The Civil Engineering Podcast provides engineering career advice and success stories specifically for civil engineers. Civil engineers Anthony Fasano, PE and Christian Knutson, PE host the show and showcase civil engineering projects and professionals.
Each show includes an overview of an interesting civil engineering project and an interview with a successful civil engineering professional.
TCEP 164: How to Effectively Measure Business Growth in Your Civil Engineering Firm
In this episode, which is the first episode in our new Civil Engineering Entrepreneurs series, I talk to Gordon Greene, P.E., of Patel, Greene & Associates about how to effectively measure business growth and the use of standing operating procedures in the business world.
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Gordon:
Why is it important for a company to have a vision or mission statement?
How do you ensure that the everyday tasks or actions that your people are taking are contributing toward the overall vision?
What is your philosophy around meetings?
Does every person in your company have a goal or goals that they are working toward, and are these goals aligned with the vision of the company?
Are there specific metrics, indicators, or numbers that you use to effectively measure business growth at your company?
How often do you monitor those metrics and what tools do you use to monitor them?
What have you found to be the most important indicator in the terms of the health of your civil engineering firm?
Are the people who work in the company held accountable through key performance indicators and other metrics?
Does your company emphasize capturing core processes that can be practiced consistently throughout the company?
As a leader, how do you ensure these processes are captured and practiced consistently across the company and that they are followed by all the employees?
As the company grows, should you consider stepping away from the project work?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Measuring Business Growth:
A company needs to have a mission and vision statement to give it direction. When making tough decisions, run the decisions through the company’s mission and vision statement and you will easily get a solution that is in line with it.
The company's mission and vision statement must be made to include everyone who is employed by the company. If a certain field, like engineering, is named in the mission and vision statement, other employees might feel left out and not know how they fit into it. The company should be living its mission statement and everyone in the company needs to be striving toward it.
The mission and vision are there to build the strategic plan for the company in the years to come. A strategic plan can be broken down into smaller achievable goals. This can help you to keep moving forward to the bigger goal, which can seem daunting and out of reach at times.
Meetings are necessary, but they should be kept short to not waste time. You need to achieve the purpose of the meeting as fast as possible so that everyone can get back to work.
A company should have metrics, indicators, or numbers to show where the company and its goals are currently standing, and where they need to be or what they need to achieve in a three-month cycles. As your company grows, you might need professional people with professional software to keep track of where the company is and where it is going financially.
Processes about the way the company does things are vital to ensure that your employees are doing things the right way. These processes need to be explained to your employees so that they can understand why it needs to be done in a specific way.
The processes need to be made in a proficient way to ensure they will be followed. Processes need to be adjusted as your company grows to ensure they are better suited to what needs to be done. People need to be put in charge of monitoring that the processes are being complied with across your company, and to make changes to them if needed.
As your company grows, you might start considering stepping away from the project management side of things and focus more on the business side of things.
TCEP 163: An Exclusive Look Into the Largest Construction Project in Virginia’s History
In this episode, I talk to Douglas Frost, P.E., a Senior Vice President at Dewberry. Douglas currently serves as the Quality Assurance Manager for the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion, and in this episode I talk to him about this project, which is the largest construction project in Virginia’s history. He also talks about Dewberry’s involvement in the project and discusses some interesting aspects around the project. He even offers an amazing piece of career advice that was given to him by Mr. Sidney Dewberry!
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Douglas:
What is the goal of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion, and what do they hope to achieve by this project?
How does someone get involved in such large projects, like the largest construction project in Virginia’s history?
What is Dewberry's expertise in the transportation/infrastructure space, specifically on QAQC for transportation projects?
Which technology and equipment or new/special procedures/processes are being used during this project?
What is Dewberry's role in this project?
Has the COVID-19 pandemic been helpful or hurtful to the project?
What are some of the safety risks of this project?
When working with unique machines and technology, like on this project, do you and your team need to be educated on them?
Do you have any advice for civil engineers out there who are planning to get involved with large projects like this one?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Working on Large Construction Projects:
The purpose of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion project is to relieve major transportation congestion problems. This project is also aimed at improving safety for the traveling public by constructing the roadways to be sensitive to the needs of the roadway users and vehicles.
