Growing An Office Takes A Twist
Meet the new face of Wood Rodgers—Tony Vignolo. With over 22 years of experience in the engineering industry, he has joined Pleasanton Office as a Principal. In this role, Tony seeks to grow the office by offering unparalleled civil design for his projects, while building relationships with new and current clients.
Career Success with a Twist
Although Tony’s career path has always been one of success, it has also had a few unexpected twists—twists that have shaped Tony’s experience and approach to management, leadership and marketing. Initially, Tony sought a structural engineering undergraduate degree at Cal Poly. That was, at least, until an internship at a civil engineering firm changed his mind. Tony’s observations during his internship were two-fold: civil engineers are more outgoing, relying on relationships to secure new projects, and civil engineers have more influence through their coordination with council members, mayors, planning commissions, developers and builders.
“When I went to school to be a structural engineer, I noticed other students weren’t as outgoing as me. I did all my internships during my summers as a civil engineer back home. In comparison, the civil engineering industry was very outgoing,” explained Tony.
Tony felt drawn to the more relationship-based work of civil engineering. Post-graduation, Tony found himself working with a civil engineering firm focused on land development where he began to develop his outgoing and personable approach to clients, staff and agencies.
Tony’s second career twist began in 2008. At the recommendation of a friend, Tony completed a 3-month unpaid internship working in medical device sales. Although Tony had no previous medical experience—let alone knowledge of anatomy—he jumped at the opportunity to learn the trade and the chance to earn a sales territory.
Tony Vignolo, Principal in Civil Engineering at Wood Rodgers, attributes his career success to its many unexpected twists.
In this new role, it was important for Tony to understand enough about medicine to sell medical device products to doctors. This often meant knowing the size of a screws used for spine fusion and the best tools for the doctor to use to make the surgery go smoothly. What Tony began to realize is the attention to detail that made him a good engineer caused him to excel in medical device sales.
“One day, the doctor was asking the current representative all these questions, and the representative didn’t know the answers,” said Tony. “The doctor turned and asked me, and I answered his questions. The next day, that representative was fired, and I was given UCSF as my main account.”
Once Tony earned UCSF as his main medical device sales account, he took off running. It is a strong example of Tony’s tenacity and ability to make the most out of any situation. Furthermore, Tony picked up important skills on the job that he now utilizes daily in his current role at Wood Rodgers. Tony mastered cold-call sales, and learned that trust is imperative to earning new business.
“The most important part is trust. You have to show your client that you know your stuff and you’ve got their back. You’ll be there for them and help them get through whatever comes up. If they don’t trust you, they’re not going to hire you,” stated Tony.
After a few successful years in medical device sales, Tony was drawn back into the civil engineering industry in 2012.
“I was working in spine sales, and I was so busy that I was working 7 days a week, 6 AM to 3 AM. I was sleeping in my car, not seeing my kids, and losing weight like crazy. So I got to the point where returning to civil engineering seemed like a better route for me and my family,” Tony explained.
Sales, Trust, and Engineering Go Hand in Hand
After returning to Carlson Barbee and Gibson for 7 years, Tony accepted our offer to be a Principal at Wood Rodgers. In his new role, Tony is implementing all that he has learned: how to gain trust and forge relationships with new clients, how to dig into the details to create value on projects, and how to lead by example.
After 3 months as a Principal at Wood Rodgers, Tony could not be happier with his decision to join the company. For Tony, a few things set Wood Rodgers apart: we are a big company, with a small office mentality; we have a multidisciplinary approach with one-stop shopping for land development services; and there is Principal involvement at every step of a project through to completion.
Tony will continue to grow our company by building relationships, both with clients and our engineers, and with a pencil and paper in hand.
Employees from the Wood Rodgers Pleasanton office at our annual Open House event.
Advice for Up and Coming Engineers
Tony enjoys mentoring young staff and showing them the “old school way”. He finds joy in showing staff how to design common AutoCAD tasks by hand. Tony will often use a pencil and paper to run quick design calculations. Each time, his “old school” calculations mirror the same calculations performed in AutoCAD, to the amazement of the newer staff.
“Observe and absorb,” said Tony. “Listen to the guys who have been around the block. Soon enough, you’ll be remembering all those tricks for how to run projects and do design. You’ll be able to put it all on paper and make it easier. Try to absorb as much as you can.”
As for the more experienced professionals, Tony says one of the most important lessons he’s learned in his career is to voice your opinion.
“After you have some experience, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. That’s why people are working with you. They want to have your input. You have experience. If you think something’s wrong or wonky, bring it up. They’ll respect you for it,” said Tony.
For more on Tony Vignolo, please see his LinkedIn profile here.
Article written by Lexi Robertson.
Teachers Bring Real-World Engineering Curriculum Into The Classroom
Nevada adopted new science standards (called the Nevada Academic Content Standards or NVACS for Science) in 2014. These standards are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a national set of standards which include engineering standards applied to all disciplinary areas—Life Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science. As part of these new standards, teachers are now incorporating engineering in the classroom.
