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This week, the Portland Water Bureau is celebrating National Engineer Week by highlighting our engineers in their own words.
Meet Dan, a Civil Engineer and native Minnesotan who’s been with the Water Bureau for more than 10 years.
Tell us a little about your background and what made you want to choose engineering as a career.
I have Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Minnesota. The first eight years of my career were primarily focused on geotechnical engineering. I was then hired by the Water Bureau, where I have worked for the past 10 years.
My first interest in engineering came from my grandpa who was a Civil Engineer for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. As I progressed through my schooling I enjoyed sciences and mathematics courses. The progression into engineering was natural.
Describe your typical day. What do engineers eat for breakfast? What do you do as soon as you get to the office? What takes up most of your time?
My typical workday includes a bowl of either oatmeal or yogurt with granola, both with fresh fruit. A review of emails and a to-do task list is generally made during my breakfast. This winter, a lot of my time has been given to looking at landslides and determining if there is a risk to our water system. Otherwise, my day is spent assisting our construction management team for the Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project. This includes answering requests for information and responding to submittals.
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on?
That would be the Washington Park Reservoirs Improvement Project which is currently under construction. I have been working on this project since 2009. During the planning phase, I managed the preliminary geotechnical investigation. During the design phase, I was a co-project manager with Jerry Moore. I am currently a design liaison to the construction management team.
How has the industry changed since you began your career?
The use of technology has become a huge part of day-to-day work. As a young engineer, I often performed the majority of calculations by hand. Computers where utilized to some extent but were slow and challenging calculations often froze programs. Today, one can perform thousands of calculation in a matter of seconds.
When I first started my career, one generally communicated with others outside of the office once a day either by telephone or email. But today, we communicate numerous times per day through a variety of means: telephones, cells phones, text messages, email, conference calls, and video meetings. With that said, the one thing that has not changed is that the best path to becoming a good engineer is experience over time.
What attributes does a successful engineer have?
Being able to communicate to a wide variety of people is essential. It is not only engineers that you will be working with on any given project. A typical project will require interacting with members of the public, neighborhood associations, Water Bureau operations groups, contractors and environmental permitting agencies.
What do you love about working at the Water Bureau?
I take pride in being a part of an organization that provides quality water to the public. I have been fortunate to be able to work on the new Powell Butte, Kelly Butte, and Washington Park reservoirs.
What is one piece of advice that you have for someone entering your field now?
Work on your people skills. Building relationships and the ability to work with others will be the key to a successful career in engineering. Typical interactions will not be limited to other engineers, but will include members of the public, contractors, planners, regulators and even politicians.
What is your favorite pasttime?
Anything outdoors. I am an avid snowboarder and I enjoy hiking, camping, and surfing.
Family and/or pets? What are their ages and/or names?
I have been married for over 14 years to my wife, Melissa, and we have an 8-year-old daughter, Josie. We also have a golden retriever named Stella.