Growing a Career…and a Garden
You might think that a career as a gardener and landscape architect are quite different. However, John Nicolaus, Principal at Wood Rodgers, sees a gray area (or ‘green’ area) where these two passions of his connect.
“In landscape architecture, I like seeing the results of my work at the end of a project. Similarly, in gardening, I see the results throughout the season,” John explained.
“I really enjoy picking my own produce, like tomatoes, oranges, and lemons, and giving them to my friends and coworkers. I like the idea of sharing and making something yourself, which are related both to gardening and landscape architecture.”
John Nicolaus (far right) volunteering for an Earth Day cleanup event with Lilliput Families.
Growing up, John originally wanted to be a gardener until he discovered career opportunities in landscape architecture. He made his career decision based on the advice of his parents, their friends, and good old-fashioned college catalogs. Once he made up his mind, John never looked back.
“When I was 18, I got a job in an architecture firm through friends of my parents. My first title was ‘Office Boy’, which was a legitimate, normal title, like ‘Intern’. In that role, the architects and office manager taught me about how the firm had to run, how the office needed to be perceived, and how products needed to look,” said John.
After 34 years of experience in landscape architecture, John is now a far cry from “Office Boy”. Before he joined Wood Rodgers, he started his own firm, The Office of John Nicolaus.
“My company was successful, but then I had an excellent opportunity to come to Wood Rodgers,” John explained. “When you’re on your own, you have to do everything yourself. When I first started at Wood Rodgers, I was really excited to have Accounting, IT, and Marketing departments. All of our staff support is wonderful, and gives me the support to work on large projects again. At my company, our capacity was pretty limited, so we could only do certain projects. There is no limitation here.”
John Nicolaus (far left) at the 2018 Open House event at Wood Rodgers’ Sacramento office.
At Wood Rodgers, John’s entrepreneurial spirit is a major asset to growing our landscape architecture services. John believes it’s important to share that spirit throughout the Company.
“The entrepreneur spirit needs to be mentored with our younger staff. They need to know they have the ability to do what they want, within reason. When we grow sedentary and get comfortable, it’s easy to keep doing the work that we always do. We have to challenge our younger staff so they have opportunity to grow professionally and create the next generation of the firm.”
John fosters a strong sense of communication by talking with his team every morning. Whether it’s a conversation about project hang-ups or client requests, he finds that talking together leads to the success of projects.
“It’s really important for any professional to continue to receive outside input from people who know different things than you. That way, you can hopefully use those to your advantage for your projects and for the community,” John said.
John Nicolaus, Principal Landscape Architect & Planner at Wood Rodgers
In John’s experience, projects tend to be successful when his team can start collaborating with different departments and outside consultants early-on in the process.
“When you start thinking about the landscape early, you can identify how to make the design possible and integrated with the site and the building. Sometimes we’re called in too late, and the landscape design becomes just shrubs and sprinklers, which is fine. However, when we are able to think about landscape early and align it with the overall project design intent, we can look at it in a more creative way. Early collaboration is the key to success.”
John is a valued leader at Wood Rodgers in his role as Principal Landscape Architect & Planner. We’ll also keep him around for the treats from his garden.
For more on John, see his LinkedIn profile here.
Bridging the Gap Between Industry and Relationships
Before Chris Hodge joined Wood Rodgers as a Principal in our Bridge and Transportation Structures department, he worked in an office across the parking lot from our Sacramento headquarters.
He was close, but not close enough.
From that office, Chris used to watch our annual Open House event take place. He noticed the camaraderie between employees and knew that Wood Rodgers has a culture unlike any other. When Chris received a job opportunity from Wood Rodgers, it was an easy decision for him to make a career change.
“I was intrigued by the way Wood Rodgers approaches their work, employees, and work-life balance. Wood Rodgers fosters an environment where people enjoy coming to work. It’s night and day compared to my former firm. Not even comparable,” said Chris.
Outside of work, you’ll find Chris Hodge playing lacrosse, golfing, fishing or practicing medium format photography.
Although Chris now has over 25 years of civil engineering experience, he didn’t always know that he wanted to be an engineer. Chris studied Physics at U.C. San Diego before he changed his major to Structural Engineering.
“I was completely lost in an upper division Physics class. I had no clue what the professor was trying to explain. I just looked around the room. Everybody was nose down, just writing furiously. I decided then and there that I did not want to do Physics for the rest of my life.”
