An Engineer’s Career Tips for New Grads
My name is Katie Mason, and I’m an Assistant Engineer at Wood Rodgers. Since graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, in Civil Engineering in 2015, I’ve been working in Land Development in both Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. I joined Wood Rodgers in Reno almost 2 years ago – and since then, I’ve continued to expand my competency in civil engineering.
As many college students prepare to graduate this winter and start their careers, I reflected on all of the lessons I’ve learned since my own graduation. Entering the work force holds new challenges and opportunities for everyone. These are my top five career tips specifically for new engineers.
These are my top five career tips for new engineers as they enter the workforce.
1. Engineers Need to be Business Minded
In school, projects and homework are fueled by due dates and accuracy. In the professional world, they are controlled by budgets, in addition to accuracy and deadlines. Recognizing time and financial constraints will help the business prosper and ultimately yourself.
When you are assigned a task or a project, communicate with your manager about the budget and time available to complete the work. If the budget is exceeded before the project is complete, the work still needs to get done. Effectively communicating with your manager about the budget will help to avoid these situations.
For example, especially during the first few months of a new position, ask the project manager how much time it should take whenever they assign you a new task. Since you are still learning as a new hire, you may not hit the target every time, but it will give you a goal to reach towards. A successful career as an engineer requires competency with managing your tasks in a timely manner.
2. Be Confident in Your Ability to Learn
Landing a job in engineering can be a humbling experience. Often times, new engineers step into the field surrounded by senior level employees who are experts at what they do. It can be frustrating to have completed a 4+ year degree and feel that your knowledge is elementary.
Recognize that the degree you earned is proof that you have the ability to learn at a high level. Gain hands-on experience in the field you choose. As a new hire, the senior level engineers will understand that there is a learning curve for you. Have patience with yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Eventually, you will be a senior engineer sharing your own knowledge with new graduates. A career in engineering is a career in learning.
3. Keep Notes of Day-to-Day tasks
One of the best things I have ever done for myself is keep notes of day-to-day tasks. My first year of my career, I filled multiple notebooks with to-do lists, training, tasks completed, meeting notes, design sketches, and anything anyone told me. This notebook was helpful to refer back to and study while performing engineering tasks. Instead of having to ask the same questions twice, I had all of the answers in my notebook.
A career in engineering is a career in learning.
Even today, I find myself going back to those notebooks to help me with current projects. Keeping notes serves a dual purpose. It is a record of lessons learned and tasks completed. Consistently juggling multiple projects makes it difficult to remember everything. Whether you are filling out your timecard or revisiting a design from years past, having notes will help you remember when or how something was done.
4. Communicate Your Career Path Early
Do not expect communication to happen on its own. Brainstorming ideas with your team and reviewing project details is key to a successful business. Even if your idea may not be the ultimate design, it is beneficial for your team to hear your input. It’s important for you to develop communication skills early on in your career, especially when you start new projects.
In another aspect, do not expect a company to chart your career path for you. Communicate career goals and how you want to achieve them. This will help your manager make you both successful. You may feel intimidated by team members or managers, but a good company will want you to succeed.
5. Have Fun and Focus on Learning
If you feel like you are stuck in a job, do not be afraid to move on. Success does not come from hating your job. Engineering provides so many opportunities for exciting challenges. If you focus on learning and trying out new opportunities, it should not be difficult to find a field you love.
To summarize, my advice for new engineers is to be business minded, be confident in your ability to learn, keep notes, communicate, and have fun. Congratulations to all future engineers!
This article was written by Katie Mason. For more information on Katie, please see her LinkedIn profile here.
Wood Rodgers Celebrates GIS Day
Sacramento, CA – November 13, 2019. What starts as a normal day for most people is a special day for our GIS Group – their day. GIS Day occurs once annually, and this year, Wood Rodgers is joining the celebration of geographic information system (GIS) technology.
GIS Day was first established in 1999 by Esri. Every year, GIS Day is an opportunity for users and organizations alike to share their work with the community. At Wood Rodgers, our GIS Group prepared a company-wide presentation to demonstrate the capabilities of the software as applied to different departments. For example, the GIS Group recently developed a vicinity maps application for civil engineers as well as geotechnical tools to help with field data collection.
