I was born, raised, and still reside at the foothills of the panoramic Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. Although in my personal life I’ve always stuck close to home, in my professional career I have worked with folks from all over and from all walks of life. In over 20 years as a highway engineer and project manager, I have learned that successful projects are really about people, especially clients, stakeholders, and ultimately the end users of what we build. Therefore, successful project managers put themselves in the boots of others and hike a mile.
This may be easier for me than most because at one time or another I have hiked a mile (or more!) in each of those roles. For example, I’ve been an estimator and project manager with a heavy civil contractor, a design & construction engineer with TDOT, a project manager with TDOT, an assistant town engineer for a municipality, and a lifelong member of the Tennessee traveling public.
Of all these roles, I credit the TDOT project management position as the one that gave me a panoramic view of the project development process from concept to completion. As a TDOT project manager, I had the opportunity to manage projects in all phases of development. I learned how all the moving parts work together and affect each other. Over time, I have come to see how adjustments in the early stages of design can yield in large savings downstream during construction.
For example, once well into construction, a widening project required the lowering of a high-pressure transmission pipeline to accommodate new storm drains. If earlier in the project, engineers had instead made a minor adjustment to the profile of the road, the high cost and time delays of lowering of this segment of pipeline could have been prevented. Because I have led projects from concept to completion, I am able to see down the road and can anticipate and help clients avoid unnecessary time, effort, and expense.
In today’s political and economic environment, engineers face increasing pressure to reduce construction costs without cutting corners. I welcome that challenge. My having hiked a mile or two in the boots of others helps me do just that…right here in East Tennessee and beyond.