Get to Know: Colleen Riordan

March 6, 2019

Colleen Riordan, RA, joined JAI in 2001.

Colleen Riordan
Johnson Architecture

What is your role at JAI?

Project manager, intern mentor, garlic-cheese-grits casserole maker.


What three words best describe you?

Gregarious, hilarious, organized.


What is your favorite aspect of being on the JAI team?

JAI has given me complete autonomy to run my own projects from start to finish. It is wonderful to be trusted so completely, and my goal is not only to provide my clients with successful projects, but also to maintain the trust of the great people I work with.


What three words best describe the culture at JAI?

Creative, exhaustive, fun.


What has been your proudest moment to date working at JAI?

The collective commitment that the staff of JAI has made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night fundraiser for the past 10 years. Everyone in the office not only commits their 40+ hours a week to improving our community via our built environment, but also shares their time and talents and connections to serve the people of our community who need it the most. We have a very generous staff, and I am honored to be surrounded by them.


How has working at JAI enhanced your professional development?

I’ve worked at JAI for three-quarters of my career, so this place hasn’t just enhanced my professional development, it’s the whole reason I’m professionally developed at all!


Who is your go-to source for work inspiration?

Rick Friel. I’ve worked with him for over 20 years, which has earned him the esteemed title of my “work husband.” He not only ALWAYS has a thoughtful answer to my questions, but he will absolutely stop what he’s in the middle of working on to help anyone in the office solve a problem. He’s also the most patient man in the world, because we all bug him A LOT with our problems.


If you could switch places for a day with any JAI team member, which one would you choose?

Michael Schmidt, the student intern. He’s leaving for a semester abroad in Poland. That was quite possibly the most fun I’ve ever had in my life, so I’m green with envy – and also very excited for him.


Before joining JAI, what was the most unusual/enjoyable/challenging job you held?

Working at Au Bon Pain in the Pittsburgh Airport. That was unusual and challenging, but not necessarily enjoyable. Folks insisted on ordering a sandwich as their final boarding call was being announced. It taught me some life lessons about the virtues of common sense.


What do you look most forward to at the end of a workday?

Cooking dinner for and eating with my family. That is, if we’re not driving the kids to baseball practice or guitar lessons. Also, let’s be real – I look forward to a glass of red wine.


If you were stranded alone on an island, what three material possessions would you hope to have with you?

A VAT of SPF 50 sunscreen, a VAT of wine and a solar-powered computer directly linked to the Library of Congress.


What is your secret talent?

It’s not much of a secret, but I LOVE to cook. I also love to party plan. I suppose those two things go hand in hand.


What is your favorite place in the world?

This is a generic answer, but … the beach. Anywhere.


What are you currently watching or reading?

I’m reading “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami. Current shows I’m watching are “Ozark,” “The Americans,” “Derry Girls,” “Ugly Delicious” and “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat.” We swap a lot of TV-series binging suggestions here at JAI. I rely on the Millennials to keep culturally current.