As an engineering company, Wood Rodgers feels that we can play a critical role in leading students through the engineering design process applied to real-world situations. Through our community action program, STEAM Team, Wood Rodgers supports education initiatives for middle school and high school students. STEAM Team is a relatively new program at Wood Rodgers, and each of our offices in California and Nevada is developing a program relative to their community’s local needs. For example, we’ve placed emphasis on working with students directly through class presentations, office tours, and career education events.
However, it was originally Sylvia Scoggin’s idea for our company to become involved in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) curriculum development.
Wood Rodgers talked with teachers about developing hands-on science and engineering activities for the classroom. Photo courtesy of Kaiser Photography.
Sylvia is a Secondary Science Curriculum Facilitator in the Washoe County School District, and proposed that Wood Rodgers work with teachers to develop hands-on science and engineering activities. Especially at the middle school and high school level, teachers often have multiple classes with different students every day. Therefore, enabling one teacher could result in many students learning these engineering educational concepts.
It quickly became apparent that by developing curriculum for teachers, we could impact an exponential amount of students for years to come.
Wood Rodgers Develops Engineering Activities for High School Students
Sylvia’s idea was for the Wood Rodgers’ STEAM Team to develop hands-on engineering activities, and then train teachers to bring that curriculum into their individual classrooms. By showing teachers what a civil engineer actually does on a day-to-day basis, we hoped that teachers could better identify learning objectives for their students.
“Teachers can then use their training and experience to take that learning in the direction which best serves their students,” Sylvia explained.
Wood Rodgers recently embarked to develop hands-on engineering curriculum for teachers in Washoe County. Doug Del Porto, one of our engineers, is shown here presenting to science teachers. Photo courtesy of Kaiser Photography.
The biggest challenge for the Wood Rodgers STEAM Team in developing our lesson plan was to find common ground between Wood Rodgers’ work and Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), as part of the NGSS adopted by the state of Nevada. The SEPs are practices which all scientists and engineers engage in during their work. These practices ask students to integrate knowledge and skills in order to solve engineering problems or construct explanations.
That’s where Mickey Smith came in.
Mickey worked at Wood Rodgers as a Geotechnical Engineer and Principal for 10 years. These days, Mickey teaches Chemistry and Physical Science classes at Wooster High School.
“Having an activity that first engages the students in how the SEPs extend to the real world, then to have those connections reinforced through a presentation and relevant activity with real engineers, helps them see the world more deeply and goes a long way to answer their question, ‘How would this ever relate to my world?’ The SEPs are everywhere; students just don’t know it – yet,” said Mickey.
Amber Harmon, the Nevada Regional Marketing Lead at Wood Rodgers, talks with teachers about how engineering plans directly relate to the SEPs developed by Washoe County School District. Photo courtesy of Kaiser Photography.
Curriculum for Students to Understand Real-World Engineering Concepts
Mickey assisted the STEAM Team in developing two hands-on engineering activities. The first activity is designed for the teacher to present solo to their class. The second activity is meant to be presented by one of our engineers at Wood Rodgers, as a follow-up.
The first activity is a planning activity, where students focus on the SEP of “Asking questions and defining problems”. During this activity, students learn important engineering vocabulary, such as “parcels”, “setbacks”, and “right-of-way”, and where engineers label these terms on plans. Students also complete simplified math equations that would be necessary for a real engineering project to proceed. For example, students are guided to calculate the required amount of parking spaces for a project.
The second activity is hands-on, with an engineer in the classroom. The engineer will guide the students to design a preliminary site layout for a high school. The engineer will bring all of the supplies required for the activity, and will tie in the learning concepts from the first planning activity.
Four of the members of Wood Rodgers’ community action program, STEAM Team. From left to right: Lexi Robertson, Ashley Verling, PE, Amber Harmon, and Doug Del Porto. Photo courtesy of Kaiser Photography.
We designed the curriculum so the teachers could introduce their class to engineering concepts before a guest speaker (the engineer) comes into the classroom. That way, the students already have a basic idea of vocabulary and can better understand the engineer’s presentation.
After we finalized the lesson plans, we sent representatives from our Reno office to teach the teachers (pun intended). Sylvia coordinated for Wood Rodgers to present at a curriculum training event for Washoe County School teachers. Four volunteers from Wood Rodgers presented the hands-on activities and also talked about different career options for students interested in STEAM.
How to Bring Engineering Lesson Plans Into Your Classroom
At Wood Rodgers, we believe more than ever in the importance of introducing STEAM career opportunities to students at a younger age. When students learn about pathways to pursue career opportunities sooner, they are better able to take the required steps to be successful. In addition, we want to make the first activity, the planning lesson, more widely available, especially for the classrooms that we are not able to personally visit. If you would like the lesson plan, please email STEAMteam@woodrodgers.com and include “Reno Lesson Plan” in the subject line.
Again, the planning worksheet is designed for the teacher to present to their classroom before an engineer actually visits the class. We recommend reading through the worksheet beforehand and becoming familiar with the material and answers, before sharing it with the classroom. Each teacher might want to customize the lesson plan to the needs of their specific classroom.
If you would like to formally request a follow-up classroom visit for schools local to our regional offices in California and Nevada, please contact us through STEAMteam@woodrodgers.com. We have a limited amount of guest speaker availability, and accommodate guest speaker requests on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, we also take special consideration for teachers who can demonstrate STEAM learning objectives in their class curriculum.
