversation, which led to an official interview. I then began my career eight years ago as a project engineer upon graduating from college. I started working on Disney projects and worked my way up through the ranks, thanks to the guidance of great mentors and team leaders in the Southwest office.
Describe your normal workday or your “day in the life.”
I usually get into the office early for some quiet working time, then begin meeting with project teams to touch base with project management teams and site teams to get a rundown of what is happening that day and what critical milestones we need to accomplish that day and that week. I also reach out to owners and subcontractors to follow up on timely issues or tasks.
What do you enjoy most about working at Gray?
I enjoy the team culture and the family relationships that we build within our teams here at Gray. I’ve worked on a lot of different teams during my tenure at Gray, and after every single one I walk away satisfied with the work we’ve done on the project and with stronger relationships—even after navigating difficult aspects of the project. I think because we develop those relationships, we build a strong rapport with each other, which helps us navigate those occasional tough projects.
What’s been your most memorable experience since joining Gray?
I’d say my most memorable experience was when our team wrapped up work on the Secret Life of Pets ride at Universal Studios. It was two years of hard work, and it felt like such a triumph when we completed that project—even with an aggressive timeline.
What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t be afraid to ask why. Why are we doing it this way? Is there a better way we can do this? Just don’t be afraid to ask the question and speak up if you aren’t sure about something.
What do you think sets Gray apart from other service providers in the industry?
I think it goes back to the relationships—not only our internal relationships, but also the relationships we strive to build with our subcontractors, trade partners, and customers. I see it time after time, when a customer comes back to us after a project and is so thrilled that our team went above and beyond to get the job done. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced with other general contractors.
What is one word or phrase to describe Gray?
I think it has to be “family.” Whether you are brand new to Gray or you have been here for 30 years, you are treated as part of the family.
What does inclusion mean to you?
Inclusion means welcoming team members into the fold from numerous walks of life. We need to welcome all team members and make them feel at home no matter what race, gender identification, religion, or political views. If they are dedicated to our team goals and aligned with our Core Values, they belong here.
How do you feel Gray promotes diversity and inclusion among its team members?
It starts with Gray’s third core value; we treat others the way we want to be treated, where everyone is welcome and respected. Gray team members don’t only preach it, but they live it. Gray also offers multiple internal teams that focus on promotion diversity and inclusion—such as the Women in Construction group and the SPEAR Veterans group. Gray is dedicated to making sure everyone is welcome and respected.