On this episode of Inside Engineering, we head to
Orlando, Florida, to talk with project manager
Lindsey Barnwell about what it's like to
be the PM on major construction
projects and why she loves her job
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Inside engineering, untold stories
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This is Episode 21, recorded
in February 2020.
Construction Engineering and Inspection with
Lyndsey Barnwell Inside Engineering is
an RK&K podcast.
Learn more at rkk.com/podcast.
And welcome back to another episode
of Inside Engineering.
We are once again on the road
Today we are in central Florida.
We're in our Orlando office.
We're excited to be here.
And I'm I'm sitting here with Lindsey Barnwell.
Morning, Lindsey. Thanks for taking the time out
to do this.
You claimed you were nervous, but I don't I don't
believe it. I don't believe. I think you're fine.
Lindsey is a project manager.
She's worked on a lot of really cool projects.
We're gonna get into one of those projects today.
But first, Lindsey, tell us what it is
that you do. Obviously, project manager is a just
an industry term and and but doesn't describe
exactly what you do. So go ahead, walk us through
what you do and why you love it.
Oh, I do love it.
So internally within RK&K,
I am the project manager.
I oversee the contracts that
we have with our client and making sure that we
have a quality product.
And I'm in charge of winning those contracts,
then managing them throughout. On
a job itself, I function as a resident engineer,
as the senior project engineer.
And in regards to that, a basically we are
our team is tasked with basically
making sure that every construction project that
we are in charge of is built within reasonable
conformity of the contract, the plans, specs,
and that we
keep the project moving, try to minimize any
We try to facilitate communication and try
to do all this without sacrificing quality
and also managing the client's goals.
The client has goals and with regards to time and
money. So our
job really is just to be the interface out there.
Keep the project moving.
Try to resolve engineering issues and.
So. So from a from a technical
standpoint, like in terms of technical skills,
what what skills are needed
to be a project manager and do what you're
doing. So if somebody is coming up in the
industry and they want to get to where you are,
what do you need to know to be out in the field
and to look at plans and to make decisions, all
So my backup actually, I'm I work in the CEI.
I don't even know that.
I said that's.
The construction engineering inspection element.
So that's what we're charged with doing, is
managing the construction engineering inspection
on the project.
So a lot of the skill sets that we have to have
is sometimes I just think actually
sounds simple, but it comes down to instincts
and being able to manage issues
sometimes in contentious situations
and making sure that, you know,
what decisions you can make, what decisions you
have to bring other experts into,
Again, just trying to keep the project moving.
So not being afraid of conflict.
Managing your own team, you have to set standards
and making sure that we're meeting the client's
expectations as well as
RK&K, our own, and that we're enforcing
It's just a lot
of issue resolution.
Potential for sight of issues using your
instincts, engineering judgment.
Well, and those instincts are based on the.
Yeah. The engineering knowledge that you have.
So you have to be able to look at something
The issue that arises and like we've said before,
every project has issues.
Absolutely. Yes, absolutely.
But you have to be able to look at that issue and
and make, first of all, an engineering
determination as to what's going on so that you
can then either call on that expert or
make a call. Talk to the client and figure it
Okay. So let's let's talk about this this
specific project that we're looking at.
It's a it's a kind of a big deal.
So walk us through sort of what you've
done and sort of I guess maybe from
the beginning what the challenge was that the
client faced with the clients trying to
accomplish and how you're
involved and and where the project
has gone along the way.
Our project is basically
it's a $34 million project.
We are taking an existing
diamond interchange, which is kind of different,
and we're actually bringing it down to an at
Okay. So I'm going to stop you.
Just you said two sentences on my stop you
already. Because I know that there's a lot of
work to do the
opposite of that.
Right. Or at least diverging diamond maybe.
And maybe that therefore, that's totally that's
See, I just. That's that's the nice thing about
this podcast, everybody, is that you
get to realize how much more you know than me.
So we had a we had a diamond interchange,
existing diamond interchange, being brought down
to an at great intersection.
So so now it's what used to be an interchange
where traffic free flowed on U.S.
441 is now an actual intersection with a
signal and now signal control movement.
OK. So I would say the same thing typically or a
lot of times you would see sort of maybe the
opposite of that here and make traffic free flow.