Getting involved in the largest construction project in Virginia’s history is an exciting experience. You get to work on unique projects that bring in cutting-edge technology that has hardly been used before. You can get to see every aspect of the project being rolled out, which is a great opportunity to learn unique methods and technologies.
Dewberry has been in the design and construction inspection business for more than 50 years. They have worked on multiple large transportation design projects in the DC Metro area and throughout the East Coast. Some of these projects are the Dulles Metro, Montgomery County interconnector highway, but the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion project is by far the largest construction project they have worked on. They are also currently working on the expansion of the I64, where they are doing the quality control under a local contractor. Because of Dewberry’s strength in transportation design, they get to design the projects and then watch, and inspect, their construction. This ensures that the designer’s intent is what is being constructed.
The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion project has an enormous budget of close to $4 billion, and should take approximately five years to complete. The tunnel boring machine itself costs $110 million and is being constructed in Germany. It is a design-build project, so the designers are designing as fast as the contractor wants to construct it.
This is only the fourth time in the USA that they have employed a tunnel boring concept to drill the tunnel. This boring machine has a 46-foot diameter, which makes it stand almost as tall as a four-story building, and the entire assembly of the boring machine is the length of a football field. It consists of many different parts, such as numerous hydraulics and soil screw jacks. It will take approximately a year for this boring machine to bore the tunnel from the North Island to the South Island.
TCEP 162: Women in Civil Engineering: How to Overcome Obstacles
In this episode of The Civil Engineering Podcast, which is part of our Women in Civil Engineering series, I talk to Danielle Goudreau, a project manager at Collins Engineers, about how she found a cool niche to specialize in and what she is doing to build her expertise in the niche. She also talks about her experience as a woman in civil engineering.
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Danielle:
What are some of the general difficulties of being a woman in a male-heavy industry that you have experienced?
Why do you deem being involved in internships to be so important, and did it influence your decision to get your master’s degree?
What are some of the things that you should be prepared to experience when becoming a project manager?
What is it like being a woman on project sites, and what are some of the things you have done to help you build confidence?
Why is it important to become involved in the engineering community and how can it benefit you and your company?
What are some of the things you have learned from your mentors that have helped you in your career?
Tell us more about the crash course you developed called “Port Engineering 101.”
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Women in Civil Engineering:
Almost all women in civil engineering have a story to tell. Women go to work every day to do their jobs. Women need to have the mindset that they are not different from their male colleagues. If some people see you as being different, that is their problem — not yours. There is maybe 1% of the population that might say something about you being a woman in engineering, but you must not let it distract you.
Internships are important because you get a broad range of experience from many kinds of engineering that will help you to be a more rounded engineer. It can help you to decide in which direction you want to take your engineering career and if you want to join a large or small firm. It can help you choose if you would like to get your master's degree earlier or later in your career.
Before you become a project manager, you want to be aware of your hours, how you are spending time on a project, and the direction the project is taking. Talk to your current project manager about how projects are going and which steps need to be taken to get to the next level in the project. Be aware of the budget and the project goals because you will be accountable for them.
The first couple of times out in the field is scary for everyone. You need to apply your knowledge and people skills to the construction of your project. Be confident going into the field and know your worth. Remember that you are the design professional and the contractor is the construction specialist. There needs to be mutual respect and an active role in construction. Ask the contractor questions and use their experience to broaden your knowledge and boost your confidence.
You are not expected to know everything when you graduate. There is going to be a learning curve when you start your career. University does a good job of teaching you how to think critically, but you only start getting into the profession once you start your career. Finding a good mentor and asking a lot of questions is important at this stage.
There is a big gap in knowledge between the universities and the port maritime industry. There is a 12-week course that will help breach this knowledge gap and teaches what you need to know to become a port engineer. Port Engineering 101 is a 4-hour crash course for new engineers and students. It is a condensed form of what you need to know to become a port engineer.
More Details in This Episode…
About Danielle Goudreau, P.E.
Danielle Goudreau is a project manager at Collins Engineers wit...