At Wood Rodgers, we believe in building relationships both through our projects and throughout our communities. Our vision is to inspire the next generation of engineers to reach their fullest potential.
Article Written by Lexi Robertson
Edited by Amber Harmon
Unmanned Aerial Systems Reduce Engineering Project Schedule and Cost
Simply explained, photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. Through photogrammetry, a 2D or 3D reconstruction of a physical scene can be displayed as an orthomosaic image, map or 3D model.
Photogrammetry originally developed as a major asset for remote sensing and aerial mapping, particularly with the use of human-piloted aircraft. However, more recently, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) – otherwise known as drones – have become a widely used platform for obtaining remotely sensed data. These days, UAS serves as an effective alternative to human-piloted aircraft or other traditional survey methods to gather data for engineering projects.
Michael Detwiler launches an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for a mapping project in the Tuscarora Mountains of Northeast Nevada.
Wood Rodgers is leading the way to apply UAS technology to aerial mapping, particularly on projects for commercial development, residential subdivision design, and mining. The use of UAS provides more precise survey data, with reduced budgets and quicker turn-around times than traditional survey methods. Furthermore, Wood Rodgers adopted essential practices to make our clients successful as they join us in the pursuit of UAS technology.
Benefits of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Survey Technology Over Human-Piloted Aircraft
There are many reasons that Wood Rodgers invests in advancing our UAS services. First, projects utilizing UAS technology are no longer required to schedule a human-piloted aircraft for aerial survey data. In many cases, human-piloted aircrafts may lead to project delays due to required mechanical maintenance, unsuitable weather, or transit times.
A graphic rendering of a flight plan for UAS survey project.
The typical turnaround time from notice to proceed, to setting control, to flight acquisition and initial imagery processing is 1-2 weeks. Therefore, a project that is more susceptible to manned aircraft delays could potentially lose 2 weeks of its project schedule.
Instead, consider the use of UAS technology to collect survey data for the same project. For projects requiring aerial mapping, typically, we can deploy a crew, set ground control, and launch a UAS survey within 24-48 hours after a signed notice to proceed contract has been received.
Management of Data Processing In-House Ensures Quality Assurance
By conducting UAS flights and data collection in-house, Wood Rodgers controls the project schedule, cost, and data. After the deployment of a UAS survey in the field, we manage the data processing and map drafting services in-house. Instead of outsourcing these data analysis tasks, Wood Rodgers streamlines the process to ensure products are delivered on-time and on-budget.
After the deployment of a UAS survey in the field, Wood Rodgers manages the data processing and drafting services in-house.
By keeping data in-house, Wood Rodgers manages all aspects of Quality Assurance. Therefore, we are able to identify and tackle any potential issues before they become a problem for clients. Without proper Quality Assurance and testing of data, errors might present themselves further down the project timeline. At Wood Rodgers, our goal is to test and verify data to ensure that it meets required standards ahead of time.
Delivering Data with Clients in Mind
Finally, it is common practice in industry to deliver the final product of aerial imagery and topographic maps through AutoCAD and GIS files. This is a problem for clients without these software capabilities or training, as they miss out on viewing and analyzing their data.
Instead, Wood Rodgers keeps the client in mind. Our clients don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on specialized software just to view their data. We want to save our client from the burden of storing gigabytes of data on their IT infrastructure. As an alternative, we can deliver data products through an easy-to-use web interface, allowing access to data via PC, laptop, or even a mobile device.
Wood Rodgers creates design-ready deliverables for clients. Shown here is an Autodesk Civil3D planimetric and topographic contour map.
Wood Rodgers began investing in UAS technology in 2016. Since then, we have increasingly utilized UAS data for land surveying and civil engineering design projects. From generating topographic base maps to beginning the design process, to analyzing high resolution imagery for environmental and vegetation inventories, the possibilities and applications of UAS are seemingly endless.
Article written by Michael Detwiler.
Overcoming Barriers for Women in Leadership
Karrie Mosca always knew she wanted to be an engineer. However, Karrie might not have predicted that she would also, one day, become a leader and serve as a Vice President at Wood Rodgers.
After graduating from U.C. Davis with a degree in Civil Engineering, Karrie started working in the industry under a senior engineer. A year later, that engineer left the company. With nobody to fill the role, Karrie jumped in, managing projects and executing the responsibility of a senior engineer. It was a “sink or swim” situation, and Karrie learned how to swim with the best of them. The experience taught her to be resilient and to capitalize on the opportunities that presented themselves, even if they were not exactly planned.
“In the summer of 2013, I was approached to start a new office in the Bay area. It sounded terrifying, challenging and very exciting. I saw it as an opportunity of a lifetime, especially for a woman in my field, and there was an ownership opportunity associated with it, something I never thought was attainable for me,” said Karrie.
Wood Rodgers Pleasanton Expands Engineering Projects and Client Base
Karrie Mosca speaking at a Professional Women in Building (PWB) luncheon for the Building Industry Association (BIA).
After much thought and consideration, Karrie decided to embrace the opportunity and took a leap. Bringing her 15+ years of experience, her leadership skills, and her drive, she quickly grew the Wood Rodgers Pleasanton office from 3 employees in 2013 to 20 employees in 2019.