Why was why was it decided to make
So great as part of this job as associate
with the Wekiva Parkway improvements.
Which was essentially building a beltway or
completing the northern beltway around Orlando.
there's 4-17, which is one loop and we're
completing that loop.
This is improvements associate with that.
So with projected traffic improvements,
the new flow of traffic is actually
going to be getting people onto this Wekiva
So we are building a flyover ramp and
that is for the new projected increase of
traffic. But the main local traffic, which
is 4-41, 46, will now be an at grade intersect.
Got it. OK, all right.
So it's not totally ignoring the free flow.
No, no. We have some free flow to get those
people onto the Wekiva Parkway.
OK. All right.
So there's that. Yes, there is that.
So in that job, there's lots of project
improvements. We have a complex bridge that
has been built. It has steel girders
on the center span.
It's a flyover.
So it's curve geometry with these big
girders. The center spans over two hundred and
seventy feet. So there was lots of
challenges, lots of complexities
in regards to that.
We also had another bridge, too, which is
concrete, more traditional bridge that
you see in regards that we alsohave ITS roadway
lighting signals, striping improvements
that happened. A lot of our job
that we're charged with, which I talked about, is
making sure that quality is not sacrificed
while keeping time in measure
time and excuse me, time and money measurements
going and being cognizant of those.
But a big thing that we do is have to be
cognizant of the motoring public and how they
move through the project and minimize any impacts
to them. So we're always looking at how we are
moving traffic around to be able to build
It's like puzzle almost.
You know, you have to move traffic around so we
can build this piece. Then you move traffic
around, you can build another piece. So there's a
plan in place.
The designer comes up with.
But we're always looking at ways of how we can
improve that and how we can best flow
traffic through there, minimize impacts and
keep people moving.
Is that done with traffic modeling
in advance, you know,
what's what would you presented with in
terms of of that part of the project in
managing the traffic? What do you have to.
So in our role, there's actually there is a what
they call made it to traffic or traffic control
plan actually in the contract document.
The contractor implements that.
But even prior to, you know, moving traffic
into a new configuration, we evaluate that
and we look for possible ways to improve it.
On one of my projects, actually,
we did not have left turn lanes
and they just didn't have a way to
provide for that left party movement.
So we got with the designer, we looked at
suggestions and developed a way to improve
capacity and this turning movements and get
people out of the way, just improve the
So there's always things we're are looking to
improve prior to it being implemented, after it's
implemented. We also look for ways that we can.
Improve the traffic, do the job.
Of course, we get concerns from the public and we
evaluate those too.
Always looking to improve traffic flow.
And that's I mean, it's not just imagining
not just getting feedback from the public before
the project. It's no, I mean, it's not when that
new traffic configuration comes in or temporary
configuration temporary it comes in.
I imagine there's a sudden spike
Oh, yes, absolutely.
Yes. We get lots of comment.
Well, that's it. We'll talk about that sort
of facet of the job, too.
I mean, there's that's like people skills to the
max. I feel it. You know, you really.
What kind of elements are you dealing with there?
I mean, it's not just the general public.
You're dealing. You know, there's there's other
entities that are interested in this going
well and you're managing all of that.
So. Sometimes there's complaints.
And we have to provide that data.
We evaluate them and see if there are
things that we can do in response to those for
the most part. Sometimes we have considered
that. And, you know, from a
public standpoint, they don't realize you have to
move traffic over here sometimes just to build
such a small piece.
But it's it's literally a puzzle.
We've had five foot hundred-foot section.
You're having to move traffic around in a
different configuration just to get to that one
element. There was something there previously.
So, you know, we evaluate
those requests. Fortunately, on a lot of our
contracts, we have public information
consultants. That is their job.
They are the face.
But we give them all the data that they need
to be able to, you know, respond to the public.
I mean, of course, we respond in public directly
to if needed.
That's a valuable role. I mean, that's being able
to you want to keep the public happy.
I mean, and they're they're the ones, you know,
having to live in that area and drive through
that area every day.
It is those people skills are are hugely
All right. So what else
is there anything else on this project that we
should talk about?
There's a lot of things I could talk about on
this project, but in general, our role is
how I explain it to my friends, actually, because
I don't have very many friends.
This would be good because everybody listening,
watching is our friend.
Is our friend? OK.
