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.
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!