Karrie’s leap became a jump that went beyond expectations. Karrie’s projects and client base expanded, making her one of the top-earning engineers and providing her a seat at the table. In 2018, Karrie was voted into the Board of Directors as Vice President of Wood Rodgers. In just 5 years, Karrie achieved not only ownership of a Company, but rose through the ranks to help guide the Company’s future.
This is an impressive feat for any engineer, women or man alike. “She, literally, broke that glass ceiling—a ceiling that is all too obvious if you’re a woman in this industry,” stated Tina Cooper, Corporate Communications Director at Wood Rodgers.
Katie Caradec and Karrie Mosca debuted the “Wood Rodgers Cuban Cigar Cart” at a Building Industry Association (BIA) golf tournament.
There was no turning back after joining Wood Rodgers, and Karrie has little regrets. Despite the initial difficulty of her decision to leave her former firm, she saw something in Wood Rodgers that convinced her to make the change.
“I just felt that Mark Rodgers was the heart of the Company. He puts so much thought and care for his employees in all that he does, and that was overwhelming for me. I wanted to be part of Wood Rodgers, and Mark Rodgers was the kind of person I wanted to work for. I couldn’t have left my former job for just any old company,” explained Karrie.
Community Action in the Bay Area
As if running and growing a regional office along with her responsibilities as a Vice President were not enough, Karrie also volunteered as the 2018 President of the Professional Women in Building (PWB) council for the Building Industry Association (BIA) in the Bay Area. During her tenure as President, she helped organize a “Lean In” series of workshops for women, sharing her stories of inspiration.
Karrie Mosca accepts three awards on behalf of the BIA Bay Area PWB.
But wait….there’s more. Karrie, and her husband, Bob, are also raising their two 9-year-old twin boys. She attributes her ability to balance her work and home life to her supportive husband who helps with managing the home front.
Career Advice: Prepare for Tough Conversations
When it comes to career growth, Karrie described the importance of preparing for tough conversations.
“If there’s something that you want, especially as a woman, you need to go and ask for it,” said Karrie. “It would be great to think that your work will show itself for what it is, and that when your clients compliment you, your supervisors will look at you with real potential. But at my former company, I was doing a great job, being complimented, being paid well, and yet, they didn’t see that potential in me.”
Karrie continued, “If you want to ask for something, really make a plan for it. Steel yourself for the conversation, especially if you tend to have an emotional response. Come to the conversation with a plan and then follow through. If they say ‘We will get back to you’, ask ‘When?’ and set a date for a follow up conversation.”
At Wood Rodgers, we call someone like Karrie “the real deal.” We are proud to have her leadership both within our Company and in the industry.
For more on Karrie Mosca, see her LinkedIn profile here.
Megan Overton, PE, Brings Teaching and Engineering Together
After graduating at the top of her class from the University of Nevada, Reno, with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, Megan Overton, PE, started her first full-time job as an engineer at Wood Rodgers.
However, before she worked at Wood Rodgers, or even declared a major in Civil Engineering, Megan thought she would become a teacher. During her senior year of high school, she planned to enroll in teaching classes when she went to college. However, her high school Math teacher had a different idea.
Since Megan was on the tennis team, she continually missed Math class for tennis matches. Megan would make up the class material before school in tutoring sessions with the Math teacher, Mr. Zimmerman. It quickly became apparent to Mr. Zimmerman that Megan was gifted at Math, especially after Megan continually interrupted him to solve the problems “her way”.
Mr. Zimmerman suggested that Megan consider studying engineering in college. Before his suggestion, Megan never even considered a STEAM career, which shows the importance of mentoring. Now, Megan is an Associate at Wood Rodgers, and regularly takes the lead on a variety of public and private civil engineering projects.
Megan Overton, Associate Engineer at Wood Rodgers Inc.
So, how did Megan get to where she is now? We sat down to talk about her first day as an engineer and her advice for career growth in industry.
Drafting and Design Engineering at Wood Rodgers
On her first day on the job, Megan didn’t know much about AutoCAD. She started learning the program by drawing polylines on a Tentative Map. For those unfamiliar with AutoCAD, drawing polylines is one of the simpler commands in the program. Cary Chisum, Principal at Wood Rodgers, helped show her the ins and outs of AutoCAD during those first few weeks.
“I didn’t know anything about AutoCAD,” said Megan. “From day one, Cary was determined to teach me the tools of the program. He taped one of these little pieces of paper to the top of my keyboard and it’s been there ever since.”
Megan is referring to a piece of paper that shows the custom AutoCAD shortcut commands of Wood Rodgers. Virtually every engineer at Wood Rodgers in Reno has this piece of paper taped to the top of their keyboard. It’s sort of an informal rite of passage for engineers on their first day.
It’s typical for engineers at Wood Rodgers to tape a paper with AutoCAD command shortcuts to the top of their keyboard.
Communication Crucial for Successful Project Management
Since Megan’s first day on the job, she has learned much more than how to draw polylines. In fact, Megan now manages large scale projects for Wood Rodgers, such as the multi-year Park Lane project. In addition to the added responsibilities, new challenges have also presented themselves. Megan says that in a project management role, it’s important to facilitate effective communication between the client and the rest of the design team.
