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Article Archive

Changing technologies

Job demand is running high for CEs and EnvEs

"The outlook is very positive."
- Bruce Toro, DMJM Harris

"The time of the hard-sciences engineer has come."
- Toby Duffell, Parsons Brinckerhoff

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Priscilla I. Hackney, a King County project manager, talks about work at the Duwamish River cleanup site in Seattle, WA.

Priscilla I. Hackney, a King County project manager, talks about work at the Duwamish River cleanup site in Seattle, WA.

Bechtel's Samuel Boggan is working on admin buildings for the DOE's Yucca Mountain nuclear geologic repository in Nevada.

Bechtel's Samuel Boggan is working on admin buildings for the DOE's Yucca Mountain nuclear geologic repository in Nevada.

Civil and environmental engineers are enjoying a good job outlook this spring; most of the large firms are hiring. At DMJM Harris (New York, NY), for example, Bruce Toro, SVP and western region manager, plans to bring on some seventy-five techies "just on the West Coast." He's looking for everybody from entry level to CADD operators and senior project engineers, in disciplines including drainage, structures and highway engineering.

Nationally, he notes, "The outlook is also very positive. Our goal is to recruit more than 200 engineers this year." At Metcalf & Eddy (M&E;, Wakefield, MA), COO Tom McMonagle reports that the company brought in more than a hundred engineers and scientists in 2005. "This year we expect to recruit another 150 or so."

Georgia and Florida are key hiring areas for water and wastewater engineers and hazardous waste scientists at M&E.; McMonagle also sees strong growth in the Midwest and Southwest.

At Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB, New York, NY), corporate staffing manager Toby Duffell sees this as part of a broader trend. "The time of the hard-sciences engineer has come," he declares. "Civil, structural and mechanical skills are needed for the renewal and development of the built environment in the U.S.: highways, railroads, bridges, tunnels, ports and mega-buildings.

"There's a huge amount of new and long-lived infrastructure now, so the demand is greater than ever," he says.

Dr Patricia Galloway of ASCE and Nielsen-Wurster: increased importance
Dr Patricia D. Galloway

Dr Patricia D. Galloway

Dr Patricia D. Galloway is a past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the only woman president in the organization's 153-year history. She agrees that the roles of CEs and EnvEs are becoming increasingly important.

"Many of our dams, roads, bridges and sewer and water systems were built fifty to a hundred years ago. Many are well beyond their design life," she says. "The disastrous failure of the New Orleans levy system highlights the consequences of ignoring our infrastructure."

CEs will obviously play a key role in updating the infrastructure.

Galloway is CEO of the Nielsen-Wurster Group (www.nielsen-wurster.com), which does management consulting, risk management and dispute resolution. She has a 1978 BSCE from Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology and a 2005 PhD in infrastructure systems engineering, the equivalent of CE, from Kochi University of Technology (Kochi, Japan).

Speaking for ASCE, Galloway laments that women make up only about 10 percent of the nation's engineers. But as leader of Nielsen-Wurster, she's proud that "About 30 percent of our engineers are women.

"It's crucial to have multiple viewpoints when you're brainstorming," she says. She, together with ASCE, is working hard to get more girls and minorities interested in engineering.

Meanwhile, D/C found plenty of women and minority techies happily employed in CE, EnvE and related disciplines.

Michelle Wei manages environmental programs at MidAmerican Energy
Michelle Wei

Michelle Wei

MidAmerican Energy Co (Des Moines, IA) values diversity, says Paul B. Priest, VP of employee and labor relations and HR compliance. "A workforce rich in diversity benefits our company and the communities where we do business."

MidAmerican is the largest utility in Iowa. It serves nearly 706,000 electric customers and more than 687,000 natural gas customers in the Midwest.

Michelle Wei, manager of environmental programs, is responsible for reducing the company's liability for about twenty sites where natural gas was formerly produced from coal. She supervises programs to ensure day to day compliance with environmental regulations and works with regulatory agencies and others to achieve the best cleanup solutions.

Wei has a 1986 BS in geology and a 1988 MS in economic geology from Zhongshan University, Guangzhou, China. In 1989 she began a PhD program in hydrogeology at the University of Iowa and worked as a research assistant at the state geological survey bureau. After a year she switched programs, completing an MS in environmental engineering and science in 1992.

She went to work as a risk assessor for the Iowa Department of Public Health. In 2000 she joined MidAmerican as manager of environmental remediation and response. She became manager of environmental programs in 2004.

As the mother of two young children, Wei is especially sensitive to environmental concerns. "I care about the air my kids breathe and the ground they play on. We must achieve a balance, to allow economic development while still protecting human health and the environment."

