Construction Certificate Instructor Natalie Ghilain

Natalie Ghilain is the chief estimator for Otto Construction. She is a LEED-accredited and Designated Design-Build professional, with over 20 years of experience in the construction industry. Ghilain leads in-house training at Otto Construction and has been a guest lecturer for the UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Construction Management Program since 2006.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?  

The thing I enjoy the most about teaching is making concepts accessible to students that may not be familiar with estimating, pre-construction and bidding.  I constantly strive to bring concepts back to what students can relate to in their everyday lives so they can understand not just the process, but the reason behind the process. I enjoy sharing stories – both good and bad, so students can learn from real world examples in the construction industry. I also enjoy learning from the students and the unique perspectives that they bring.

How would a student describe your teaching style?  

I think a student would describe my teaching style as enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and humble. As Chief Estimator for Otto Construction, my lessons come entirely from a perspective of real-world application. I am excited at the prospect of having students pursue estimating as a career, and I want them to leave the class with a solid understanding of what being an estimator or pre-construction manager really entails. 

Describe a moment where, as a teacher, you feel like you had an impact on a student’s life. What was the situation? What happened? How did you know you know you had an impact? 

A moment that I knew I had an impact on a student’s life was after an online video demonstration of a software tool commonly used for take-offs. I had a student that was currently working as an estimator send me a note that they thought they knew how to use the software, but after watching my videos, they had learned so much and they were completely changing the way they were using the software for their projects going forward.    

I was very happy that my lesson had made someone more efficient at their job, there’s nothing better than that. 

In your opinion, what separates the UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education Construction Management certificate program from other programs?  

In my opinion, UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s Construction Management Certificate Program provides training and education for students who want to learn more about getting into the industry AND for students who want to hone their skills in order to advance their careers. As a result, I’ve had students with no experience and students with 30 years’ experience in the same course. The great discussions and collaboration that comes out of that broad and diverse mix of students is what sets UC Davis’ program apart from others. And, as a graduate of the certificate program myself, I have experienced the benefits of professional development firsthand. Completing this certificate program was an essential steppingstone in my career.

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