Inside Engineering: Untold Stories and Fascinating People from the World of Civil Engineering. This is Episode 14: A Look Back at 2019 Inside Engineering is an RK&K podcast. Learn more at rkk.com
Episode 11 Let's rewind back to the beginning of your career or maybe even before that is — as early as you want to go back. What's something that you wish you had known earlier on in your career?
It could even... This could even be like a little bit of advice that you might give to our listeners, a lot of whom I think are probably earlier on in their career. That I would end up in construction. You would have done things differently?
Would you have done things differently? No, I would have embraced it early on. I wanted nothing to do with construction. My father. Was always in construction. My father built high rises and he always said, "Construction, construction, construction" and I thought I was doing something slick by going to school for environmental. Jokes on you. And lo and behold, I'm here in construction and I never knew that there would have been a job where doing environmental in construction didn't thought there was a possibility. I thought we... Well there were no degrees back then. Yeah. Yeah, it was. You were building and that was it. You know, and I was never a person that liked to build anything.
That's interesting. Well, I mean, it speaks to the kind of opportunities there — these kind of cross discipline things that are happening. So, you kind of both got... You and your dad got both got what you wanted. Oh Yeah. He's proud. Yeah, he's proud. He said, "I told you son, construction was the way to go.". "I told you, Dad, environmental.". "Construction will give you a good life."
You know, if I could go back, I think. I think the biggest thing I don't know how you, you know, get any training or education in this, but you alluded to it like a lot of what we do, it's it's personal skills. And really in construction, that's what you need. You need the soft skills. You know, you need to get people to do things for you that have no reason to do them other than that you need them to get it done. So I don't know, going back how I could have maybe focused a little bit more on that. I mean, hopefully it comes naturally to you when you're in this type of field. But that, I think is is important and it took a while to get there. I think another thing, too, that I didn't realize when I first started was that sometimes I felt like as the owners rep or working on a big project, you know, the contractor was the other team and I was on another team and it was two teams. And I think that over the years I've learned that it's really more of a partnership. When you're working with a contractor and owner and you're kind of the mediator, you're the go between, you're trying to get everybody working together to get that common outfall or that outcome. So that's one thing. I think when I first started in this industry, it was more of a, 'you are on that team' and. More of a zero sum. Yeah. And I think it's not like that. I think the way to get things done is to really work in a partnership. Episode 4 really stood out to me during my time here is the focus on people. And it's a legitimate focus. It's not just lip service. They're really a caring for people and making sure that they can be successful. And I'll say to you think back on your career once you've got a number of years under your belt like both Barry and I do, it's interesting to me that most of the memories actually come from interacting with the other people. It's less so about the projects you worked on. Again we've worked on a lot of big ones, some great ones, but the memories that stick with you are you know the fun times, the funny times you spend with your co-workers. So that's so important. Episode 13 I also feel like you have fun with your signboard. Yeah. For the for those of you that don't know Matt, Matt sort of mentors all of us in in the office, in the Baltimore office every day with his changeable signboard. He's got one of his little boards that he can put letters on and he uses it to put up inspirational phrases. He numbers them so that we know we can keep track of which one it is. Yeah, we're on number twelve right now. On number twelve, which is? Which is a a grateful heart is a place where miracles happen. Interesting. Okay. Yeah, I feel like that should be the title of the episode almost. What's been your favorite one so far of the 12 that you've put up. Oh man. There's been some funny ones. I should have gone back and looked through all of them. That was that was bad on my part. I didn't anticipate that question. Yes. I gotta get you with one. No, I don't. I don't know that I have favorites. You know, the messages are purposeful.
Depends upon what I'm feeling that week or that month. You know, they come from all over the place. They come from some of the teabags that I buy, like on the back of the actual a little tag as messages. One of the 12 came out of a Chinese fortune cookie. Obviously, you know, you had to have at least one. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I do a lot of
reading of leadership articles, books
and a general even like self-help type stuff. It's all important. I think a lot of leadership is like, you know, the leadership stuff that you can, you know, read up on and kind of teach yourself. But a lot of like just general self-help, how to be a good person. That's a lot of leadership happens right there. Episode 1 And so I'm sure you probably saw all the other cool thing we did just a couple months ago. I probably did. But should probablytell everybody listening about it. I'm gonna. So we did a campaign where we collect collected slightly worn women's clothes work clothes and donated them and all of our offices to local communities like Dress for Success.