Brunson L. Cooper: special projects at Turner Construction
Brunson L. Cooper

Brunson L. Cooper

Brunson L. Cooper has been with Turner Construction Co (Dallas, TX) since he got his BSCE from North Carolina A&T; University in 1996. He began as a field engineer and moved up to cost engineer, superintendent and, in 2004, project manager. Now, in Turner's special projects division (SPD), he works on large-scale office buildings.

SPD handles mainly tenant renovations and fit-outs, he says. His current project is a $9 million, five-floor fit-out for the U.S. Navy.

After the 9/11 attacks, he notes, "I was pulled in to fit out another building for Army and Navy personnel who had been displaced from the Pentagon. We ended up gutting the building and refitting it for the government."

Cooper's team has just finished a fitness center, working on interior walls, electrical, IT infrastructure, fire alarms, heating and cooling. "Right now I'm heading up about eight projects. I have an assistant project manager, two superintendents, and two assistant superintendents to manage the subcontractors," Cooper says.

"Construction has traditionally been a white male world," he notes. "Sometimes there is resistance with subcontractors because I am a young black male. I have to win them over. But it hasn't held me back, and I believe it's changing."

The Turner workforce is quite diverse. "We've made it a point to be inclusive in our hiring and bring more minorities into the construction field," Cooper says.

Cooper himself started out to be an architect, but switched to CE in his sophomore year. "I found that staying up all night doing layouts wasn't appealing and the pay was better in CE," he says with a smile.

At work, Cooper mentors upcoming minority engineers and recruits for Turner at his alma mater and elsewhere. He participates in the company's youth and community outreach activities, and works with kids in a science-focused elementary school through his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.

Shauntele James: ops engineer with California American Water
Shauntele D. James

Shauntele D. James

Shauntele D. James is an operations engineer with the California subsidiary of American Water (Voorhees, NJ). She's involved with pipeline rehab and meter retrofits, putting together contracts and working on specs. "We also test groundwater to determine what treatment is necessary to bring it up to code. Central California relies on groundwater," she notes.

When someone needs her help, James will go out in the field to give it. "I might go out to do a fire flow test, to see how much water we can supply if it's needed for a fire. I go out with one of the ops guys and get to experience things firsthand."

James has a 1992 AS in math and physical science from American River College (Sacramento, CA) and a 1996 BSCE from California State University-Sacramento. After graduation she was an assistant CE and project manager for the City of Sacramento. She worked on water meter retrofits, sewer pipe design and more.

In 1998 she moved to a CE job with Carollo Engineers, Inc (Sacramento, CA). One of her interesting projects there was preliminary design for a sewer shed rehabilitation, she recalls.

In 2001 she was hired by New Faze Development Inc (Sacramento, CA) as a CE/operational assistant. She worked on CalTrans and other public projects.

In 2002 James moved to URS Corp (Sacramento, CA) as a design engineer on the force main for the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District. This gave her the experience she needed for her current job, which she began last fall.

"You can do a lot with civil and environmental engineering," James notes. "Civil engineering has always been a man's field. Even though more women and minorities are showing an interest, it can still be challenging."

James is looking forward to taking the PE exam in October. "I'm hoping to ultimately be making more decisions within this company and moving up in management," she says.

Beverley Stinson: tech leader at Metcalf & Eddy
Beverley Stinson

Beverley Stinson

Environmental engineering firm Metcalf & Eddy (Laurel, MD) offers a full range of services for water and wastewater systems management, wet weather controls and hazardous waste remediation.

Steve Guttenplan, president, notes that diversity is an important company focus. "More and more companies are linking diversity to strategic goals and objectives," he says. "When you look at the increasingly global nature of competition, that makes sense. As our business becomes more and more global, these values help us adapt."

Beverley Stinson is a technology leader in the company's national wastewater practice. "I'm responsible for helping guide the research we do as a company," she explains. "I make sure we work with universities and researchers in the early 'think tank' stage and then develop practical, cost-effective engineering solutions."

It's company policy to share findings with clients and throughout the industry," she notes. That has meant collaboration with European researchers as well as others in the U.S.

One M&E; focus is technologies to mitigate the release of emerging contaminants of drinking water supplies. "For example, we're investigating pharmaceutical micropollutants and hormones that appear in streams and drinking water after humans ingest and eliminate them," she says. That effort involves research collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey.

