In this special episode of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I interview some of the most successful civil engineers in the world during the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2015 Annual Conference in New York City.
Below is the list of interviews with timestamps and bullet points, click on the timestamps below to view a summary of the interview:
[3:27] Jon Magnusson, P.E., S.E., F.SEI, Dist.M.ASCE – CEO for 25 years
[7:27] West Point Cadets
[10:43] Mackenzie, graduate student from Arizona State
[13:53] Michael Goodkind, Ph.D., P.E., S.E., F.ASCE – 40 years of experience
[17:38] Kurt from Bentley Systems
[20:38] Albert Pozotrigo, P.E. – President of ASCE-MET Section
[31:47] Stefanie Reichman from City College of New York – ASCE-NY Chapter
[35:22] Dr. Bob Stevens, P.E., F.ASCE – Current (at time of interview) ASCE President
[36:08] Jonathan Richards, West Point Student
[39:02] Jose Acosta, P.E. – Vice President of Chen Moore and Associates
[48:04] Tony Begin, President of Canadian Society of Civil Engineering (CSCE)
[52:47] Tom Smith, ENV.SP., CAE, F.ASCE – Executive Director for ASCE
[54:16] Norma Jean Mattei, Ph.D., PE, F.SEI, M.COPRI, M.ASCE – Newly Installed President-Elect of ASCE
[1:00:57] Mark Woodson, P.E., L.S., D,WRE, F.ASCE – Newly Installed President of ASCE
Magnusson started out in structural engineering, he has worked on big projects like stadiums. He didn’t set out to be a manager; he started doing computer analysis but found management and client interaction were rewarding. He became a CEO, 25 years ago, at age 34. His advice:
- The number one thing to do to improve your skills is to find good mentors, watch what people are doing and pick out best thing that they do.
- Don’t sit down and plot out “what do I need to do to advance” but instead ask yourself “what can I do to make my firm better.” Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on your organization and you will be rewarded.
- Have a broad interest in your career because you’ll have to learn about leases, law, accounting, etc.
Here’s a summary of the interview with three students from West Point (please see photo on top of the page):
- Emilia – joined Civil Engineering department
- Robinson – West Point has a lot of extracurricular or other classes
- Erin – thinking of different infrastructure types of work after graduating
- All cadets agreed that the physical training aspect has really helped their education; it helps improve critical thinking, prepare and give them more energy for their days.
Mackenzie is studying environmental engineering focusing on water/wastewater resources. Here’s her story:
- Going to conferences provides huge networking opportunities; she got her summer job from a connection she made at the ASCE Conference in Panama.
- She explained her decision process for getting an MS in Engineering.
- One key takeaway from graduate work that will help her long term: learn from professors in industry, pass your FE/PE, implement what you have learned and push technology further.
Goodkind started out as a structural engineer and then went into management. He was a president of a company for 19 years. Here’s his advice:
- Learn how to be a technical engineer before you worry about project management. Technical problems outside of school are complex.
- Always focus on and attempt to solve the current problem.
- You need to understand the types of people that you are working with and don’t be dismissive of people that don’t agree with you (there’s always a pearl in every conversation).
Bentley is a software company for infrastructure. They have two new acquisitions Contacts Capture (they can fly drones to get information on a project site) and LumenRT (gives them the ability to take engineering drawings and add realism to it) that Bentley made to further help A/E/C industry.
- Everything comes down to time – you need to get the project data fast…
- Getting the data ASAP is good, but the data needs to be accurate
Pozotrigo went to Rutgers, has 37 years experience in NYC working on construction management projects. He just finished a $420 million job as the resident engineer doing the rehabilitation of Alexander Hamilton Bridge (the bridge immediately after the GWB on the New York side). The major challenge was to work while traffic was running. The project involved 9 separate bridges (they had to construct 9 temporary bridges). This 5-year project finished on time and only over budget by $20 million (2%). His group alone was 46 engineers plus 10 from the state and 20 from the contractor (100 engineers total). Here’s his advice:
- You have to know how to delegate, but you have to know what everyone you delegate to is doing.
