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Shaping the future of sustainability

While growing up, Nancy Jendryaszek was fascinated with the houses being constructed around her neighborhood.

She honed that interest by working on home improvement projects at her own residence.

Jendryaszek ultimately turned that interest into a full-time career as an architect and later as the managing partner of Pathfinder Engineers & Architects LLP.

Pathfinder, a women-owned business, provides mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering; energy engineering; architecture; commissioning; and energy modeling to clients in the private and public sectors.

The firm employs nearly 30 workers, including more than a dozen Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accredited professionals. Its capabilities range from upgrades and renovations to the design of new facilities.

Jendryaszek, 60, was one of four founding partners at the firm that began in 1998. The others are David Klock, David Meyer and the late Lynn Bellenger. Alex Strasenburgh became a partner in 2011.

The original members worked together at the former Sear Brown Group Inc., which is now part of Stantec Inc. After decades in the business, they agreed it was time to start their own company.

The change gave them a chance to have more say and autonomy in the types of jobs they took on.

“We wanted to call our own shots,” Jendryaszek says.

Jendryaszek grew up in Henrietta and attended college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, Rensselaer County.

She received two degrees there in 1976: a bachelor of science degree in building design and a bachelor of architecture.

After college and newly married, Jendryaszek moved back to the Rochester area where her husband was attending Rochester Institute of Technology.

She admits that it was a challenge to find a job in the traditionally male-dominated architecture arena. The job market was tight, but she eventually got hired at Sear Brown as a sidewalk inspector.

It was not the most stimulating work, but it got her in the door. She spent 21 years there, moving her way up and working on jobs for businesses including Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. and Xerox Corp.

Her work included serving as a job captain, assisting project managers and being a go-between for the engineers and designers.

A new path
While at Sear Brown, Jendryaszek met and worked with Bellenger, Klock and Meyer.

Each was in their 40s when they felt they had the management experience to start their own business and launched Pathfinder. They came up with the name to signify what they were doing: following their own course.

Meyer says that commitment to the environment is one of the founding principles of Pathfinder.

“Our focus from the beginning was on what we called ‘environmental sensitivity’ in our designs,” Meyer says. “Primarily, we tried to promote and maximize energy efficiency and reduce the life cycle costs for every project and educate our clients accordingly.”

Originally located on Monroe Avenue, Pathfinder consisted of the four partners plus a designer and a marketing employee. Although the headcount has grown, Jendryaszek and the other partners remain hands-on with client work.

The company has been at its current location on South Fitzhugh Street since 2009. The three-story, 10,000-square-foot building was designed by Pathfinder and is LEED Gold certified.

“It’s an example of us walking the walk,” Jendryaszek says of the firm’s commitment to sustainability.

Jendryaszek did not provide financials for the business but said it has been growing in the last couple of years, including a strong first quarter.

The business is focused heavily on the engineering side and does a lot of work with municipal clients.

Besides the more traditional engineering and architectural services, Pathfinder also offers building commissioning. This demonstrates and verifies that building systems perform as designed, as intended by the owner, project engineers and architects for new construction.

Pathfinder has performed commissioning services on projects including the Monroe County Crime Laboratory and Windstream Corp.’s Rochester headquarters.

The Dormitory Authority of the State of New York is another of the Pathfinder clients. DASNY provides financing and construction services to build facilities for higher education, health care and other non-profit institutions.

Richard Hansen, a DASNY project manager, met Jendryaszek in 2007 when Pathfinder was awarded a job at SUNY College at Brockport. He has since worked with her on a number of projects.

Hansen praised Jendryaszek’s honesty.

“If she says something, it is accomplished as scheduled,” he says.

Hansen also spoke of her strong work ethic and flexibility.

“Nancy always listens to input from all on the team and then decides on the best solution for the client,” Hansen says.

Jendryaszek is involved in each project she manages from a technical perspective, he adds. She does that while still running the financial end of the business.

“Nancy always stands behind her firm’s work,” he says. “She goes above and beyond the call of duty for every project I have ever worked with her on.”

Focused on detail
Another reason Pathfinder has thrived, despite challenges that range from client bankruptcies, global recessions and the death of a partner, has been each partner’s individual strengths.

Meyer describes Jendryaszek as a strong relationship-style leader with a great attention to detail.

“Nancy develops strong and very loyal client relationships,” Meyer says. “Clients love her on projects because of her attention to detail and quality.”

Jendryaszek’s daily duties range from administrative work required when running a business to assisting and leading client projects.

She spends a lot of her time communicating via e-mail. It helps get work done more quickly and efficiently, but she still enjoys face-to-face time, she says.

From a leadership perspective, Jendryaszek says she is hands-on. She also likes to lead by example.

“I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything that either I haven’t done or would be willing to do,” she says.

Sharon Herrmann, a senior architect at Pathfinder, was the firm’s 10th employee. She had worked with Jendryaszek at Sear Brown and liked her professional style.

“She will drop whatever she is doing to help you out,” Herrmann says.

Jendryaszek is also one of the smartest people Herrmann knows.

“She doesn’t just shoot from the hip,” Herrmann says. “Nancy knows what she is talking about.”

Herrmann also spoke about Jendryaszek’s ability in the architectural arena.

“Nancy really tries to design for the client and understand their needs,” Herr-mann says. “If they don’t want a flashy building, she doesn’t give them a flashy building. She gives them what they can use.”

Among Jendryaszek’s favorite parts of the job are projects related to the architectural side of the business. She enjoys seeing a job come to fruition.

“I like to come up with solutions that help solve a client’s problem,” Jendryaszek says. “Architecture, to me, is very much function driven.”

The unpredictability of the job is often the worst part. That is especially true in a field that is driven by deadlines, she says. The state of the economy can have a major impact on the industry, she adds, from when a job gets done to if it gets done.

Jendryaszek continues to look for ways to keep the company moving.

She sees opportunities in high technology industries, noting Pathfinder’s expertise in clean-room design for clients in manufacturing and the medical sector. Their projects in this field include clean room design for Corning Inc. and the Smart Sensor Technology Center, formerly the Infotonics Technology Center, in Canandaigua.

Pathfinder, she says, has the experience and capabilities to complete a range of jobs of all sizes.

“We are a small firm, but we can compete with the big guys,” she says.

Nancy Jendryaszek
Title: Managing partner, Pathfinder Engineers & Architects LLP
Age: 60
Education: B.S. in building design and bachelor of architecture, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, Rensselaer County, 1976
Residence: Henrietta
Family: Husband, Robert; son, Eric, 30 and daughter, Robin, 28
Hobbies: Camping
Quote: On why she and her partners decided to start their own firm: “We wanted to call our own shots.”

6/19/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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