The company has developed technology to detect very low levels of the micropollutants. Now, Stinson says, "We're developing techniques to remove endocrine disrupters like pharmaceuticals and hormones from the wastewater stream." A primary research partner on that project is the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

Stinson received a BSCE in 1989 and a PhD in engineering in 1994 from Queens University (Belfast, Northern Ireland).

From 1994 to 1997 she worked as a design engineer and project manager for the water service of the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment.

She taught advanced wastewater treatment courses in Massachusetts for a while as part of an international exchange. Then she joined the New York, NY office of Metcalf & Eddy as a senior project manager.

Her projects have received eleven national awards from U.S. organizations including the American Council of Engineering Companies and the Association of Municipal Sewage Agencies. Stinson herself received a foundation award from the Institution of Civil Engineers of Great Britain and a distinction award from the Department of Education in Great Britain. She has published many articles.

Stinson finds her career "very stimulating. Rarely do you get an opportunity to work with people as knowledgeable as the scientists, geologists and hydrologists at the Geological Survey," she says. "The science and engineering that is going on there is exciting.

"We're in an age where water is a commodity. A pristine water source is rare, and water reuse is very common. There's a reasonable concern that compounds such as the endocrine disrupters may affect everything from fetal growth to neural connections. There's good reason to look into them.

"The progressive attitude of Metcalf & Eddy in supporting this research really impresses me," Stinson says. "There are no regulatory requirements for micropollutants yet, but they're interested in investigating them."

At SFWMD, Pamela Wade Sievers helps protect the Everglades
Pamela Wade Sievers

Pamela Wade Sievers

Both diversity and water are important at South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD, West Palm Beach, FL). "The district recognizes that its strength lies in its diverse perspectives," says Lourdes Ramos, director of HR solutions.

The district's mission is flood protection and ecosystem and water supply restoration. The southern third of Florida is crisscrossed by canals originally dug for agriculture and drainage, lakes, and rivers that flow from Orlando south into the Everglades.

Pamela Wade Sievers is a division director at SFWMD. She's in charge of a division within the mammoth Everglades restoration program, including source control and reduction of phosphorus in the water before it enters the pristine areas of the Everglades. Phosphorus is the major threat to the health of the ecosystem.

Her division has eighteen people. "We're a small component of the overall restoration program, but a cornerstone of phosphorus reduction," she declares.

Sievers has a 1983 BSME from the University of Missouri at Rolla, but her experience and PE certification are in CE. "Your career takes off once you pass that exam," she says.

She did QA for the Army in Texas and Missouri before moving to Tallahassee, FL in 1985 to work for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The next year she moved to West Palm Beach to work as a mid-level engineer in public drinking-water utilities for the DEP's southeast district. After four years there she rose to drinking water admin, in charge of permitting and compliance for the entire district.

In 1995 she joined SFWMD as a senior supervising engineer, and became division director three years ago. "A lot of this work is building relationships with the various stakeholders," she notes. "You have to be able to see things from a lot of perspectives, because the farmers, the environmentalists and the local communities all have important issues."

Sievers, who is half Filipino, went to school on a Minority in Engineering (MEP) scholarship. She was one of the few women and the only Asian in the MEP program at her school. "Over the years, it has been difficult sometimes to be a woman in CE," she says. "In the beginning it was sometimes assumed that I was the secretary, at a meeting to take notes."

The professional environment has improved over the years. "Now there is zero tolerance for discrimination, especially when working for government agencies," she says.

Civil engineers aren't the only technical folks employed at SFWMD. Sharon Trost, director and CIO of the IT department at SFWMD, notes that the company expects to recruit a number of specialized IT folks this year. They will include software developers, project managers, system admins and IT analysts.

Priscilla I. Hackney manages remediation in King County
Priscilla I. Hackney

Priscilla I. Hackney

Priscilla I. Hackney is a project manager for the wastewater treatment division of the King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks in Washington State. She's the in-house remediation specialist at her agency, in charge of a program that developed from a lawsuit filed by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) over alleged discharges from pumping station outfalls. She has completed two extensive projects resulting from that lawsuit.

"Both were sediment remediation projects," she explains. "Initially the projects were done according to Washington State Department of Ecology sediment management standards (SMS)."

But in September 2001, before the program was finished, the lower five miles of the Duwamish River was declared a Superfund site because of sediment contamination. Some areas were hot spots. "After the Superfund listing, we had to comply with Superfund regulations as well as Washington State SMS."

Hackney started on the Duwamish River projects in 1995, and the work has been challenging. "It's fast-paced and you have to be flexible because things change.

"Our work is limited by regulations relating to salmon migration and tribal fisheries, and you have to deal with many stakeholders as well as manage the team. You could have people from the EPA, the department of ecology, NOAA and the tribal interests overseeing a project. The public is always interested.

