Summer/Fall 2012

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Katie Werner: a positive impact at Black & Veatch

As a Kansas City office supervisor, PE Katie Werner is responsible for two dozen people, but she finds time to work on her own projects as well

Katie Werner, PE was originally drawn to civil engineering by the desire to do something positive for the community. It's this same positive impact on the environment that's continued to fuel her passion for her career: managing water and wastewater projects at Black & Veatch (Overland Park, KS).

"It's rewarding to know you're making a positive contribution to the environment," says Werner, who is the Kansas City office supervisor for Black & Veatch's global water business. In terms of revenue, she adds, "Our water and wastewater work consistently ranks in the top five in the country."

A global company
Black & Veatch is a global engineering, consulting and construction company. With more than a hundred offices and more than 9,000 employees worldwide, the company specializes in infrastructure development in energy, water and telecom, and the federal, management consulting and environmental markets.

As office supervisor, Werner has responsibility for some two dozen people, and she works on her own projects as well. "I have to staff projects correctly, keep everyone busy and recruit new hires," she says. "This office usually has between forty-five and fifty-five projects of various sizes going at any one time.

"It's tough sometimes making sure I get my own design and project management work done and also managing the office, but I do enjoy getting back to detailed design work," she says.

In the eleven years she's been with the company, Werner has been involved in the study phase of many projects and the detailed design of new wastewater and water treatment plants and plant upgrades, and has seen many of these same projects and others through construction. She's worked on wastewater treatment plant improvements in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Iowa.

Green initiatives are in
In the last five or six years, she notes, there's been a big push for green initiatives and sustainable solutions within the industry. Right now Werner is involved with four projects, three that she's managing and one that she initiated.

When it comes to her own projects Werner has to make sure her team is on track to meet deadlines. As a project manager she handles issues that come up internally or out in the field; on the office side she meets with other project managers to make sure they have the correct staffing to meet their deadlines.

Werner has a 1999 BSCE from the University of Mississippi and is a member of the Water Environment Federation (WEF). She's also a member-at-large for WEF's national house of delegates.

Starting out
Werner grew up in the Dallas, TX area. In school she had an internship with Dunaway Associates, a small firm in Fort Worth, doing site layouts for commercial properties. She interviewed with Black & Veatch after graduation and started with the company's Kansas City, MO office in 2000 as a design engineer.

In 2006 she moved up to project engineer and in 2008 she made engineering manager. Last spring she added the role of office supervisor.

When Werner started in her career there were not many women in higher jobs in civil engineering. "That has changed a lot over the eleven years I've worked here," she says. "Now there are more women interested in CE and I see more women and minorities working as engineers."

Werner says she has not encountered any serious problems as a woman over the course of her career. In fact, she's often found it an advantage. "I find that contractors are a lot more polite.

"When you first start out in the field, being young is an obstacle you have to overcome with contractors." That, she says, "is true for all young engineers, male and female. Getting respect from contractors is a challenge, and it can be intimidating!" But Werner notes she's had very good mentors to help her learn the ropes, particularly when she was starting out in construction.

Balance is the big challenge
Werner's biggest challenges now involve balancing project and staffing work. "Working with different personalities and approaches to work, and managing individuals effectively, are both challenging. You have to be sure you have positive, effective relationships and good lines of communication so you can motivate the team," she says.

"Taking the role of leader can be more difficult for women, particularly if you grew up in the South as I did," she reflects.

But she does really like the "people" part of her job. "I enjoy seeing young engineers come into their own and develop confidence in their work. I also like working with clients and seeing the benefits our work brings to communities."

Outside of work, Werner is a member of the Kansas City, MO Junior League. "We have projects aimed at improving children's literacy and fighting obesity, as well as helping the Kansas City Zoo."

An important element in Werner's success is undoubtedly the enthusiasm she brings to the job. "I feel passionate about my projects. I feel I can grow here," she says.


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