So so oftentimes I say, you know, when you're
driving through a project and you see people
standing around a tailgate that's probably
standing round, that's probably my team.
Those are my inspectors that are out in the
field. They're watching the work.
Typically, they're not ones with shovels
actually, you know, constructing anything.
And then I say, you know, if you see people
standing around a tailgate, that's our conference
table — we're not hanging out, you know, that's
us having a meeting.
And if you see a bunch of people standing and
looking at a hole, we're not just looking at a
hole. There's probably a conflict; there's probably
a pipe, there's probably a utility issue.
Something is going on down there.
So, yeah, we're the people standing around or
making lots of decisions while doing that.
Right. Yeah. Right. Your standing, you're
working. Why is that?
I mean that that's.
Is that. Yeah.
That's how I explain it to my friends typically. Right.
Because I mean it's I think generally speaking
like the role of inspection isn't
to you. You still typically think that like oh
somebody has to like the inspector is literally
there to watch what's going
Right. And fulfill the terms of the contract in
that way. So it's I mean.
That inspection is hugely important.
And so what?
Well, what do you do?
What's the what do you do?
I'm not kidding. End the question there, what do
Well, I keep talking over that note.
I mean, I got more.
I want you to talk about everything that you do
and why you again, why you love.
I mean, you clearly love what you do.
What's a part of what you do that like excites
you the most?
I think that were just in construction.
We're kind of the jack of all trades.
We're on the design side. There's a specialist
that's geotag. There's a structural engineer.
There's a traffic engineer.
We're the jack of all trades. We take all these
contract documents that were developed by these
specialists. We have to interpret them and,
you know, use our engineering decision
to make sure everything's built correctly.
And I think it's fun.
Everything every day is different.
I know a lot of people say that, but we
have a job basically because there are going to
be issues on a project.
We are charged with resolving those, like I said,
and minimizing impacts.
I recently heard a quote.
Oh, yeah, ok we like quotes.
I'll get you on here.
I quoted this to somebody earlier and they said
it was cheesy.
I'm gonna use it anyway.
Look if you've listened or watched that
show. We're pretty cheesy.
Let's be cheesy. All right.
So "Calm water does not make a good sailor."
And I feel like the same applies to
construction. And during inspection, if
everything went perfectly.
I don't think I'd be the engineer that I am
today. You learn.
Like I said, some of these issues can be very
specialized. You could be talking about a bolt.
Believe it or not, I've had lots of bolts are
kind of important, super important.
And we've had some issues.
We've really had to dive in and get into
the details of that.
So are a lot of things.
I'm just using that down to the nitty gritty,
literally the nuts and bolts.
Those are very important. The nuts.
I mean that. Yeah. Yes. That's why the inspector
is there, to make sure that the bolt
is in, you know.
Yeah. Everything is done.
Yeah. The way it should be according to the
Yeah. So our job is often
to be our best in rough waters.
I brought it down full circle.
You like this. I liked it.
This is smooth sailing, smooth sailing
maker, good sailor.
Calm water and waters does not make a good
And aren't we. What did I say?
I liked how I said at last.
Oh, I thought it was another quote.
I made that one up.
To be our best in rough
Yeah. Yeah, that's right.
No, I mean that makes a lot. I mean that's how
you really like man.
We're gonna put it on the screen and stuff
right there. I like an echo effect on it.
Yeah. It's good.
Thats what some people doing it all on YouTube.
They're like we're gonna put it right there.
The other thing that we're gonna put right there
is a subscribe link.
Some people we need some squid.
People should subscribe, right?
If you want to subscribe, wait over here guy.
That's perfect. Mm hmm. Oh my gosh.
You should be like the co-host of the show, one
of. You do the subscribe stuff and the points
What? So I mean, a big part
of. Well, everything that you do is there to help
our clients. Right. Right.
How do you measure the success of what you do?
So what I take the most
pride in, I think
is actually developing my staff
and seeing them take pride in their work and
seeing how much they grow on our current
project. Right now, we've had several.
Green new blood in there, and
just the amount that they have grown and learned
and developed over time has been tremendous.
We have people on my team right now that are
actually in their inspection role longer than
I've been alive.
So I like to say that a lot.
I remind him that a lot.
And how does he take that?
He doesn't mind. He takes pride.