"You have to balance the costs of remediation with the net environmental benefit. Everything is a tradeoff, and there are so many regulations and concerns that need to be addressed."

Hackney attended Howard University (Washington, DC), receiving a BSChE in 1983. "About half the ChE students in my class at Howard were women," she notes. But she went on to an MSCE with a focus on environmental engineering.

She started her career in 1984 as a chemist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, VA, where she developed a fuel-like material from wastewater treatment sludge.

In 1986 she worked briefly as a senior engineer at Metcalf & Eddy. Then she moved to the municipality of Metropolitan Seattle, WA, which later became King County after a voter-approved merger.

She started as a process analyst on a major water treatment plant upgrade. Next she became an associate water quality staff engineer, and cross-trained as chief of service communications on the transit side of the operation.

In 1992 she moved into project management. "I was responsible for the $12 million budget for the NOAA sediment remediation program," she notes.

Wayne Chiu: at Kleinfelder, the proper course for cleanup
Wayne Chiu

Wayne Chiu

Kleinfelder Inc (San Diego, CA) is a professional services firm in engineering, science and technical management. Gerry Salontai, CEO and president, believes that "A commitment to diversity, recognizing and valuing the rich experiences and differences of employees and the clients and communities they serve, is an integral element in success."

Kleinfelder's Wayne Chiu is a great role model for diversity. His background is Chinese and he understands Mandarin very well, though he doesn't speak it as well. He's fairly fluent in Polish from his Peace Corps stint in Poland. He understands Swedish because he spent a year at Uppsala University in Sweden in a student exchange program with California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

Chiu started out in geology and moved into engineering, receiving a BS in engineering geology from the University of California-Los Angeles in 1993 and an MS in civil and environmental engineering from Cal Poly in 1998.

Today Chiu is an environmental project engineer at Kleinfelder. He describes his role as somewhere between staff level and project management. "I can take over some projects and run them from cradle to grave, but sometimes I act as project or engineering support."

One interesting project concerns an area that's been occupied by the Navy for the last sixty years. "We're assessing soils for various contaminants and doing an engineering evaluation and cost analysis to decide the proper course for cleanup," he says.

How do you know when an area is clean enough? It's mostly based on regulatory requirements, though client and public needs can also have a major influence.

"You have to deal with state, regional and local regulations, get input from the public and take the needs of the client into account. You may have to test for existing background levels, because sometimes regulatory cleanup goals are actually lower than naturally occurring levels for a particular contaminant. Sometimes it's difficult to find the middle ground that will be acceptable to everyone."

In 1998 and 1999 Chiu was a staff engineer with Pacific Environmental Group (San Jose, CA) and Cambria Environmental Technology (Oakland, CA). In 2000 he joined Toxichem Management Systems (San Jose, CA), a small operation. He did site assessment and remediation for retail gas stations and bulk fuel terminals for Equiva, a joint venture of Shell and Texaco.

"All of us worked out of our homes," Chiu says. "I acted as project manager, staff geologist, engineer and field technician.

"But after a while I saw I needed some separation from work. I was working fifty or sixty hours a week and the rest of the time I was thinking about work because it was always in the next room."

In 2002 he moved to Kleinfelder, first taking three months off to travel around Southeast Asia and visit family in Australia. "Being in the Third World helped me remember why it's better to work than not," he says with a smile.

In the environmental area, "Each situation is unique and requires creativity," Chiu believes. He feels that his varied background is helpful there. "Geology and environmental engineering both help a bit and learning different languages forces you to accept different rules."

At DMJM Harris, Janette Ruesga designs highways
Janette Ruesga

Janette Ruesga

Jane Chmielinski, president and COO of transportation and infrastructure company DMJM Harris (New York, NY), declares that "Diversity is not only the right thing to do, it's good business.

"Look at reality," she says. "In 2000, 85 percent of new entrants to the U.S. workforce were women, African Americans and immigrants. Can any organization ignore more than three-fourths of the new workforce and be successful?"

Janette Ruesga, a licensed CE, is a civil engineering manager in the company's Sacramento, CA office. She heads up a team that works on road and freeway interchanges and design and modification of detention and infiltration basins.

Right now she's working on California's State Route 50 out of Sacramento, the western end of a highway that's nearly continuous coast to coast, wandering through Nevada, Utah, Colorado and Kansas and eventually terminating in Laurel, MD.

Her team is designing a new interchange. "We have to do an environmental assessment of the property, get a three-dimensional survey of the surface we're using, a traffic pattern survey and a traffic projection to the year 2030," she notes.

