February 21st launches the beginning of National Engineers Week 2021. This year marks the 70th anniversary of this celebrated week as it continues to serve as a valuable platform to help educate, mentor, and inspire the next generation of problem-solvers. The theme for Engineers Week 2021, “Imagining Tomorrow” fully encapsulates the focus of the engineering profession as society moves forward into an uncertain future. Faced with a number of growing challenges, engineers are on the front lines of many of these fights, constantly working to make the world a better, and safer place.
Four years ago, during Engineers Week 2017, we shined a spotlight on five new team members at Snyder & Associates to share their insights and aspirations about the profession. As the 2021 festivities get underway, we thought we’d check in with these young professionals to catch up on their progress, achievements, and how they see the engineering profession evolving.
Thinking about this year’s theme of “Imagining Tomorrow,” how do you see your profession changing in the coming years?
As a traffic engineer, autonomous and connected vehicles will greatly affect the design of traffic control infrastructure. Other emerging and improving technologies such as traffic signal performance measures and cell phone travel time data will allow for better, more data-driven recommendations and decisions. — Andrew Houchin, P.E.
I think we will see an increasing focus on designing for extreme weather conditions. Particularly with flooding, I’ve seen a number of clients come to us with a story about how unprecedented flooding has negatively impacted the quality of life in their community. We’ve had a few projects where we were asked to evaluate flooding from and calibrate our design based on a rain event larger than the so-called (and often misinterpreted) “100-year flood” because a client has seen an event within the last five years that has exceeded that threshold. — Parker Just, P.E., CFM
As cities continue to grow and as we experience more catastrophic environmental events, we’re going to see big changes in our design work to become more sustainable. We’re starting to see that now with the implementation of Capital Crossroads in the Des Moines metro. — Lorena Wasion, E.I.
The decline in the amount of how many of our deliverables are actually printed on a piece of paper highlights how important our modeling software and design processes have become. — Matt Allender, P.E.
The major change to come out of 2020 is the work environment of our profession shifting to be able to be done more remotely. I think aspects of that will carry into the future and provide more flexibility in the profession. — Kyle Sokulski, E.I.
How are things coming along with the goals you mentioned in the previous article from 2017? Have your goals changed after a number of years in the profession?
I obtained my Iowa PE license at the end of 2019, but haven’t made plans to obtain my professional traffic operations engineer license, yet. I have enjoyed the experience I have gained as both an EI and PE over the past several years, and my current goal is to continue to gain experience with a variety of projects including furthering my experience with project manager responsibilities and duties. — Andrew Houchin, P.E.
Particularly within the last year, I have had the opportunity to mentor younger engineers as well as an intern. I’m at the point in my career where I have a number of people who contact me from all around our different branches asking me to help out on their projects, which is extremely rewarding. I also think that I’ve been able to foster positive relationships with the communities that we serve to the point where they can trust me to tell them what they need to know. — Parker Just, P.E., CFM
My goal back in 2017 was to get my PE license. I’m still working on that and plan to take the exam this year. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by engineers and LAs with years of experience that provide mentorship. My long-term goal is to provide that same helping hand for the upcoming EIs. — Lorena Wasion, E.I.
It’s humbling to answer the same questions for new EI’s that I used to ask — fulfilling, but humbling nonetheless. Working directly with clients shifted my focus from the project team to the client and their community. — Matt Allender, P.E.
The major goal I had mentioned in 2017 was to obtain my PE. In January, I finally achieved the required four years of experience and am scheduled to take the test in April. I am focusing on that now more than ever. Beyond that, I would like to expand my knowledge and continue to take on new and different projects that come up. — Kyle Sokulski, E.I.
Now that you’re seasoned professionals, what has surprised you the most about the engineering field?
The most surprising thing for me has been how every project continues to teach me new things, whether it is something technical, something related to project management or something to help the public and clients better understand design elements. — Andrew Houchin, P.E.
The number of subject matter experts that exist within the profession and especially at Snyder & Associates. There are subjects in which I think that I’m an expert, but I’ve found there’s always someone out there that has had different experiences from me that can get me to think about a project from a different angle and guide the overall project to be the best that it can be. — Parker Just, P.E., CFM
What surprised me the most is how much more I would learn in my career. Even after four years, I continue to grow and develop new skills as each site/project is never the same. — Lorena Wasion, E.I.
The speed. Seeing projects go from concept to completion in a matter of months, contrasted against projects 20 years or more in the making highlights how quickly the industry has adapted to new technology and processes. — Matt Allender, P.E.
I think what has surprised me most is that I am constantly learning. I had this idea that by a certain point, how much different or new can a project be? Well, it seems like as soon as you think you have a good handle on everything in a certain field, a new project comes along with something completely new. Or new regulations are passed in a client community and that’s always keeping me on my toes. — Kyle Sokulski, E.I.