You know, it's just it's cultivating the talent,
you know, whether it's existing and letting them
share all of that to the young sponges.
And in seeing people move on and, you know,
whether they stay on or working with me, but
seeing them move on into other positions is
always feels really good long term,
not some short term success.
But I really, really, truly enjoy developing
talent and seeing that come through fruition.
Another thing is when it comes
directly with the client is continuing
to when we're you know, if they're they're liking
what our team is doing.
So the company likes hearing that too, where we
like to continue that relationship and
continue to and work continue to work with the
same client that always shows that they, you
know, that feels like a good measurement of
And then local to the project is
there's nothing like driving through your job,
specially at the end, even years later, drive
through and you look around and there's all these
decisions that were made.
Just even if you're a professional
in the business, you don't realize all the
decisions that were made on each product
repectively. And so that's always fun.
That's always rewarding to kind of reminisce,
I guess, right on your challenges and your
stresses that you had to go through.
That's such a repeating theme that we hear.
Is it. Yeah. That yeah.
It's just that when people, whoever it is that
buildings create designing something ever
working on a project and you get to
drive through it at some point it's a bridge or
whatever. You know, it's like I played a role in
Yeah. That's what construction there too is
because your decision is instantaneous.
And when you're on design side it can be quite
some years later, especially planning, before you
actually see something you've built so
construction is fun and you make a decision it
happens, it's done.
Yes, that's it. Yes.
Well, what's a let's let's talk about your
career a little. OK, do that.
Sure. Tell us about your career
to get to where you are.
So I don't really know what that means.
But when I was a. And I'll say I'll say what that
means. When I was graduating college, I went to
I really loved Geotech.
It was fun.
And I just like the problems.
And I went to my geotech professor and he
he told me and this is what I mean.
I don't know what this means because I know the
first podcast was AchGeotech person.
So it was. Yeah.
He he told me that I was too animated
to be a geotechnical engineer.
And I think it just means I don't want to
focus on one thing. So he advised me
not to focus on that and to
The FDOT trainee program,
which is actually a program where you rotate
around all the different phases of a project from
planning a traffic survey
all the way through construction, and
it's a very it's a great program, actually.
And so from there.
I what I went to the construction phase, I really
fell in love, it was fun, it was instantaneous
I don't enjoy the stress of it.
And when I started off as a P.A.
and worked myself up to a project manager at one
point in my career when I was
working there, I had the opportunity to
possibly move up and also
is having opportunity potentially going to the
consultant world in moving up within the ranks of
You get to make an impact.
It's global. And at that time, I really want to
be on the project and be in the nitty gritty,
nitty gritty, nitty gritty, gritty, nitty gritty.
Details on the job in engineering.
Day to day. And so that's why I chose to RK&K
and start off as a project administrator and I'm
resident engineer or senior engineer on the job.
Yeah, it's fun. I like it.
Is there anything you wish you had known
earlier in your career?
I think to have patience with yourself.
That also rolls over to others.
Just, you know, you're never going to know
everything. And so
just patients with yourself.
Patients with others.
Don't sacrifice your expectations
or a level of quality.
And throughout that process.
So it was all. You're always moving towards that
level of quality. Correct?
Well, with an understanding that
you're not going to know at all.
You're not going to know it all right away.
Take all the opportunities you can to.
Yes. You said it better than me.
Thanks for paraphrasing that.
That's that's what I'm here to help you.
My translating the engineer.
That's all talk. Office hours here.
What advice is there any advice you would give to
someone coming up in the field
who you know that that might be interested in
doing what you're doing?
They're listening right now, making
And they're looking to you. Lindsey Barnwell.
That's a very broad question.
Yes, I know.
I would say take take the challenges as they're
presented, jump, you know, jump for
opportunities.Don't be afraid of a challenge
and go for it.
That also is a really consistent theme.
I'm glad. I'm glad. I'm glad just to know.
I mean, we hear a lot of people say that we take
those opportunities when they don't want to pass
you by, because it seems
like the people who have who have moved up nicely
through their career. Yes, that is how they did
it. But it was by taking opportunities when they
Absolutely earlier my career.
That's exactly what I did.
I'm on it, right? Yes.
Put put that putting your hand up.
Yes. Which was me.
Yes. We all know there's a risk of being the one.