“It helps that I have that background of wanting to be a teacher. Every new person brought onto the project has to be taught not only the project, but also local standards. Part of my job is teaching what the restrictions are for the Park Lane project,” said Megan.
Megan’s communication style with the design team has evolved over time, especially when it comes to email. When Megan first started as an engineer, she would write long emails to try to explain project details. She quickly noticed that using pictures and paraphrasing made her explanations more effective.
“If you went back several years in my email logs, you’d see that I was writing really long emails to explain project details,” said Megan. “Really long emails take a long time, both for me to write and the recipient to read.”
Megan continued, “Now, more and more, I use pictures in my emails. When people see a revision in pictures, it’s so much easier to understand. I send little screenshots of what’s important. For example, an email might say, ‘This project changed, but, here’s what you need to focus on.’”
Guiding New Engineers and Supporting STEAM Education
Although Megan doesn’t work directly in schools, her interest in teaching is rewarded through mentoring opportunities at Wood Rodgers. She has taught several Professional Development Group seminars, which cover a wide range of engineering topics in the Reno office. Also, Megan acts as a mentor to up-and-coming engineers, and is involved with efforts to promote STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education throughout Northern Nevada.
Wood Rodgers supports STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) education efforts for middle school and high school students.
When she guides new engineers on projects, Megan tries to break complicated design work into small, manageable pieces. Her methodology is to teach engineers a task, evaluate how it went, and assign new work based on the collaborative process.
“It’s the result of the work that I get back that then determines the next step. In an ideal situation, I like to slowly build upon information, so the person isn’t overwhelmed. I gage how quickly they are picking up the information and build from there,” Megan said.
As Wood Rodgers is a multidisciplinary firm, there are opportunities for engineers to work with a wide variety of disciplines within the company. When a department needs extra help, Megan says to take the opportunity to broaden your skillset.
“Be willing and be excited to try everything,” Megan explained. “You’ll learn what you like and what you don’t like. You’ll learn what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. If you can pick up a lot of different tools along the way, then ideally you could be somebody who is beneficial to multiple departments.”
At Wood Rodgers, engineers – and teachers – like Megan make our company a learning environment that moves our community forward.
For more on Megan Overton, connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Project Wins and New Hires Grow Wood Rodgers Las Vegas
After a successful career as a Transportation Engineer, Bryan Gant, Principal, was intrigued by the challenge to rebuild a Wood Rodgers office in Las Vegas from the ground up. Bryan successfully delivered public works projects for years, and the opportunity to pursue contracts and form a team added an entirely new dimension to his career.
The only downside? In 2012, the first Las Vegas office was the size of a small closet.
“I was in charge of the Las Vegas office… however I also was the Las Vegas office. I was an army of one,” said Bryan.
New Transportation Projects for Wood Rodgers Las Vegas
Despite being “an army of one”, Bryan was convinced that the new Las Vegas office would be successful. At the time, Clark County had just passed fuel revenue indexing to fund new road projects.
After tough project pursuits in competition with established local firms, the Las Vegas office was awarded several high-profile contracts. Bryan is especially proud of the team for winning the projects for NDOT’s Long Range Transportation Plan Update as well as the City of Henderson’s Eastern Avenue Corridor Study.
A 3D rendering of a grade separated intersection, as part of the Eastern Avenue Corridor Study by Wood Rodgers.
In addition to their project wins, the Las Vegas team continues to add to their design capabilities. They specialize in Traffic Engineering, Transportation Planning and Design, Land Development, and Water Resources. Now, the Las Vegas team supports the entire Wood Rodgers company by performing services in-house that formerly were outsourced.
With Growth, Vegas Office Anticipates Hiring More Engineers
As their project capabilities expand, the Las Vegas office added new people to their team and anticipates hiring even more engineers. Bryan feels that their recent hires are attracted to the combination of Wood Rodgers culture and a fast-paced, growing environment.
“The Las Vegas office provides unique opportunities that you don’t get in a more established office,” Bryan explained. “You are in charge of your own destiny. Compared to more established offices, you don’t have the chance of bumping into someone else if there’s a particular direction you want to go. You’re empowered to go.”
Before the Move: Wood Rodgers Las Vegas recently outgrew the pictured office space and relocated to a new office.
It’s been seven years since the first office opened in Las Vegas, and the team has expanded far past the initial closet office space. In fact, they just outgrew their third office location, and recently moved to a bigger space. Jesse Patchett, Associate at the Las Vegas office, marks the office move as an exciting transition for the team.
“We are doing great and the future looks really amazing,” Jesse said. “Everybody is doing a rockstar job. Most importantly, we couldn’t have done what we’ve done without our team. They are the reason we’ve been able to grow.”
New Office Space More Conducive for Team Collaboration
The engineer mentality kicked in when it was time to design the new office space. Even the smallest details were planned to create the best work space possible for employees. The new office features spacious work stations, bright green doors (the Wood Rodgers signature color), a pool table, and…an inexplicable surf theme. Although surfing is not part of the typical lifestyle in Las Vegas, Bryan feels that the surf theme fits the culture at Wood Rodgers.
“We spend all this time talking about our rebel brand, and surfers are rebels,” said Bryan. “Is there anything more rebellious than trying to push a surf theme in the desert?”