The GIS Group has been working diligently to develop these applications, and each member of the team brings something different to the table. We sat down with the team to learn more about how GIS supports better solutions within engineering industry.
GIS Group Has 70 Years of Combined Experience
The GIS Group at Wood Rodgers is led by Sheng Tan, GIS Manager, and includes: Stephen Barrow, Jon Faoro, Eric Ford, and Azin Sharaf. The experience level of each member ranges from 4 years to 24 years of working with GIS. Overall, the entire group has 70 years of combined experience, effectively forming a team of seasoned GIS professionals.
Each member of the team had a different story of how they chose to pursue GIS as a career. GIS professionals Azin Sharaf, Stephen Barrow and Jon Faoro explained how the software first caught their attention.
“One of the reasons I became interested in GIS was because I like to look at things from the top,” Azin said. “For example, I really enjoy being in an airplane, looking down at mountains and topography. I really enjoy that view. So one of the things that was interesting was looking at maps in top-down view in GIS.”
While Azin was drawn to the top-down view of mapping, Stephen was intrigued by the practical side of GIS while he was studying Geography in college.
“Once you display data on a map, you’re able to visualize it. Instead of sifting through data that doesn’t make sense, you can actually see it. That makes decisions easier,” described Stephen. “I also enjoy the creativity behind cartography, which is how you make a map presentable.”
Wood Rodgers is celebrating GIS Day on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.
Growing up, Jon was always interested in maps, and even calls himself a “map nerd”. Jon explained that geography doesn’t ever dive too deep into one subject, which means GIS projects are continuously changing.
“I’ve always had interest in the geography of the world. In GIS, I get to work in a lot of different areas and experience different things. I work across multiple disciplines within the company,” Jon said. “I like to help show what can be done within the software to other groups in Wood Rodgers.”
While each team member was drawn to GIS for a different reason, all of them agreed that the continuous evolution of the technology kept them interested in GIS long-term.
New Technology and Collaboration Bring Better Solutions
The technology and applications of GIS are constantly developing. For example, Stephen Barrow recently joined the GIS Group at Wood Rodgers. He is looking forward to learning more about programming and also integrating the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into applications of GIS.
“There’s a lot you can do with GIS and I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. GIS is a continuously evolving technology,” stated Stephen. “I’m not ever really doing the same thing twice, which makes the job more enjoyable.”
For Eric Ford, the technological advancement of GIS holds his interest. As new applications in GIS become available, Eric develops tools to address specific needs at the company. Eric frequently works on the programming side of GIS, and more recently has delved into designing web enabled applications.
The interface for a web application for water resource engineers at Wood Rodgers.
“GIS sets us apart because we’re preparing for the future in using these tools. We’re using GIS to help engineers solve their problems. Sometimes GIS is a way to produce things faster so engineers have more time for quality assurance or quality control. Other times, we use GIS to find a different way to do things all together,” said Eric.
In addition, the GIS Group enables members to take advantage of changing technology within the engineering field. Jon Faoro enjoys the freedom at Wood Rodgers to develop interesting ideas into valuable assets for the company.
“At other companies, if you don’t have a business case to make money immediately, you aren’t able to invest time or look into what an idea could do. Here, we take ideas a little further and see if they will pan out,” described Jon.
For Sheng Tan and the rest of the GIS Group, the best way to develop new solutions is by working together with the other departments in the company. As Wood Rodgers is multidisciplinary, the potential applications of GIS within the company range from survey, to planning, to engineering design, and everything in between.
“In most engineering firms, GIS is treated as a separate department, so engineers don’t usually interact with the GIS division,” Sheng explained. “Wood Rodgers is different. The fact that we collaborate to come up with better solutions sets us apart.”
“Wood Rodgers has made a significant investment in the Technology Group to develop innovative solutions for the company,” Sheng continued. “We have the opportunity to come up with better solutions and think about better ways to do things. This has allowed our IT Group to explore leveraging cloud computing and big data storage for GIS data. Currently, the GIS and CAD Development Groups are working on solutions to seamlessly integrate both data formats in a single source of truth environment.”
Sheng Tan presents at the Esri Engineering Summit in 2019 on Civil 3D and GIS Integration.
As an Esri Partner, Wood Rodgers is also able to keep abreast with the latest technology innovations developed by the GIS software development firm. Furthermore, members of the GIS Group attend Esri conferences to continue learning about new trends and technology advancements.
