Real Estate Developer and Entrepreneur Oliver Fernandez ’08 Announced as Engineering and Computer Science Convocation Keynote Speaker

Oliver Fernandez

Oliver Fernandez ’08 graduated with a civil engineering degree and played for the Syracuse University football team. He lives in Washington D.C. with his wife Leah and their two children. Fernandez owns McKenzie, a construction company that has successfully completed over $100M worth of projects.

Fernandez will be the keynote speaker at the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s 2024 Convocation at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 11th. The Convocation will be held at the Lally Athletics Complex.

What initially brought you to Syracuse University?

“My mom really steered me into going to college and Syracuse University. I was a good student but I had an eye-opening experience when I went to Syracuse. I knew I was in the right environment to go to the next level but at the same time I knew I needed to step up and sharpen my skills.”

I got into a really good routine. I was focused on school. I knew that if I couldn’t hold up the school part of the deal, I would not be playing on the sports side. That experience was incredible and it taught me to take action on what I could do. Don’t compete against anyone else, just compete against what you are capable of. I started getting better day after day at both football and in my classes. It all snowballed in a good direction.”

How did you start your career after graduation?

“I moved to Atlanta and I was working in construction but wound up moving back to Maine to take care of my mom. Some classes I took in Atlanta opened my eyes to real estate. When I moved to New York, I started looking at property in Washington, D.C. and decided to buy and renovate a building. I was 23 years old and one of our neighbors was so impressed with our work that he financed me to renovate two buildings he owned. Things just kept growing and expanding from there. Last year we did $40 million in projects.”

Have you found that your engineering background has been beneficial in running your company?

“We are working on solving problems every day. My mindset is – we need to prioritize the problems. We solve this one problem and it will knock all the other dominos down. Engineering can be very practical and the principles help guide everything we do. Engineers think about life in practical ways and it helps with business and entrepreneurship.”

What advice would you have for current students?

“I took the hardest option. I started my own business but it made me the person I am today. That’s what taking the hardest challenge does – it makes you the person you dream of being. Look at all your options and see which one can take you to where you want to be.”

Is part of the process to keep setting new goals that are more challenging?

“My initial goal was to get to $10 million in business in a year but after two or three years we were there. I like new challenges so we are resetting the target for $100 million dollars a year. Reaching these goals shows the team that we can get there. Confidence is everything and it is another great characteristic that Syracuse University developed in me.”