Ten years later: Architectural tech graduate loves his job as associate VP at CMA
Tracy Borchardt, 45, a 2003 graduate of Dakota County Technical College, was spotlighted in an alumni success story on DCTC News in January 2008. At the time, Tracy was working as a project manager at CMA, an architecture, planning and interior design firm with primary offices in Minneapolis, Dallas and Fort Worth.
In 2016, after 12 years with CMA, he was promoted to associate vice president at the firm’s location in the TractorWorks Building in Minneapolis.
In his associate VP role, Tracy leads teams working on the dozen or more international, national and local accounts he oversees at any given time. His primary area of expertise is managing accounts in the firm’s retail as well as food & beverage sectors. He also takes on leadership and mentorship roles in daily office operations, including hiring, quality control and strategic planning.
“One of my major focus areas is business development,” Tracy said. “I meet with prospective clients to explain how CMA is the best firm for their project. One of the highlights of my job is bringing new business to the firm.”
More about CMA…
Established more than 40 years ago, CMA is nationally recognized architecture firm that works tirelessly to ensure that every project is designed and executed to the highest industry standards. CMA offers expert architectural, planning and interior design services throughout the U.S. in the following sectors:
- Food & Beverage
- Other commercial projects
CMA’s design professionals are licensed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and select provinces of Canada.
— Courtesy of CMA
More about Tracy…
Originally from Faribault, Minnesota, Tracy is a Faribault Senior High School graduate, Class of 1991. After high school, he went to work as an entrepreneur in the landscape design field, founding three successful, award-winning companies in Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin. His chief focus was providing specialized landscaping services to residential customers.
In the mid 1990s, Tracy enrolled in the DCTC Landscape Horticulture program. He earned a diploma from the program in 1997. Four years later, he opted to leverage his natural talent for design by enrolling in the college’s Architectural Technology program. He operated his Minnesota landscape company while going to college, earning his Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in spring 2003.
“Landscaping is taxing, physical work and it was taking a toll on my body,” Tracy said. “Architectural technology looked like the ideal route for me to go. I liked how the program emphasized the technical fundamentals. The instructors oriented the curriculum around a studio setting. Combined with their teaching process, that approach prepared me well for my first job in the field.”
Tracy and his wife, Molly, a pharmacist at Prime Therapeutic, reside in a house they built new in Chaska, Minnesota. They have two rescue cats, Chevy, who’s a quasi-calico, and Bentley, who’s pure black and gets special attention around Halloween.
When he’s not working, Tracy enjoys playing golf with Molly and his dad. He also likes doing landscape work at his home. He’s currently training to run a half-marathon. Tracy ran in a recent Twin Cities Marathon, turning in an impressive time of 3 hours and 29 minutes.
CMA retail sector gallery ¹
¹ All images courtesy of CMA
Tracy Borchardt Q & A
Why did you choose architecture as your career field?
I’ve always enjoyed design. When I was younger, I used to look at older homes and figure out ways to improve them.
How did the DCTC Architectural Technology program help you enter the field?
The faculty teach you the basics. You learn how buildings are put together. You need that technical-based training to break into the architectural field. You don’t start off at a firm doing your own design work. Firms are looking for people who understand the fundamentals of building construction.
What advice would you give students considering architecture as a career path?
You need to know about all the opportunities in the different architectural sectors and how you can fit into the job market. Most of the architectural work around the world is done in retail, education, restaurant, hospitality and other sectors. It’s not all about building skyscrapers.
Three words that describe you as a professional in your field:
AMBITIOUS. CLIENT-FOCUSED. EMPOWERING.
What do you like best about retail architecture?
I love how retail architecture is very fast-paced and driven by deadlines—especially around Black Friday. Things change everyday. I haven’t been bored in a decade.
What is the most interesting architectural project you’ve worked on to date?
We worked on a weapons-screening security area at the Carver County Courthouse. The breezeway-like space was between the jail and the courthouse. The space wasn’t that large, but we had to come up with a lot of interesting ideas to complete the project and make it cost effective.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job at CMA?
Balancing everything that happens in a day with 12 to 13 accounts.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job at CMA?
I really enjoy bringing new business to the firm. I also enjoy mentoring younger people at CMA. It’s rewarding to watch them grow and develop in our field.
“I love how retail architecture is very fast-paced and driven by deadlines—especially around Black Friday. Things change everyday. I haven’t been bored in a decade.”
— Tracy Borchardt, Associate Vice President, CMA
Why should DCTC alumni stay engaged with the college?
I’m a big advocate for trade and technical programs. Retirement is causing a major labor shortage in the construction industry—that’s why labor costs are so high. Technical colleges like DCTC are essential for the architectural and construction fields as are high schools with trade programs.
What person has influenced you the most in life?
One of my first bosses in the landscape industry. I was 16 when I started that job. My first days were working 12 hours on Saturday and 10 on Sunday. It was hard work, but I really liked the idea of starting and finishing an actual project. That made a strong impression on me. My dad has been a big influence on me as well.
More about Architectural Technology…
This longstanding program prepares you to work in architecture- and construction-related fields by providing training in the latest professional applications, including
- Computer-aided design (CAD)
- Building information modeling (BIM) software
- 3D visualization
You will develop drawings for residential and commercial buildings in a hands-on environment patterned after the most up-to-date architectural offices. Realistic architectural projects deliver an excellent mix of technical training and creative problem-solving while incorporating sustainability and green building principles.
Learn more by visiting Architectural Technology.
Tracy Borchardt | 21 Answers
- Favorite season: Summer
- Favorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Waterfalls
- Favorite sport or physical activity: Basketball
- Your national bird if you could have one: Bald eagle
- Place you would most like to visit: Portugal
- Favorite holiday: Christmas
- Your national mammal if you could have one: Giraffe or American bison
- Favorite actor or actress: Denzel Washington
- Favorite band or performing artist: Luke Bryan
- Your personal motto if you had to have one: When and if I decide to run for political office: “Take responsibility for yourself and your children.”
- Coolest thing in the world: Different cultures
- Scariest thing in the world: Political climate
- Favorite all-time TV show: CSI: Miami
- Favorite all-time movie: Romeo + Juliet
- One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Be a good husband
- Most precious material possession: Our house
- First thing you would buy if you won the $1.5 billion Powerball: Significant piece of property; maybe an island in the Caribbean
- Dream occupation: Flipping houses
- Person you would most like to meet: Ronald Reagan
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: Making pasta
- Humankind’s greatest challenge: The environment
To learn more about Architectural Technology at DCTC, contact:
Architectural Technology Faculty