Building the way forward: Meghan’s EF journey
After graduating from college, Meghan found herself waiting tables on Cape Cod. That summer she saw a newspaper ad that changed everything. It read: “Do you want to travel the world?”
“I thought to myself, ‘Yes, yes and yes!’” remembers Meghan, who jumped at the chance to work for EF Education First. Not long after seeing that ad, the French and political science double major landed an entry-level sales position with EF Educational Tours in Boston, where she channeled her passion for travel into helping North American students experience more of the world.
Twenty years, six roles and four cities later, Meghan’s EF journey has taken many unexpected turns—often leading her into uncharted professional territory. After facilitating the EF Denver office opening, managing EF schools for English language learners on the West Coast, and even canoeing with crocodiles on an EF Educational Tour, sometimes it seems like she’s done it all. Yet in recent years, her career has taken off in an entirely new direction: the world of construction project management.
As the Vice President of Development for the EF Properties team, Meghan is now responsible for guiding the construction of EF’s award-winning schools and offices around the globe. Having completed 10 major projects in the last five years, the small-but-mighty team is currently developing new EF spaces in Massachusetts, New York, California and Switzerland while maintaining our existing properties worldwide. From the EF International Language Campus in San Diego to our brand-new European hub in Zurich, Meghan collaborates with teams across continents to bring EF’s cutting-edge spaces to life for students and staff.
How does she do it? We chatted with Meghan as she prepared to welcome EFers to our new European hub.
Break down your current role for us.
I work with architects, engineers, contractors, consultants, city officials, the rest of the EF Properties team and the EF Design and Architecture Studio to create, and ultimately build, beautiful EF spaces, such as schools and offices for customers and staff.
I have a dynamic role. Every day is different, but these things always hold true: I’m constantly solving problems, negotiating and keeping a close eye on our budget. Some days I’m figuring out how to keep a project on schedule when something unexpected happens (and it always does!) and other days I’m laughing because seagulls are attacking me while I’m overseeing construction (true story!).
You’ve pivoted your EF career from educational travel to constructing new spaces around the world. How did you navigate the transition?
I believe the key to success is surrounding yourself with an incredible team. That said, I quickly learned the only way I was going to succeed in a new field was by asking lots (and lots) of questions. Having never managed a construction project before, once I buried my pride and started asking questions and making mistakes, I discovered how to make it all work.
What was the thinking behind establishing a new office in Zurich?
For years, the EF Properties team was searching for a new European base for operations. The team was seeking an open plan environment, similar to our other offices around the world, that was not only fun and exciting but carefully laid out to help our staff work efficiently. This space needed to feed into the qualities that make EF people who they are—creative, dynamic, fast-moving—and empower them to thrive at work.
Tell us about some of the highlights and challenges of this project.
Our new building is the former home of the Swiss stock exchange, so for me, that’s the major highlight. It was exciting to infuse EF’s distinctive personality into an iconic structure while maintaining its original framework. Previously, the building contained lots of tight spaces and small, dark offices. Transforming the space into an open environment, full of energy and light, required very heavy construction.
Throughout the entire renovation, we had to be mindful of current tenants in the six-story building’s top three floors. This meant keeping the base systems running while we worked to replace them with more energy-efficient ones. This challenge dictated much of our design schedule and our budget. But in the end, I believe we were able to build something much better for the building’s tenants and the environment.
What do you think EFers will love most about the new Zurich office?
The location. The building is between a canal and a river, so you can take a swim in the warmer months. There’s also a subway stop that lets off right in the building. In terms of design, I love the grand central staircase and the rooftop terrace.
What will you miss about your frequent trips to Zurich during the construction project?
I’ll miss the outdoor activities. I came to love Switzerland’s lake culture. After a long hot day on a construction site, there was nothing better than lounging out on a floating dock with a cold beer or taking a dip.
In the colder months, one of my favorite activities was ‘sledging.’ If you haven’t done it before, you have to try it! It’s like sledding but so much faster. Every time you hit even the smallest bump you go flying in the air. I’ve never laughed so hard in my adult life.
What’s next for the EF Properties team?
I’m looking forward to building a new 15-acre EF Academy campus in Pasadena, California, slated to open in fall 2020. We’re also working on an EF International Language Campus in Los Angeles/Costa Mesa, which should welcome students in fall 2020, too.
After 20 years at EF, what keeps you passionate about your job?
I love a challenge. Every day I learn something new, even after all these years. I collaborate with smart, optimistic, creative people and I’m never bored. The opportunity to make a difference exists in all aspects of my job. Some days the impact is small and local; other days it’s grand and far-reaching. At EF, the possibilities are always there—you just need to keep pushing forward.
How has working at EF changed you?
I embrace the EF core value ‘nothing is impossible’ with my entire being. The incredible feeling of accomplishment that comes after achieving something no one thought could be done inspires me to tackle every challenge head-on. The best moments in my EF career were also some of the hardest. Adopting a ‘nothing is impossible’ mindset has opened up so many opportunities for me.