TCEP 161: Should I Go to Grad School or Apply for Civil Engineering Jobs?
In this episode, I answer a question that I get from civil engineering students almost daily. Should they seek full-time employment immediately after completing their undergraduate studies or go to grad school and pursue a master's degree? And I promise you, whether you are a student, a project manager, an owner, or a CEO, you will take something out of this episode because I get into the decision-making processes.
Graduate school and professional engineering licensure are invaluable — but, as with any career, it is more a question of timing, and the answer to this question is different for every civil engineering graduate, depending on their situation.
In some specialty areas of civil engineering, such as structural and geotechnical, a master's degree is either required or strongly preferred for entry-level hires. It is important to research the expectations of your specialty area and the firms you are most interested in. If a master’s degree is not the norm for your practice area, or if you are not sure yet what specialty you want to pursue, it is recommended that you enter the workforce instead of continuing school full time for a master’s degree.
3 Reasons Why You Should Enter the Workforce Instead of Continuing Grad School Full Time for a Master’s Degree:
Unless you obtained a full scholarship, you would be taking on debt to learn more advanced engineering knowledge before you even start your career. While education is an investment in your career and your future, debt can be overwhelming when taking it on at a young age.
Unless you have had multiple internships in the field, how do you know that you will like your chosen field of civil engineering? How do you know you will not want to switch fields?
You can only learn so much in school as an engineer. Most engineers talk about how much they learned "on the job." By starting to work full time as soon as possible, you will be exposed to engineering problems and projects that will force you to learn on the job. This real-life experience will be invaluable should you return to graduate school later in your career.
Here Are a Few Possible Options for Approaching Your Grad School Questions:
Graduate school immediately after graduation: This approach may be the best choice for those entering certain specialty areas or pursuing specific companies where a master’s degree is an expectation for entry-level positions.
Full-time job / part-time graduate school: Consider starting a full-time job immediately after your undergraduate education and then pursue a master’s degree part-time in the evenings. This approach can be highly beneficial for multiple reasons.
First: You can get that on-the-job experience immediately, but at the same time, you can chip away at your master’s degree.
Second: Many engineering companies will provide financial assistance to their employees for pursuing advanced degrees that are related to their job, thereby eliminating the need to take on debt.
Full-time job / graduate school later: Consider starting a full-time job immediately after your undergraduate education and holding off for six months before you start a master’s degree program. This option gives you some time to experience your new career and see how you like it.
4 Steps Decision-Making Process That You Can Use in Your Career:
Gather as much information as possible about decisions you need to make. Making decisions without this information means you are making uninformed decisions that can be detrimental to you and your career.
Brainstorm possible solutions to a problem or decision that you must make. Write down the possible outcomes of the decisions and see what the benefits and risks of each outcome are, and which decision would suit you best.
TCEP 160: How a Civil Engineering Firm Can Maximize Employee Engagement
In this episode, I talk to Jeff Peacock, P.E., the President and CEO at Parametrix Inc., about his career journey of becoming a CEO, leading a multidisciplinary civil engineering firm, and the benefits of having multi-disciplines under the same roof.
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Jeff:
What are some of the decisions involved in becoming an ESOP and the benefits associated with it, for both the company and the employees?
What are the differences between working for a public agency vs a private consulting firm based on experience, and what made you decide to switch?
What are some of the benefits of having the ability to communicate with other firms?
For civil engineers who do not work in multidisciplinary firms, what are the benefits of having multi disciplines under the same roof?
What is Parametrix’s unique “Community Building” service line and what made you create it?
You had a big opportunity in your career where you were able to start a new company-wide practice for Parametrix. Take us through that part of your career — how it came about, how you decided you wanted to take on that opportunity, and how it panned out?
What is the process of becoming the CEO? Is it a goal you had, and how did you navigate the first portion of your office as CEO during the recession?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About How a Civil Engineering Firm Can Maximize Employee Engagement:
A civil engineering firm that has a 100% ESOP rating means that every person in the company has a stake in the company. ESOPs were originally designed to be wealth-building programs for individuals and spread across who is contributing to the success of the company. This is done by distributing the money as an equal percentage of the person's salary across the entire company.