What is dress for success? It is a nonprofit organization that gives free clothing to women who can't afford them or a need and are seeking out jobs in their communities. It's really cool. So we're hoping all of our clothes inspire women to succeed and get on get on with their careers and advancing their life. We collected fifteen hundred pieces of clothing between shirts, suits, shoes, accessories. I'm the wealth was just amazing and wasn't only the women at RK&K donating these things. The emails went out to the company wide saying that we're doing this and we had staff members bringing stuff from their wives and their kids as well, which was was really neat to see that other people were reading this besides just the women of the firm. Episode 5 And, you know, bicycle and pedestrian, I'm not only focused on the bicycle aspect of a project, I'm looking at the pedestrian components as well. So, you know, my approach is never going to be let's take more space back from pedestrians and give it to bicycles. We need to balance out what are the tradeoffs and how do we make this facility fit without compromising safety, without compromising operations, at least to too great a detriment. We have to balance all of those demands. So, you know, in that case, where we had to start making some very tough decisions is how do we maintain traffic operations, because that's one of the biggest challenges on almost every project that I do. We're going to have some sort of adverse impact. How do we make sure that that impact is not too much for... to be palatable, because that is getting back to the human side of the equation, that's where the project really starts to break down. If I'm recommending something that does not work, then we're going to get a lot of pushback and I'm not going to be able to get that project through the approval process, let alone get it to construction. So we have to really understand those demands, make appropriate recommendations, maybe think outside the box a little bit, which we traditionally have to do. So that might that might mean that we have to look elsewhere to see how how can we make all of this stuff work together. It's not just that street. It's now we're looking at the neighborhood. We're looking in in the surrounding area to see how can we make this whole project work to serve the needs of everybody along this one corridor. It's not something that we can just look at that corridor. Now we have to look a little bit more broadly. Yeah, I was going to say, like, when we start, we're not you know, we might get a quarter in a study area like this, but our brains immediately go, 'Wait a second. How does this fit into the overall network?' Because a city or a suburb or even a rural road, it's part of a bigger living organism. And so, you know, people might think that... We hate to say this, but you can't put a bike lane on every road. Right? Like, it's just not appropriate. So it's about having an appropriate layered system of how people circulate. So there might be a project that comes along and people say, we want a side path or we want a cycle track or we want this. And, you know, Nathan and I, while we love bicycle infrastructure, we'll be the first people to say this is not an appropriate solution. I mean, we feel like that's part of our job too is making sure that we're doing the appropriate thing for the entire system. Episode 2 What facet of that technology are you are you most looking forward to? Is there any kind of big broad brush stroke examples that you could give. So one thing that I've kind of been interested in is kind of this "computer vision". So being able to either in augmented reality or using drones to look at something and then have have the AI figure out what you're looking, at classify it in some way, and then kind of give you a result. So you know maybe it's change detection or you know you use the drone and you're flying the bridge and then it can detect defects automatically. So that type of kind of instant feedback is really really interesting and I think it's something that in the future we're gonna be doing more of. Episode 10 Mike, what is something that you are curious about right now? Either professionally or personally? What's what's something you're you're interested in? I can say that that as I look to hire more talent within the state of Florida is, where all this is coming from. I'm very interested to see how these schools are beginning to ramp up for the type of work that
we have. We're involved in a lot of recruiting fairs, but really the more the baseline is now, what are they teaching these kids and can they come out a little bit more prepared? I know we've had several discussions about different generations, my
generation versus the newer generations coming in. So it's really how do we make that fit? How do we leverage the experience that the gray hair, as you didn't call me, but my gray hair versus somebody's enthusiasm coming into this market, coming into this area to be a great engineer? That's what interests me, is how we can continue to foster the mentorship of those two. And really, we're working at two different types of people. So how
do we make sure that those personalities gel to to bring the best opportunities for everybody? Episode 3 So you mentioned, you talked about some things that someone in project controls might need. They might need to be detail oriented. What are some other things that someone you know early on in their career are looking to get into project controls? What are some skills that they might need to have? You know the the detail oriented parts very important. Alright. So being able to focus on some of the details associated with whatever you're working on. I mean that's really a skill that that helps you in a lot of different things. But it's almost a necessity for project controls. The next thing that I would probably say is is a pretty major part of it is your ability to write, because,
