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.
Wood Rodgers Ranks #53 by Sacramento Business Journal for Locally Based Private Companies
Wood Rodgers Ranks #53 by Sacramento Business Journal for Locally Based Private Companies!
We are proud to be ranked so highly on a list of successful organizations in Sacramento. Not only are we leaders in the engineering industry, but this list demonstrates that we stand alongside private companies in a variety of industries.
Thank you for all of your hard work, dedication, and many contributions in helping Wood Rodgers make this distinguished list! Check out the full list here.
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.”
Career Opportunities in 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.”
Entrepreneurial Spirit at Wood Rodgers
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.
Advice for Project Success
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.
Choosing to Study Structural Engineering
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.”
Applying Bridge Design to Industry
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.”
Advice to New Engineers
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.
Ashley Verling Wins 2018 Young Engineer of the Year Award
Ashley Verling, PE addresses the attendees at the ASCE Annual Awards Banquet. Photo courtesy of Lexy Peterson.
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.”
RTC 4th Street / Prater Way Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project Receives 2018 Project of the Year Award
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 and Wells Avenue Intersection during construction.
The 4th Street and Wells Avenue Intersection after construction.
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.
The group photo of recipients for the 2018 Project of the Year – Transportation Category. Photo courtesy of Lexy Peterson.
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.
20 Years at Wood Rodgers
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.
Attention to Detail Brings Project Success
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.”
Keep Learning and Value Relationships
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.
Paul Klein Recognized by WateReuse California with Lifetime Achievement Award
Paul Klein was recently recognized by WateReuse California with the Lifetime Achievement award.
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.
Solving Technical Problems With A Creative Twist
Paul Klein, Civil Engineering Principal at Wood Rodgers. Photo by Carley Stephens Photography.
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!