"This interchange will have three bridges and five or six retaining walls, so we have to consider earthquakes and wind loading," she explains. "I'm not designing all of that, but I am coordinating it. We expect construction to begin in 2010." If everything goes smoothly, construction will take two and a half years and the interchange should last at least fifty.

Ruesga received her BSCE in 1982 from California State University-Chico. After graduation she worked for Engineering Computer Corp (Sacramento, CA) as a junior CE. When the partnership broke up in 1986 she followed one of the partners to Dokken Engineering (Sacramento, CA), working in roadway design. In 2003 she joined DMJM Harris.

"I've been able to choose some very open-minded firms," she notes. "I was put in charge of the Route 50 project because I was the best one to do the job."

Kyle B. Winslow: forecasting and modeling at Parsons Brinckerhoff
Deborah Jasper, EEO at Parsons Brinckerhoff, notes that the company has a global diversity policy. "Diversity is not considered a program at PB, but an ongoing process."

As a senior supervising transportation engineer, Kyle B. Winslow specializes in developing and applying travel demand forecasting and operational models. "We work with the Department of Transportation on long-range and short-range projects, looking at demographics, income and land use to forecast future volume," he says. "The DOT uses our work to develop plans for everything from new highway lanes to new transit lines."

Recently Winslow has been working on New Jersey's long-range transportation plan. "We will help set the policy for the next twenty-five years," he says.

Winslow has a 1988 BS in engineering science and a 1994 MS in transportation engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He's a professional affiliate of the Institute of Transportation Engineering.

He began his career with Garmen Associates (Montville, NJ) as a transportation and traffic engineer, and joined PB as a senior engineer in 1994. He now leads a technical team of seven and finds the job very stimulating.

Winslow sees being African American as a plus. "There's a lot of diversity at PB," he says. "I've been treated very well and have had just as many opportunities as my peers.

"The company is doing a lot to recruit minorities and there are a decent number of African Americans in management here, including the president of PB's North American infrastructure division, William Smith.

"PB has given me the opportunity to work on some very interesting projects and I've helped them keep satisfied clients and win more jobs," Winslow says.

Samuel Boggan is a structural engineer at Bechtel
Samuel Boggan

Samuel Boggan

Davina Boyd is a college program admin and recruiter at Bechtel Corp (San Francisco, CA), the construction and engineering services company. She says that "to successfully accomplish our mission, we must be able to compete for the best employees. This requires us to strive for a more diverse workforce."

Samuel Boggan is a structural engineer with a 2003 BSCE from Southern University (Baton Rouge, LA). He did research at the University of Michigan and Louisiana State University two college summers, but it was his internship with Bechtel that helped him land his fulltime job there.

Right now Boggan is on a team of eight engineers working for the Department of Energy on administrative buildings for the Yucca Mountain nuclear geologic repository near Las Vegas, NV. He's done stress analysis on concrete slabs, worked to remediate gray water, written specs and put together bid packages.

In high school Boggan worked in construction and liked it, so CE seemed the next logical step. He likes Bechtel, which he finds "highly diverse with a stimulating atmosphere."

The biggest challenge for a fairly new engineer is adapting to new things as he moves from project to project. "You have to be like a sponge and learn from the more experienced engineers.

"Sometimes you ask a question and get a thirty-minute lecture. But you want that; that's how you learn," Boggan says with a smile.


Laurel McKee Ranger is a freelance business writer headquartered in Randolph, NJ.

Check the latest openings at these diversity-minded companies.

Company and location Business area
American Water
(Voorhees, NJ)
Multi-state water utility
(Highlands Ranch, CO)
Infrastructure, facilities, env/civil engineering and related services
Bechtel Corp
(San Francisco, CA)
Engineering, construction and project management
Bonneville Power Administration
(Portland, OR)
DOE agency; electricity at wholesale cost
Bovis Lend Lease
(New York, NY)
Construction management and related services
DMJM Harris
(New York, NY)
Engineering, design and construction inspection
King County Natural Resources
(Seattle, WA)
Regional government services
(San Diego, CA)
Engineering, science, technical and management solutions
Metcalf & Eddy
(Wakefield, MA)
Full service environmental engineering
(Des Moines, IA)
Electric and gas utility
Parsons Brinckerhoff
(New York, NY)
Construction services, highway and bridge design, airport assessments, power
South Florida Water Management
(West Palm Beach, FL)
Water management
Turner Construction
(Dallas, TX)
Construction management for schools,stadiums, major office buildings

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