ultimately, you need to produce reports that communicate your findings and communicate what's going on to the stakeholders. At the end of the day if you're not a good communicator, if you can't write well, if you can't speak well it's very difficult to be successful in project controls. Episode 9 the most exciting thing I don't know if it's exciting is the right word. But before I came to RK&K many jobs ago I worked for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in Monticello very early in my career and we had found many years before I started working there they had found half of a porcelain plate in a trash pit that was associated with the Jefferson family and probably given the time period probably with Thomas Jefferson. And then we found a similar plate about a half a mile away associated with enslaved men and women who had worked on his plantation and initially just thought it was the same pattern. And then we started looking at it and we started looking at it and all of the sudden we realized they mended together and they were the same place. Oh wow. And you know it's a plate it's trash but our theory is that someone found the plate, the broken plate, in the trash and took half of it back with them to their house half a mile away. Because how else is it going to get there? Right. And for me it was just this very interesting moment of like a human being doing a human thing, which is taking something that they found pretty or interesting back with them. And for me that's like what archaeology is all about. It's like you're touching people's stuff. And some of it's their trash, but some of some of it's the stuff that was valuable to them and we just assumed it was a piece of a plate like it was just trash. But turns out you know I think it's movement across the plantation indicates it may have been more significant. So that's the story I like to use about my favorite artifact. Episode 7 Where are some places, if you're doing a survey for something that's being built or improved, where are some places that you might typically find bats in a... I mean I think generally we think of bats living in caves... In your attic. In your attic. Right. Right. Right. Where where are you finding them out on job sites? Yes so a lot of times we'll find them — one of the most recent kind of hot topics is bats in bridges. Bats are using bridges as artificial roosts and they'll go in they'll use those roosts during the day they'll roost inside the bridge structure as opposed to in a tree or somewhere else in a rock cliff or something. They seem to enjoy... certain species seem to enjoy roosting in bridge structures. So we've done recently we've done quite a few surveys for bats and bridges. The Department of Transportation whichever it is or whether it's in Pennsylvania or Florida or Maryland, whoever, needs to do maintenance on the structure needs to do something with the structure and there's a colony in there, there's bats in there. So they're you know they've got to kind of deal with that as part of the project. So that's one of the most recent things in the past we've done presence... I've done a lot of presence/absence survey. So just for example you're building a big roadway corridor you're trying to get the environmental clearances there's gonna be a lot of timber removal, land clearing things like that. Fish Wildlife Service will say, 'hey you know you might have Indiana bats out here. You should probably do this survey,' whether it's acoustical survey or in a netting survey for presence/absence of these species. And we used to do a lot more of those types of surveys but little less now because there's a lot less large roadway corridors and things being built than there were back in the early 2000's. Episode 6 It's an important question because it shows, it tells us a little something about you. John Rinehart, what is something that you are curious about right now in life?
Besides the fact that I've always wanted to learn how to weld, I think professionally what I've been curious about recently has been the connection between leadership development training and how it actually both impacts brain development and how the brain reacts to that type of training. Looking at it more than just, 'We're offering you information' to truly looking at how do we help you look at a new way to think. Some of the research that's been done on intrinsic motivation; some of the research that's been done on the key role that happiness plays. One of my favorite quotes from Sean Anker is that, "If you're looking for happiness to follow success you'll never get there, but if you realize happiness is the predecessor to success, you're already there." And really seeing how just your motivation and how your brain works impacts how you learn and what you learn. Episode 8 technology, surveyors definitely get to do a lot more. I mean, it's not just a total station anymore and a prisum poll. It's a 3D scanner that can make a 2 million point cloud in 30 minutes. It's a it's a drone that can pick up large areas to a pretty accurate degree. It's G.P.S. that allows you to bring control into your site without having to run three miles of traverse or three miles levels. So you know I think we're fortunate to be a part of surveying in this time.