Chris continued, “I went home that day and opened the course catalog. I picked the major with the least amount of computer courses. I was at U.C. San Diego at the time, during a hotbed of research on reinforced concrete design.”
Chris Hodge, his daughter, and their dog, Parker.
After graduating with a B.S. in Structural Engineering and two years of research experience, he received an offer to start graduate school at U.C. San Diego.
“Bridge design is very technical. You have to really understand forces, moments, ductility, and things like that. Grad school helped me expand a lot of that technical knowledge.”
When Chris transitioned to his new role at Wood Rodgers, he leveraged his former work experience and professional relationships to hit the ground running.
“A large part of my first year was re-introducing the Wood Rodgers name as Bridge Engineers to clients. I utilized my professional contacts from 14 years of experience at my former firm and years before at other firms. In my former roles, I met contacts just by showing up and talking to people. Now those contacts are in decision-making roles.”
Chris Hodge (right) at the Wood Rodgers Sacramento Open House event in 2018.
There’s a reason our motto at Wood Rodgers is “Building Relationships One Project at a Time.” His advice to young engineers is to prioritize relationships.
“It’s never too early to start business relationships. Join all sorts of professional groups. Start meeting people, talking to clients, staff, and other consultants at your level. Everybody is going to grow up together. You and your colleagues may be entry-level engineers after the first year out of college, but in 10 years, you will rise up together.”
Chris has most recently landed a couple of bridge projects and has expanded our capabilities to include storm damage. During his next few years at Wood Rodgers, Hodge will continue to grow our Bridge and Transportation Structures services.
“I’m a bridge guy, but I don’t crunch numbers anymore. I like solving problems,” said Chris. “My goal is to mobilize our engineers to come up with solutions to suit projects. I am hoping to create a legacy plan to continue to grow our group. From now on, we’ll always have a Bridge and Transportation Structures group at Wood Rodgers.”
For more on Chris Hodge, visit his LinkedIn profile here.
Wood Rodgers Recognized at ASCE Truckee Meadows Branch Awards Banquet
The recent ASCE Truckee Meadows Branch (TMB) Awards Banquet was an evening to remember for Wood Rodgers! Ashley Verling, PE, a Project Engineer with Wood Rodgers, was awarded the 2018 Young Engineer of the Year Award. The night was made even more memorable when Wood Rodgers was recognized as one of the team participants for the 2018 Project of the Year in the Transportation Category.
As a project engineer, Ashley Verling has 6 years of professional experience, and she is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in both Nevada and California. In addition, she helps organize the student outreach efforts in the Northern Nevada community.
As a former Vice President, and later, President, for the Young Members Forum (YMF) ASCE Chapter, Verling worked to reach out to all ages to about the importance of Civil Engineering in our communities. She continues these efforts today at Wood Rodgers with her active involvement in our education outreach efforts for middle and high school students.
Mark Casey, PE, commented, “In Ashley’s 6 years at Wood Rodgers, she has quickly grown from a Staff Engineer to a Project Manager, and has surpassed all goals and expectations that have been set for her by the company.”
In addition, the RTC 4th Street / Prater Way Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project received the 2018 Project of the Year Award in the Transportation Category. Wood Rodgers has been involved in this project since 2009 and has provided services to the RTC including a corridor study, preliminary design, final design and construction management. This project connects the Reno and Sparks downtown districts along the Historic Lincoln Highway.
The 4th Street and Prater Way corridor continues to play a significant role in history of the Reno-Sparks community. It was home to turn-of-the-century commerce and industry, a former streetcar line and the Johnson-Jeffries “Fight of the Century” that took place in 1910. The goal of this project was to create a safer and more inviting multimodal roadway through enhanced pedestrian, bicycle and transit connectivity, all while preserving the historical significance.
The following photos were taken during and after the construction on the 4th Street and Wells intersections of the project.
The 4th Street / Prater Way BRT Project was completed in November 2018, ahead of schedule, under budget, and celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony. In addition to Wood Rodgers staff, the project involved the participation of many professionals within the community, as shown in this group photo of the award recipients.
Wood Rodgers is proud of our employees for their active involvement in improving Northern Nevada and the projects we work on. Congratulations to all of the award recipients and projects!