- Key ingredient is know the job well, but have people next to you doing the work that you want to do.
- A-type engineers won’t be able to work on a big project because they can’t do everything by themselves; got to have key people under you that you trust.
- As a project manager, it is very important to give clear instructions and make sure people understand your instructions.
- Make a difference, reach out to your legislators by going to www.ascemetsection.org
- It’s not work if you love what you do. Concentrate on the branch of civil engineering that you love and you’ll never feel like it’s work.
Stefanie, a listener of The Civil Engineering Podcast, talks about the concrete canoe which weighed 360 pounds before, but then they were able to reduce the weight the following year to 220 pounds. Here’s her story:
- The competition helps you to learn about mix designing, working with a team, construction management, budgeting, and more.
- The floating is highly related in the shape of the canoe.
- She used to be shy, but with her experience in constructing the concrete canoe, now she is more confident and looking at construction management schools.
Bob was the current ASCE president at the time of this interview and here’s his advice to civil engineers:
- Get involved with activities outside of your job, improve yourself technically and professionally by being part of organizations like ASCE
- Be a member of ASCE and be actively involved in the association
Jonathan is in his 4th year at West Point Military Academy. Here’s his story:
- Mindset as a military student: easier to prepare mentally because he doesn’t need to get a job since he will be deployed and he can focus on professional development.
- He will be doing route clearing and other non-traditional civil engineering jobs.
- He hopes to get back to graduate school after the 8 year deployment.
- If you don’t know where you are going, you can’t really prepare, just be flexible and happy in what you do.
Jose is the ASCE Florida Section president and has a lot of civil engineering experience. Here’s his advice on key skills engineers should have:
- Engineers should be well rounded by going to society events and be exposed to how business gets done.
- If you are not getting client exposure, get involved where you have passion in your community. Get to know people in other professions and become a trusted advisor.
- Life is about learning and improvement.
- ASCE is a good way to improve your public speaking, and be proud of what you do as a civil engineer.
Bégin shares his experience as a civil engineer, doing structural analysis for buildings. His company worked on the Yankee and Mets stadium. He provides technical seminars as part of business development. He also talks about the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers and focusing on mentoring and how to work towards sustainability. Here’s his advice to engineers who want to advance themselves:
- Be involved and participate in events as early as a student
- Be a member of associations
- Get involved in student competitions to build outside networks
- Focus of the movie is to capture the wonder of engineering and attract diverse enthusiasm for engineering.
- ASCE continues to try to find new ways to reach the public through the film and also through educational an component for schools and museums, science centers.
- This film will be released in February 2017 during National Engineers Week.
- Those who are in leadership positions: Tap someone on their shoulder and ask how they can get involved in your associations
- Those who are looking for leadership position: Say yes or just show up “The people that run the world are the people that just show up.”
- Words of wisdom for women in engineering: Keep moving through adversity and consider them as speed bumps.
- She used to be shy, but she practiced a lot and is now comfortable in front of people.
- Be of value to their employers; be willing to step up and help.
- Sit back, listen, learn, and work hard.
- Find a mentor and be a mentor.
- Get things done on time the first time.
- Mentor those younger than you AND those older than you.
- There’s a proper time to discuss a mistake and how to correct it. Move people to the next step and help them to be better the next time.
- For engineers thinking about starting their own firm: look if you want to do it alone or as a team, know how to plan your business and build relationship.
- Need to be prepared to persevere and work through adversities.
Anthony also interviews some Nigerian engineers, but due to technical difficulties, the interview is not available in this episode.
I had a blast interviewing some of the most successful civil engineers in the world. Please leave your comments or questions in the section below on how this episode have inspired you in your civil engineering career.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success
Acknowledgement: Thank you to the American Society of Engineers for allowing us to record these interviews and publish this episode.