Now I've learned and I've learned.
So put your hand up early and then be more
Well, now you're navigating those rough seas.
So I'm gonna keep thinking about famous
stick on a boat.
Do you like boats?
Do you like open water, being out on boats?
Really? Not really.
You know, Florida is so cruising is an
easy thing. We can literally be like, oh,
you've a long week and joining on a cruise.
And it's just a thing. It's just the thing that
is like. the port is 30 minutes from here.
Yeah. That's nice, nice one.
It's always warm, essentially.
You can kind of always do it.
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Yeah, sure. This isn't nice.
It is time for your, drum roll please, pick
of the week.
I think you should have a theme song.
I know a little like I'm going to I'm going to do
it when we get back.
When we get back from a road trip.
Okay. Get a little little thing and I'll have a I
have a button that'll push it and we'll play the
I like it. I like it.
a little ditty. Yeah.
That's a good idea. Yeah. I like it.
We'll give you credit for it.
All right. I come up with one.
You could. No, no, no.
I make up silly songs all the time.
Yeah. All the time.
So that's your other pick. Where you've been
writing silly songs is fun.
That's your first. No, no.
And I have young humans that I have to motivate.
I'm constantly seeing little silly songs.
I'm familiar with the young humans.
Yes. Yeah. Yeah.
I've got three. Try it.
Me too. Three.
I have three girls,.
Two boys and girl.
OK. We tried. We did.
We were, you know, variety just didn't happen for
Yeah. You're done now.
Three's a lot.
Three's a lot. Three's good.
Good. I'm gone.
Yes. They say all sitcoms, they have three
children for a reason because it keeps it
interesting. Have you noticed that?
Most sitcoms they have three kids.
I haven't, but now I'm going to go pay attention
I mean, like just think about at least
80s, 90s ones when we....
There's always that third one to throw everything off.
Exactly. Yes. Yes.
Keeps it interesting.
Yes. Now our parents are outnumbered.
Exactly. Zone defense.
Yes. You got to buy a minivan.
Hey minivans! minivan life!
I know that was a
mini van like that, was it?
We can have a whole nother podcast about minivans,
but yeah, that was that was a huge whoof real
life moment. I'm there.
I love it. I love the minivan.
You know, once you dive in.
This is I love this thing.
So all of you judging me right now?
Yes. I have a minivan.
They're so practical.
Don't knock it till you've tried it.
I can't believe I'm talking about that right now.
But yeah. This is a real life thing.
Once we had the third it was.
Yeah. This might be our last episode because of
it, but it's coming out with a bang.
All right. So your real pick of the week really,
Van? Yeah, I don't know.
It is actually to push yourself physically.
OK. Yeah. Yeah.
So I take fitness classes or I lift
heavy run. Do body weight movements, stuff like
that. And it's just fun.
You push yourself to that mental capacity, you
set goals. Just nice to do something.
It's like CrossFit?
I don't want to. Yeah.
Yes, it is. It is.
I feel like that has like us like
Yeah. OK. All right. It's your work.
You don't see it as CrossFit.
It is crossfit.
OK. So you're in denial?
No. But push yourself physically.
Push yourself physically. Yes.
It's it's awesome. It's it's fun to go to that
place, set goals and do it.
You know, I mean, you do that when you're
younger, when you're on teams in sports or
whatever. And I think as you become an adult you
away from that, not the good stress relief.
Are you are you are you in the morning
Morning. I've already done it today.
Yes. So the morning workout.
Oh, yes. Yes,.
The morning workout is hard in winter
at least. Oh yeah.
Cause you just dark, you know.
It's still dark and you like.
I would rather be in bed but I imagine.
Yes. Once you get into it it it starts to feel
You can make any excuse you want to ever.
You just got to go with it.
Well, Lindsey, yes, this has
been great. We learned some things, I think,
about a whole range of stuff that
I'm going to get you. I mean, thank you.
Thank you. Do you think this was a success?
Yeah, I think you do. I can see that.
I can see.
Yeah, it was successfull.
Do I look like it? Yes. Yes, absolutely.
And if you haven't already subscribe now.
But thank you all for joining us.
And thank you, Lindsey, for taking time out of
your schedule to to sit in here with us
and do this podcast.
Inside Engineering comes out on Tuesdays.
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