GIS Impacts Projects Both Externally and Internally
In addition to the flexible, collaborative, and innovative qualities of their careers, the team feels that GIS makes a difference to projects. Before joining Wood Rodgers, Azin Sharaf worked on a project to integrate GIS into public safety. Azin designed a map for 911 dispatchers to accurately retrieve locational data when someone called in for an emergency.
“While executing the project, I realized that the map I was creating affected the lives of people. If I missed data, and a dispatcher could not find that address, what do they do? I put in a lot of effort to make sure everything was extremely accurate in terms of data quality,” said Azin.
Azin was proud of how that project directly connected externally to public safety. In other cases, the impact of GIS may be more internal to the project. For example, Sheng Tan remembers working on the Central Valley Floodplain Evaluation and Delineation (CVFED) project for 7 years at Wood Rodgers. Wood Rodgers was one of the four AEC firms involved in this state project and was responsible for 2,300 square miles of one-dimensional and two-dimensional hydraulic models in a very complex portion of the CVFED project.
“GIS played a key role in turning the CVFED project around and making it successful,” Sheng stated. “Initially, we were doubted if we could complete the project by the deadline. But we were able to deliver because we were using GIS to automate and streamline the workflows for modeling and map production.”
GIS Day is a great opportunity for users to show that there is more to GIS than making maps. As a whole, the GIS Group is looking forward to celebrating GIS Day and sharing their accomplishments with the company. However, when you are part of the GIS Group at Wood Rodgers, every day feels as great as GIS Day.
Article written by Lexi Robertson.
The Story Behind The Wood Rodgers Headquarters On C. Street
If you’ve ever visited our Sacramento headquarters before, you won’t be surprised to learn that our building has an interesting history. Located at 3301 C. Street, our Sacramento office buildings are beloved by employees and clients alike for their cool, industrial, and chic design.
The name on the front of our main building reads the American Can Company. This signage reveals an important clue behind the history of our building and grounds.
History of Canning
Canning developed as a means for farmers to grow more produce and sell it to larger markets beyond their local communities. Canning was also a good means of preserving produce, extending its availability beyond the harvest. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the canning industry was still in its early stages. Can production and canning were very slow, labor intensive processes. Everything was done by hand. By the late 1800’s most cans utilized the cap-hole style of can, which impeded the loading of produce into the can.
Most can manufactures were independently owned, and lacked the resources to research and develop new technologies. This changed in in the early 1900’s. In 1901, several large can manufactures merged together to form the American Can Company. In 1904, the first manufactory for an open-top can was opened by the Sanitary Can Company of New York. Several years later, the Sanitary Can Company was acquired by the American Can Company.
American Can Company – Sacramento Factory
By the 1920’s, the American Can Company had over 65 factories throughout the United States. In Northern California, they had plants in San Francisco and Oakland that provided cans to the fishing and agricultural industries. These plants were at capacity and were having troubles meeting the needs of the growing agricultural output of the central valley.
On December 30, 1925, the American Can Company announced that they had chosen a site in Sacramento for the largest and most modern can factory west of the Rocky Mountains. This new factory would initially manufacture special cans to support the Isleton Asparagus District, where 90% of the world’s asparagus was grown. It was promised that the factory would employ 400-500 people and produce up to 1.5 million cans per day.
The site they purchased was 33 acres of land, north of McKinley Park. The parcel used to be part of the old Meister Dairy.
This was extremely big news for the city of Sacramento. City leaders exclaimed:
“This signals a new era of growth and progress”
“The coming of the can company to Sacramento indicates that Sacramento will soon take rank as one of the most important inland cities in the United States.”
The level of excitement and pride was would be equivalent to being selected as the location of the new Amazon or Google headquarters today.
Ground was broken on the site on August 6, 1926.
New Factory Was A Large Investment for Sacramento
The total cost for the project was $1,600,000. This included the buildings, factory equipment and ten rail spurs.
The Sacramento Bee reported that “This is the largest initial investment that has ever been made in Sacramento.”
Each of the seven buildings of the former American Can Company – now Wood Rodgers, Inc.