You Don’t Have to Plan to be a Planner
Stan Mette calls himself “maybe the least likely Principal of all time”, largely due to the C that he earned in his high school Geometry class. “Pythagoras and I just didn’t connect!”
Even though he’s made a career out of planning communities, Stan never really had a plan for himself in high school or college. Stan is the guy who works his way into a room and then – figures out what to do so he gets to stay. After he graduated from college, Stan worked as a drafter before transitioning to entry-level planning positions at The Spink Corporation and Wood Rodgers.
In 20 years at Wood Rodgers, Stan was first promoted to Associate and recently to Principal in Urban Planning. We sat down with him to find out what kept him around, and what advice he has for those just starting out in their careers.
Stan Mette (far left) during his early years at Wood Rodgers.
“I like having autonomy, responsibility, and accountability,” Stan explained. “Rich Wood and Mark Rodgers encouraged staff to work hard, learn and grow into new roles. So, about the time I’ve gotten bored with what I’m doing, there’s a new challenge.”
In his career in Planning, Stan enjoys working with people, negotiating for project support and making public presentations. However, he feels a lot of his success is owed to his coworkers and mentors.
“I was lucky to work with talented and creative people early in my career who took me under their wing and mentored me. I’ve been around good people who trained me to do this job. I didn’t naturally have the skill set, but they were able to teach me,” said Stan.
Stan Mette (second to the right) hiding behind the group during Wood Rodgers festivities.
One of the best pieces of advice that Stan received during the early years of his career is to think of maps as compositions. Stan believes that a map should quickly, clearly, and concisely tell a story, just like a composition.
“This advice early on in my career, changed my attention to detail, absolutely. The people part of my job is fun, fine, easy. But if you’re not technically sound, and you’re bringing in sloppy work, your company is going to look bad. My training back then was to pay attention to things, because my work reflects on everybody working under this logo, not just me.”
A recent headshot of Stan Mette.
As for advice that he would give, Stan says that it’s important to keep learning and value your relationships.
“When you’re young, learn as much as you can to find the area most interesting to you. That versatility allows you to stay employed when things get slow. Back in ’08 when business slowed and the company downsized, I got to stay because I agreed to be a drafter. I could still keep my own projects, but I also was helping by working as a drafter. That versatility allowed me to stay employed.”
“Be cool to everybody. The people you work with now might be your boss someday, you might be their boss, or they might be your client. Don’t make enemies. Treat everybody honestly and fairly.”
In his new role as Principal, Stan is excited about the future of the Company and continuing what Rich Wood and Mark Rodgers started.
“This is clearly a transition for me. It’s still strange to hear Principal next to my name. I’m hoping to look back in 10 years, and think ‘that was kind of cool!’”
Editor’s Note: Geometry class was the only C that Stan earned in high school. The rest of his academic record was spotless.
For more on Stan Mette, visit his LinkedIn profile here.
Wood Rodgers Principal Receives Lifetime Achievement Award
If you’ve seen the movie “Cast Away”, then you might relate to Paul Klein. But let’s back up for a moment.
Growing up, one of Paul’s favorite hobbies was building models, whether out of wood in the garage, or a construction site for Tonka trucks in the backyard. Now, as a Civil Engineering Principal at Wood Rodgers, Paul enjoys seeing his creations built in the community.
Paul brings over 30 years of Civil Engineering experience to Wood Rodgers, spanning both the public and private sector. He was recently recognized by WateReuse California with the Lifetime Achievement award. Paul served over 21 years on the Board of Trustees and held two terms as President of WateReuse California.
Before he joined Wood Rodgers, Paul started his career at RBF Consulting (RBF), which he looks back on fondly. He recounted moving from Southern California to start a new office for RBF in Sacramento in the early 2000’s.
“When I left San Diego to start the new office in Sacramento, they gave me Wilson the Volleyball, and that was my first employee. There were days when Wilson and I had long conversations about whether it was the right decision or not to move. At the end, it was. To this day, I still have Wilson,” said Paul.
These days, we’re glad that Wilson the Volleyball is no longer Paul’s only employee. At Wood Rodgers, Paul enjoys the collaborative spirit between employees, as well as the Company’s commitment to make projects successful. As a Company leader, Paul focuses on recognizing and rewarding employees.
“Ultimately, I think culture and the brand at Wood Rodgers are extremely strong and true. They are not just words – they are conveyed in the actions of the firm and the employees,” Paul explained.
