A New Perspective: Meeting in the Middle Through Collaboration

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.

About Jonathan Keaney, Preconstruction Design Manager, The Walsh Group

Jonathan Keaney is Preconstruction Design Manager with The Walsh Group. His expertise is in collaborative delivery of large municipal wastewater projects including biosolids, nutrient removal, advanced treatment, cogeneration, construction management, and site logistics.
Topics: Collaborative Delivery, The Walsh Group.