After 18 years working as a design engineer for a nationally recognized water consulting firm, I switched career paths to the other end of the spectrum: construction. I was not actively seeking a new position but accepted an invitation from a colleague to consider an opportunity with one of the country’s largest builders, Walsh Construction. With more and more projects being procured using collaborative-delivery approaches, Walsh recognized the benefit of not just working closely with engineering firms but having in-house design expertise and experience to properly manage the work and relationships with the firm’s engineering partners. It was exciting to know that I would be the first person to fill a role of this type with Walsh in its California Water Group. Leaving the only firm I had ever worked for in my professional career, and the many associates whom I deeply respected, was a daunting prospect. Still, the opportunity intrigued me. Some of the most gratifying and challenging experiences of my career were those that kept me involved throughout the entire life of a project. I believed this new opportunity would afford me that same satisfaction but in a new and exciting way, and I accepted the offer.
It has been almost a year since I joined Walsh in its Northern California offices, and I have experienced a variety of challenges and opportunities, all of which met my initial expectations. The work I am doing is very much in line with what I was doing as a consultant, and it has been fun. When asked how I am liking the transition and how it differs from the consulting world, I usually explain that I come at problems from a 180-degree angle from my contractor co-workers, but we typically still meet in the middle. My perspectives are often different, which really is the point, and learning how and why a contractor approaches a challenge has helped me become a better engineer and problem solver. The Walsh culture stems from being family-owned and is very similar to the “family” feel of the engineering firm I left. The focus on people at all levels of the organization is comforting and sincere.
Perhaps my biggest sense of satisfaction has come from an indirect compliment given to me by a colleague in another region of our company who asked me to find him someone like me. With the world of public works projects shifting to collaborative-delivery methods and the lines between engineering firms and construction firms blurring, I find myself very much at home at Walsh… even though I have likely stamped my last drawing as the Engineer of Record.