Lead Tunnel Engineer
Give us your background in the industry. What led you to pursue your profession?
I was raised in a small town south of St. Louis, with great parents and grandparents who encouraged me to explore and expand my horizons. At a young age I found myself building things, like small dams on creeks, treehouses and trails in the woods. In my teenage years, I worked construction and while I enjoyed it, I excelled academically and wanted to explore what college had to offer. I began with the intent to pursue a construction management degree, but had a wonderful professor for physics and engineering. This subsequently led me towards civil engineering, which in my opinion mixed very well with my construction interest. I had a particularly great experience at an internship in Kansas City where I worked on a project in Las Vegas, Nevada called SCOP that was an ambitious program, involving tunneling beneath the River Mountains to recycle water resources from Las Vegas to Lake Mead. After that summer, I knew that tunneling was where my career was headed. It excited me and I never turned back.
What led you to join UCA?
I’m a member of the Underground Construction Association (UCA), which is the leading organization within the tunneling community. I had a few amazing mentors while working in Kansas City and Washington, D.C. who were active with UCA and encouraged participation with professional organizations, which is a great way for young professionals to engage and grow a reputation within the industry.
How long have you been a member?
I’ve been a member since 2014, including three years of volunteer service on the UCA Young Member Executive Committee from 2016 to 2019.
What do you like most about the industry?
I enjoy contributing to projects with grand ambition and those that provide tangible benefits to the environment or community. I serve as WSP’s project manager for our involvement in the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District’s Project Clear, which is an ambitious $4.7 billion initiative to improve water quality and eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in the St. Louis region. I am incredibly proud to be involved in such a wonderful project that helps to improve the rivers and streams in my hometown.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
Underground construction is one of the few remaining engineering disciplines that requires significant interpolation and interpretation of the ground conditions, which can vary significantly and greatly influences construction methods. The inherent unknowns of underground construction are one of the most challenging, yet enjoyable aspects of underground construction.
What do you find most rewarding?
I particularly enjoy giving back to the next generation. I am extremely grateful for those who helped me along the way and find that giving back by means of mentoring, teaching or hiring an intern or new professional are some of the most enjoyable and rewarding things that I can do. I see a lot of potential in students and love their passion and excitement!
Was there an experience during your UCA membership that you felt enhanced your career in some way?
My involvement with the UCA Young Member Executive Committee afforded me several unique opportunities to network with industry professionals and clients across the country. I highly encourage any and all young professionals to step-up and get involved with SME, which will reward you greatly.
Favorite benefits of SME?
I particularly enjoy the North American Tunneling (NAT) Conference which happens every other year. I highly encourage anyone who hasn’t attended this wonderful conference to participate and take advantage.
What would you tell your younger self about the industry or your career path that you know now?
If you have a question or want a mentor, take action. Don’t wait for others to ask you, but rather take the initiative and reach out to someone you respect. All of us want to help contribute to your career success, but it’s hard for us to help if we don’t know your questions or that you would like to be mentored.
Who has been someone that has been key in shaping your career and why?
I am incredibly grateful to Clay Haynes, a tunnel engineer in Kansas City (at the time) who was my first supervisor in a civil engineering setting. At a very young age, Clay believed in me and allowed me to work on advanced tunneling concepts and always took the time to explain and work through things with me. He allowed me to learn the fundamentals of tunneling, gave me a wonderful opportunity and I will always be appreciative. We now work together in complimentary roles in St. Louis, cleaning up our precious waterways.
Where do you think the industry will take you in the next decade?
I plan to see the program through to its end here in St. Louis, but I hope in 10 years to still be working in the tunneling industry, mentoring young professionals and volunteering in a meaningful way and would like to be an Executive Committee member of the UCA. I am very appreciative of my career thus far and hopeful that the next 30 years are as good as the last 10.