The training that you get working in the public transport sector is exceptional. You will learn, grow a lot, and develop many professional relationships with people. You will also be constantly exposed to many interesting projects. You might feel that you are constrained about the level of involvement you can have with the projects, which may cause frustration.
Transitioning to a private sector consulting firm can seem like a risky decision to make. When choosing a private consulting company, you need to think of your passions and try to align your passions with the work you will be doing. Find out if you can get involved with all the facets of the projects and do not feel limited. Also, be sure there is room for you to expand your career. This will indicate to you if the firm is focused on employee engagement or not.
Having experience and being able to communicate with other firms and clients is beneficial to having the ability to view things from many different angles.
Owning a multidisciplinary civil engineering firm can be a benefit because having a large diversity of thinking that comes from a vast difference in backgrounds and training is extremely valuable. This contributes to the success of your projects because you get many different solutions instead of largely the same solutions that you would get from like-minded people. It helps everyone in all the disciplines to understand the problem areas and how they can all contribute to a better solution for those problem areas.
The service line “Community Building” came about when the company was involved with the project planning for many agencies. This later developed into a great deal of what the company was doing and has since become greatly involved in the school districts and other areas of the community.
If you get an opportunity in your career where you can help to expand the firm with your expertise, you should take it. It will not be easy in the beginning; there will be risks you need...
TCEP 159: From Single Mom to Civil Engineer: A Journey to Success
In this episode, I talk to Melody A. Gonzalez, E.I., a civil engineer at Black & Veatch about how she went from an immigrant single mom to civil engineer, and today is living the American dream. She also talks about work-life balance and the importance that mentors play in your civil engineering career.
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Melody:
What helped you to get where you are today, and by making a simple choice, how did your life change for the better?
How did you manage work-life balance throughout this time?
Once you decided to become an engineer, did you have a plan laid out, or did you take it one day at a time?
How have your mentors helped you throughout this journey?
How has being an engineer in the U.S., and especially a woman in engineering, changed your life?
In the article you wrote, you said: "I think the difference between success and failure is the ability to see one's fears and weaknesses and still push through to overcome them to achieve a higher goal." Can you please elaborate a little bit on that?
Can you give women out there who would like to pursue a career in engineering some advice about perseverance, getting a job, and finding the right company to work for?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Going from a Single Mom to Civil Engineer:
As a single parent from a foreign country, you need to have the right mindset to be able to make the correct decisions, to create success in your life. Starting over in a new country is tough, and you need to learn as much as you can as fast as possible about the language and how things work in the country. You should have a lot of commitment and be prepared to make sacrifices every day.
You need to prioritize your daily tasks. If you have a task that is more important than something else, you should stick to your plan and schedule, and not worry about what other people have to say about it.
You and your children should work together as a team to get the daily tasks done. It is good for your children, as they learn to do different things that will ultimately help them later in their lives. This needs to be balanced among everyone, and the activities for each day need to be discussed and prioritized.
One of the first things you need to learn when you want to pursue an engineering career is to learn the main language that is used in the profession. Find a mentor who will be able to help you with a plan to get you started in your career by doing your SATs and getting into a college.
In whichever phase of the plan you are in, try to find mentors who will be able to help you get better at what you are currently doing and to get to the next step in your plan. Your mentors will help you to build your self-confidence and help you to understand what is needed. They’ll show you your weaker points and where you need to work harder.
When you decide to work toward a big goal, things at the beginning of your journey can seem to be terrifying. To get over this fear, you need to learn to be comfortable when you are uncomfortable. There may be times when you think you cannot accomplish something. Those are the times that you should go ahead with your plan, and you might be surprised with what you are capable of.
If you are afraid of doing something and you don’t do it, you are never going to move up in your career and life. You need to understand that the worst thing that can happen is that you fail at doing that thing. And if you fail, then you have gained some experience and knowledge that can help you to do better next time.
Women are capable and have many challenges in their work lives. Always be the best that you can be and remember to open doors for those who are behind you. If you are the only woman in the room,