The new office has a modern feel with spacious work stations and the Wood Rodgers signature green doors.
The Las Vegas team enjoys playing pool and darts together in the office at the end of the work week.
Surf theme aside, Bryan and Jesse are looking forward to creating an office environment that will continue to grow our services. The new office space will further enable the Las Vegas group to work together seamlessly and provide better opportunities for training.
“We have both young and experienced engineers in our office, and the group is constantly pinging off of each other to learn. They are up-and-comers,” Bryan said.
For Jesse, the new office showcases how Wood Rodgers is different from other engineering firms. At the end of the work week, the Las Vegas team enjoys playing pool and darts together.
“When somebody comes into our office, they see that we are a serious engineering firm with opportunity for growth, but we maintain time for a healthy work-life balance”, said Jesse. “We’re going to work hard, but we’ve got a pool table.”
Collaboration with Western Regional Superpave Center Brings Innovations to Wood Rodgers’ Material Testing Lab
Although asphalt is commonly used as a material to build road pavements, it must be uniquely designed to survive different climate and traffic conditions. As a result, pavement engineering is an impactful and critical research topic that affects anyone who relies on roadways and pavements for transportation.
As the national leader for asphalt technology, the Western Regional Superpave Center (WRSC) was established by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to implement Superpave technology. Superpave technology is an innovative method to scientifically design and develop asphalt pavements to meet the specific climatic and traffic conditions making the pavements more sustainable and cost effective.
The Western Regional Superpave Center (WRSC), a national leader for asphalt technology is located within the University of Nevada, Reno. Photo courtesy of the WRSC.
Leading the Implementation of Superpave Technology
Located within the Pavement Engineering and Science Program at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), WRSC leads the effort to implement Superpave technology within highway agencies. Dr. Peter Sebaaly, Director of WRSC, became interested in researching Superpave technology because of the complexity of each application of asphalt.
“Pavement engineering is a non-traditional specialty where every pavement is unique in terms of the environment and material loads. Every pavement is interesting. You cannot order a material with certain strengths, you have to design it,” said Dr. Sebaaly.
Dr. Peter Sebaaly, Director of the Western Regional Superpave Center (WRSC). Photo provided courtesy of the WRSC.
As Director of WRSC, Dr. Sebaaly takes his research out of the laboratory and onto the roadways. Dr. Sebaaly was recently recognized with UNR’s prestigious 2019 Outstanding Researcher award for his contributions in pavement engineering and science. Dr. Sebaaly and his team help to prioritize the implementation of asphalt technology to improve roadways not only throughout Nevada but also across the nation.
WRSC Program Alum Brings Superpave Technology to Wood Rodgers
Sandeep Pandey, a Geotechnical and Pavement Engineer at Wood Rodgers, earned his Master’s degree through the Pavement Engineering and Science Program in collaboration with WRSC. After graduating from the program and joining Wood Rodgers, Sandeep saw an opportunity to combine the groundbreaking research that he was involved in with the projects he was working on and introduced WRSC to Wood Rodgers.
Sandeep Pandey works on a Dynamic Shear Rheometer (DSR) machine in the Wood Rodgers Materials Testing lab.
As an integral part of the Pavement Engineering and Science Program at UNR, WRSC assists students such as Sandeep to be successful in their industry. Through advanced asphalt technology education, students are able to apply their knowledge into both private and public practice.
“We have an incentive for our students to succeed. This is an extended warranty for our students. When a company hires our students, and then comes back and asks for help to set up a lab or needs help in pavement evaluation, design or management aspects, we respond,” explained Dr. Sebaaly.
In fact, WRSC is willing to assist any company that is interested. Wood Rodgers just happens to be one of the few who saw and capitalized on this unique partnering opportunity in applying the research and technology into real-world projects. As a result, our clients are able to benefit with more sustainable projects that save costs and resources in the long run.
Dr. Sebaaly continued, “We help the industry and we support our graduates. Even if you don’t have any of our graduates, we would still help you. We are all partners in the community, not competitors. If you do well for the community, everybody will do well.”
WRSC Oversees the Expansion of Wood Rodgers Materials Testing Laboratory
In 2016, Wood Rodgers collaborated with WRSC to expand our Geotechnical and Materials Engineering services to become one of the leading materials testing labs in Northern Nevada. Our state-of-the-art materials engineering and testing services support both the design and construction phases of our transportation projects, creating a one-stop-shop for our clients. Expanding our services, Wood Rodgers included a Superpave laboratory in 2018, with initial set-up oversight by the WRSC.
“Collaboration with local agencies is very important,” explained Dr. Sebaaly. “The best way is to use our expertise in the interest of our community. We don’t have a product to sell, so we don’t have any benefits other than good roadways. We look for these opportunities to contribute back to our state.”
Continuing Education and Innovation in Engineering Industry
As WRSC continues its work in Nevada and throughout the nation, the center established courses for engineers to keep up with emerging technology. Dr. Elie Hajj is the Associate Director of WRSC, and encourages engineers from all backgrounds to continue their learning.
Dr. Elie Hajj, the Associate Director of the WRSC. Photo provided courtesy of the WRSC.