For Paul, Civil Engineering is about solving technical problems with a creative twist. Paul discussed evaluating different approaches to accomplish a common goal.
“I don’t like to say ‘This is how we’ve always done it’. Creative solutions go back to the core of Wood Rodgers. Here, we challenge the way things are, and figure out if there’s a better, more efficient way to achieve the same objective.”
In his role as Principal, Paul is looking forward to creating opportunities for our staff and clients. As for career advice, Paul says it is important to work with a strong mentor and to take pride in your work.
“Anything that is worth doing- is worth doing well. There are times when not every task we undertake is fun or enjoyable, but if the task is worth doing, take the time to do it right.”
So don’t be alarmed if you see Paul chatting it up with Wilson the Volleyball…they just might be reminiscing about the old days!
For more on Paul Klein, see his LinkedIn profile here.
Working Together = Wood Rodgers + HomeAid + Catholic Charities
Wood Rodgers just recently donated our services and assisted HomeAid Northern California and Catholic Charities with site design for the renovation of Claire’s House. Claire’s House is a safe house for sexually exploited teens. Wood Rodgers was honored to help support our community and provide base mapping topographic services and the design and evaluation for ADA access for the parking and building access.
Wood Rodgers Ranks #5 – Largest Sacramento Engineering Firm
Wood Rodgers Ranks #5 (up one spot from last year) in the Sacramento Business Journal’s Book of Lists – Engineering Companies. We are proud to be the ONLY locally-based engineering firm that is headquartered in Sacramento, CA in the top 5 spots!
New Office Opens in San Diego, CA
1775 Hancock Street, Suite 160 | San Diego, CA 92110 | (619) 819-9240
It’s where the surf meets OUR turf!
Wood Rodgers’ growth in southern California and in the water/wastewater market takes an exciting new step to begin 2019 with the opening of a new office in San Diego. Office oversight will be provided by Kevin Gustorf, PE while the day-to-day operations of the office will be managed by Karl Meier, PE. Kevin and Karl have worked together for over 15 years on many projects throughout California, and will bring a proven partnership to establishing and growing our presence in San Diego and the greater southern California region.
Kevin Gustorf | (619) 819-9440 | Mobile (916) 671-2241 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin joined Wood Rodgers (Sacramento) as a Principal at the end of April 2018, bringing 20 years of water/wastewater consulting experience with him throughout California. Kevin’s experience includes the preparation of comprehensive master plans for domestic water distribution systems and wastewater collection systems for municipalities, as well as the design of water and wastewater infrastructure.
Karl Meier | Direct (619) 819-9222 | Mobile (949) 680-0715 | email@example.com
Karl brings 15 years of experience in the water industry working on potable water, wastewater and storm water projects. His experience includes hydraulic analysis/modeling, the preparation of water and wastewater master plans for municipalities, as well as the design and construction of water and wastewater facilities. Karl also brings several years of experience in the public sector, having previously served as the Engineering Manager for the Montecito Water District in Santa Barbara County.
Feel free to stop by and check out our new office (BTW, there is a brewery in the courtyard)!
Helping Fire Victims in California
Wood Rodgers is donating $5,000 to the Red Cross. If you would like to donate money, time, things, see the link below for resources:
We will also be collecting items such as toiletries, blankets, coats, new socks, dog food, cat food, leashes, paper products, new towels, PJs etc. and bringing it to one of the drop sites on Wednesday, November 21st. If you want to participate please feel free to stop by our Sacramento office or to a drop off site and we can deliver the much needed items to the folks that lost everything.
During this holiday season as you meet up with family and friends, take the time to appreciate all you have and the people in your lives– hug them tight and tell them how much they mean to you. We hope if you have family in the Paradise area (or the So Cal fire area), that you have been able to connect with them and they are safe.
Getting More out of Field Visits
Wood Rodgers has just recently performed an aerial video inspection for 3 miles of gas pipeline that connects mines located in north-central Nevada using our unmanned aerial system (UAS). Wood Rodgers’ aerial video was used to cover the route for annual revegetation monitoring in support of the Revegetation Plan. In addition, Wood Rodgers’ field crew were also able to conduct ground gas emissions monitoring while capturing the aerial videos. As a result, we were able to provide comprehensive and multiple sets of information… all in one field visit!