Senior Project Manager
What do you do in the underground construction industry, and how long have you been in the industry?
I have been in underground construction since 2004, when I started working for Moretrench, which is now part of Keller. We are a geotechnical contractor that also performs a lot of in-house design, so we have the unique opportunity to be designers and contractors for many projects. That capability allows for developing an idea, designing it and then building it.
We are not a tunneling contractor – that is, we do not do the tunneling – essentially, we make bad ground into good ground so that our client can tunnel through it. This means that instead of seeing an entire tunneling project from start to finish, I will typically be involved in a smaller, but perhaps critical, piece on several tunnel projects.
How did you get into the industry, and why did you decide to pursue it as a career?
A career fair provided me the opportunity to work as an intern at Moretrench. Being exposed to their day-to-day activities, the various types of projects they were involved in, and the interest in geotechnics enabled me to realize quite quickly that the company and industry would be great career choices for me.
At the time, I did not realize how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to do an internship. It is something I strongly recommend for anyone considering a particular field.
What is it like to work as an engineer on underground projects?
In one word – Exciting! The projects are rarely easy or straightforward. Underground projects are typically in urban environments with vast networks of existing infrastructure. Working around that infrastructure and in soil and/or rock with properties that change with depth and across the project keeps things interesting.
One of the projects I am currently managing is a very large jet-grouting project to underpin the Brooklyn Bridge. It is an unprecedented opportunity. I love the challenge.
What professional achievements have defined you and made you proud?
It is difficult to pinpoint a single professional achievement that sticks out above the rest, as I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in numerous high-profile projects, including some very challenging grouting projects, that were highly satisfying experiences, so I’d have to say the achievement I’m most proud of is the aggregate of those experiences.
I am also on the DFI and ASCE (Deep Foundations Institute and American Society of Civil Engineers) Grouting Committees, and probably the youngest member, and I am proud of that.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced, and how have they been meaningful?
I have been a part of several projects where we have been called in to remediate a major problem that is stalling out the entire project. One of these projects recently was a tunnel collapse due to an unsuspected different ground condition. These types of projects are always the most demanding/interesting/challenging because you are focused on designing the right solution and then implementing it as quickly as possible. You have to react quickly based on what you think is the root cause of the problem but be able to confirm that suspicion during the progress of the emergency response. Things move very quickly. You learn a lot, fast.
Once our work is completed, it is very satisfying to see the project moving forward again. These projects have also developed some of the strongest relationships because the client remembers how you responded when they needed help.
What do you hope the future holds for yourself and for the industry?
For the industry, I hope the future holds an ever-growing number of projects to continue the innovation that is taking place in the underground space. The need for infrastructure improvements is great, and it will continue to grow as society does. It would also be nice to see better recognition for the accomplishments realized by the underground industry.
For myself, I hope the future continues to hold opportunities to develop solutions to complex problems and then build those solutions.
What is your advice to a student looking to enter the underground field?
From bottom to top, this industry is full of extremely talented individuals. Spend as much time as you can listening to and learning from their experiences, and look for an internship.
There are no limits to the impact that you can have and the places that a career in underground construction can take you.