“We want Wood Rodgers to be out in front, helping agencies to implement new and innovative technologies…. We encourage agencies instead of discouraging them. Do your homework, learn and expand your knowledge through seminars and courses, and then you will not be afraid of new technology,” said Dr. Hajj.
In addition to formal classes, WRSC customizes trainings and workshops that are applicable for each company’s individualized needs.
For more information on the WRSC, please refer to their website here.
Wood Rodgers Oakland Recognized with APWA 2019 Project of the Year Award
APWA recognized the Wood Rodgers Oakland office and the City of Redwood City with the 2019 Project of the Year award for the 2017-2018 Redwood Creek Improvements Project (Jefferson Branch). The success of this Project depended heavily on the City of Redwood City, and Disney Construction.
Redwood City depends on Redwood Creek and its tributaries to convey storm water run-off from the Emerald Hills and nearby watersheds to the San Francisco Bay. In the mid-1960s, certain branches of Redwood Creek and its tributaries were moved into concrete-lined channels and box culverts. Over time, these concrete structures developed deficiencies and required repairs.
2017-2018 Redwood Creek Improvements Project (Jefferson Branch)
The Redwood Creek Improvements Project (Jefferson Branch) improved the reliability of the stormwater collection system.
The purpose of the 2017-2018 Redwood Creek Improvements Project (Jefferson Branch) was to improve the deficiencies of the concrete structures, while also ensuring continued reliability of the stormwater collection system. Wood Rodgers acted as consultants to the City, and Disney Construction was awarded the contract for the construction of the Project. A previous report by BKF also served as a reference for the assessment.
After analysis, Wood Rodgers recommended replacement of a portion of the Jefferson Branch, which was the tributary of Redwood Creek with the most deflections. The length of the concrete rectangular channel portion was 236 linear feet. The completed Project included components of special planning and coordination, shoring design, community notification, and adverse conditions.
Coordination for Replacement of Critical Storm Water Concrete Channel
The Project footprint was adjacent to nearby properties, requiring extensive coordination to accommodate property owners.
The Project required special planning and coordination with both property owners and regulating agencies. The existing Redwood Creek channel flows directly through several backyards of properties, requiring coordination with affected property owners. In addition, it was critical to finish all work within the channel by a deadline of October 15, 2018, due to strict permit regulations.
There were many challenges with coordination that the City’s engineering staff faced. One of the property owners did not grant the City and its contractor access into their property. Therefore, the Project was required to change the design from a full creek channel replacement to a half section creek channel replacement for the 30 linear feet affected by that property.
In addition, many obstacles in the backyards such as vegetables, shrubbery, and even a 15’ by 15’ shed required removal during construction. Disney Construction restored the plants, shrubs, trees, and vegetation on all of the affected properties after construction.
A communication plan was enacted to provide Project updates and street closures to the community. The City of Redwood City maintained a weekly email blast with news of the on-going construction. Work notifications were also provided at the beginning of the Project and at critical periods during the Project’s construction. All nearby schools were notified of the construction activities, and proper signage was placed along neighboring streets to notify of the nearby construction.
Strict Project Deadline Met Despite Adverse Conditions
Multiple agencies worked together to successfully complete the Redwood Creek Improvements Project (Jefferson Branch) on-time and under budget.
Coordination with regulatory agencies was crucial for the success of the Project. Regulatory agency permits were obtained and adhered to from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board. The strict deadline to finish channel work required the Project schedule to be compressed and efficient.
However, there were many adverse conditions that threatened the Project schedule. For example, the footprint for the Project was very tight and small, making construction very challenging for Disney Construction crews. The Disney Construction team implemented a ramp-in system to enter the work area easily instead of hoisting or using a crane to transport equipment.
In addition, Redwood Creek experienced unforeseen increased creek flowrates from both an upstream broken water main and a school power washing. Also, the Project had poor soil conditions. Furthermore, the construction site had groundwater infiltration enter the sides of the existing creek channel through the full length of the Project. Disney Construction installed sump pumps to automatically pump the groundwater out of the jobsite and maintain the Project schedule.
Finished Project- Typical section of backyard and creek.
This Project highlights the careful design and planning of a critical storm water concrete channel by the City’s engineering staff, Wood Rodgers, and partnering agencies. The Project was completed on schedule with a cost well below the maximum contingency budget for the project. Wood Rodgers is honored to receive the 2019 Project of the Year Award.
A special thanks goes out to the following team members from both Wood Rodgers and the District: Dan Matthies, Cheng Soo, Ryan Sexton, Brian Duong, Satish Kumar, Anthony Johnson, Gerardo Calvillo, Peter Blum, Analy Negado, Joel Evora, Ahmad Haya, and Omar Adina.
Intern to Principal
In June of 2001, Mike Motroni graduated high school and started as an intern at Wood Rodgers in Sacramento. After over 15 years at our Company, Mike became a Civil Engineering Principal in 2017.
Mike told the story of his summer internship at Wood Rodgers.
“When I started as an intern, we were only in the 100B building of the Sacramento complex. We were overflowing with people. There was no cubical or office space for me. For the first two summers, I actually had a folding table and sat in the corner of Tim Crush’s office. Sharing an office with Tim was enlightening as it provided a unique perspective of the business.”