The facility comprised of seven buildings that covered about a third of the site. The remaining land was left available for future expansion. Here is a listing of the former uses of each of these seven buildings:
1. The building closest to C and 33rd intersection, now containing the UC Davis Cosmetic Surgery office, was the factory’s main office building.
2. Adjacent to the main office was the Service building. This is where the UC Davis Dermatology offices are now. This building originally contained employee lockers, restrooms, a cafeteria and a small hospital. The hospital had “equipment of the finest type.” The cafeteria had modern refrigeration equipment, and the envy of all housewives, a dishwasher.
3. The building, where Transportation, Structures, Corporate Communications, and Water Resources are located, was the original factory building. It was built using state of the art, fire-proof, concrete construction methods. Walls of glass, and skylights with transom windows, provided abundant daylight and ventilation to enhance the working environment. The floors were covered with 2 ½ inch redwood tiles. This provided a surface to attach the machines to, and was more comfortable to stand on than concrete. The factory was laid out with seven production lines, with modern electrical equipment. Since each machine had its own electric motor, the factory did not rely on steam driven shafts and drive-belts for power.
4. The large building, now occupied by the State Controller’s Office, was the factory warehouse. It was outfitted with enormous bins, which could store 60 million cans.
5. The building, east of the water tower, which is now occupied by the Mercy Medical Group, was originally set up as a box factory. The east wall was built with wood frame construction to allow the building to be expanded into a second warehouse.
6. The building we are in now obviously contained the boiler, because of the smokestack located on the east end. The boiler was mainly used for hot water and to heat the other buildings. Besides the boiler, this building also had storage rooms for solder, and oil.
7. The koi pond building was originally a garage. You can identify where the large main door was on the back side facing B Street.
The lawn area between the factory and boiler buildings was left vacant for future expansion of the factory.
Originally, the only parking on the site was the parking sheds along C-Street. These sheds provided covered parking for employee automobiles and acted as a fence along the southern border. Where there are now parking lots, around the main buildings, was originally an expansive lawn. Facing the intersection of C and 33rd was a large hedge that spelled out “Can Co”.
Like Wood Rodgers, the American Can Company tried to take good care of their employees. Beside industry leading daylight and ventilation, employees had their own lockers, they could get meals in the cafeteria “at cost” and they could receive medical care for injuries and illness at the factory hospital. The facility even had ammonia chilled water pipes delivering cold water to 10 drinking fountains.
American Can Company, Throughout the Years
The can factory operated for over forty years. During World War II, they experienced labor shortages as production was expanded to include a night shift to support the “Food for Victory” war effort.
In the late 30’s, after the depression, the factory was confronted with labor disputes, strikes and rioting.
This 1945 photograph shows the steamy interior of the American Can Company. Photo sourced from Calisphere.
In 1946, production of fiber and metal frozen food containers was added to the factory.
Due to improvements in automated can manufacturing, and the advent of viable refrigeration and frozen food technologies, the Sacramento factory quietly shut down in November 1961, laying off the last 96 employees.
After the Can Company Closes
The site remained empty for a little over a year. In 1963, it was sold to the Parr Industrial Group and the facility was leased to Aerojet for their Sacramento annex office. Aerojet manly used the site for storage, but they did move in about 200 employees from their ground support division. Aerojet vacated the complex in 1966, when they consolidated their ground support group to offices San Ramon.
At this time, the site was sold to Harry Holgerson. He wanted to develop the site further and did a lot of the facility improvements that we see today.
The next tenant was the Department of Justice. They occupied the site until 1985. Due to the secretive nature of their work, they turned the site into a fortress. The complex was surrounded by gated fencing, bars were placed over windows, and armed guards could be seen patrolling the site.
In 1997, the owners wanted to tear down the warehouse building and replace it with two story and three story office buildings and a parking garage. This proposal was opposed by the residents of East Sacramento.
Wood Rodgers moved into the building in 2000, and the current owner, AKT Development, acquired the Cannery Business Park in 2006.
The next time you visit our Sacramento headquarters, close your eyes. You just might hear the distant roar of the boiler furnace, or the humming machines turning out thousands of cans.
About the Author
David Zavislan has over 30 years of experience in the Civil Engineering field. David is an expert on the implementation of Autodesk products in Civil Engineering design and documentation workflows.
Sources available upon request via email@example.com
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 industry, 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.