Mike Motroni, Principal at Wood Rodgers
Mike Motroni, Principal at Wood Rodgers
Summer Internship Leads to Lifelong Opportunity at Wood Rodgers
But what kept Mike at Wood Rodgers for his entire career?
“The culture is great here,” Mike said. “You have the ability to put in what you get out of it. I knew that by putting in extra effort and doing things that could grow my career, I could benefit from what the firm would provide.”
For Mike, the flexibly and mentorship at Wood Rodgers set it apart from other companies.
“As long as you get your work done, you have a lot of freedom and autonomy,” Mike explained. “Also, Pete Tobia was and continues to be a great mentor. He was very supportive of me as an engineer and in my career development, which made me want to give back. Now, I try to give that same support to younger engineers.”
Ryan Claycomb with AKT (left) and Mike Motroni (right) at the Wood Rodgers Sacramento Open House event.
Growing Career Responsibilities
As a Civil Engineer, Mike enjoys that every day is different on the job. He also likes to see the final results of his work after communities, businesses, and homes are built. Throughout his career, Mike continually challenged himself to grow his responsibilities.
“As my career progressed, I would challenge myself to do the next job or the next position that I wanted,” said Mike. “For example, before becoming an Associate, I would look around and see what an Associate would do and how their role fits in the company.”
Mike continued, “Then as an Associate, I’d take an active lead on identifying the agenda for client meetings and working through that agenda. After a while, the Principals would stop coming to those meetings.”
Mike Motroni (right) prioritizes building relationships in industry. Here with Roseville City Councilman Bruce Houdesheldt.
Advice for New Engineers
In addition, Mike attended industry professional groups such as the Building Industry Association after he noticed that many Associates and Principals were active members. He thinks it’s important to network and become actively involved in the community.
Mike offered advice for those seeking to advance their careers in engineering.
“Try to learn as much as you can”, said Mike. “There’s a lot that goes on and you’re not going to grasp all of it, especially as you’re just starting out. Ask questions. Those who ask more questions end up having a better understanding of how the business works.”
These days, when Mike works with new engineers, he encourages their career growth within the Company. After all, Mike’s internship at Wood Rodgers was the career opportunity of a lifetime.
When not at work, you can find Mike with his wife raising their four young children.
Follow along with Mike Motroni on LinkedIn here.
City Looks Ahead to Future Drinking Water Demand
For our Hydrogeology Group at Wood Rodgers, no two projects are the same. In particular, projects stand out when our team can directly measure the impact on the communities we serve.
Our Hydrogeology Division consists of Hydrogeologists, Geologists, Field Inspectors, and Project Managers in Sacramento and San Dimas, California. Our Geologists and Hydrogeologists work seamlessly together on projects; however, we are positioned in both Northern California and Southern California to provide excellent Hydrogeologic services to all of our clients.
As projects continually evolve, Sean Spaeth, Project Manager at Wood Rodgers, says that a strong team is key to delivering innovative results.
“We’re all individually strong in certain areas, and together, we make a great team,” explained Sean. “We complement each other. We’re each like a piece of the puzzle, and together, we paint the whole picture.”
Exploratory Drilling to Evaluate Water Supply Feasibility
One project that stands out for our Hydrogeology Division was an exploratory drilling program to further the understanding of the groundwater system for the City of Vacaville. As the population of Vacaville continues to expand, the city needs to stay in front of anticipated increases in water demand.
Wood Rodgers worked with the City of Vacaville to establish their needs and to assess the underlying aquifers to evaluate the feasibility of constructing new municipal water supply wells. Wood Rodgers designed an exploratory drilling program to evaluate three separate locations within the City. The program identified total exploratory depths and target aquifers.
As shown in this video, Wood Rodgers lithologically logging a 900 foot test hole to identify the geologic material. In addition, Wood Rodgers provided oversight and inspection services during geophysical logging and the construction, development, and testing of a multiple-completion monitoring well.
“None of our projects are typical, but this project for the City of Vacaville is right up our alley. We develop an understanding, including quality, of the groundwater system so our clients can make informed decisions on how best to proceed and develop new sources of water,” said Sean.
Hydrogeologic Services at Wood Rodgers
Wood Rodgers has provided Hydrogeologic services to more than 80 cities, counties, and water districts in Northern California alone. To support and provide Hydrogeologic services to our Southern California clients, Wood Rodgers’ San Dimas office extends our exceptional services for the groundwater needs of our clients. Together, staff in both offices work seamlessly to provide a State-wide level of Geologic and Hydrogeologic expertise unmatched in the industry. On new projects, the team develops clear project objectives with the client to understand exactly how to best achieve their goals. From there, the Hydrogeology Group provides technical guidance and recommendations based on a comprehensive analysis.
“We provide an objective look into the data. We don’t go in there with a cookie cutter approach. We try to understand all the facts and provide our clients with value added approaches that reduce overall project costs,” said Sean.
Our Hydrogeology Group in Northern California consists of Justin Brandon, Bryan DeMucha, Larry Ernst, Angelica Mercado, Julie Reische, and Sean Spaeth. We are excited to provide these services in Water Resources and Groundwater Supply throughout Northern and Southern California.
For more information on our Hydrogeologic services in Northern California, contact Sean Spaeth at sspaeth@WoodRodgers.com.