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National Engineers Week Spotlight: Meet Joseph, a Water Bureau Senior Civil Engineering Associate

This week, the Portland Water Bureau is celebrating National Engineer Week by highlighting our engineers in their own words.

Meet Joseph, a Senior Civil Engineering Associate and U.S. citizen of Cameroonian origin, who’s been with the Water Bureau for 12 years.

Utility worker installs a conduit test stationDescribe your typical day for us. What does that look like?

My typical day at the office begins with a deep meditative breath before scrolling through emails, checking phone messages and responding, as need be, to issues that need immediate attention. Typically, I prepare and print my weekly list of carried-over and upcoming tasks on Mondays. This gets adjusted as necessary during the week.

My time is generally split between field and office work related to corrosion control and cathodic protection (CP) for our Bull Run and groundwater conduits, reservoirs, tanks, and light rail transit infrastructure’s possible impact on water pipes. Our engineering group is involved with the design, review, installation, inspection, testing, record keeping and maintenance for the CP system that protects our facilities from the effects of corrosion.

What takes up most of your time and what’s your favorite part of the workday?

Most days go by fast for me. I tend to enjoy the diversity of things to do, whether that’s collecting data at proposed project sites, inspecting and taking CP measurements at rectifiers protecting light rail, working on tanks and the 26 miles of conduits from town to the Bull Run watershed, or analyzing data at the office for reports and system status determination.

Tell us a little about your background and what made you want to choose engineering as a career.

My academic background goes back to Cameroon, my place of birth, where I completed high school and attended junior college (the U.S. equivalent of an associate’s program in the sciences and arts) at the University of London. I also trained as a teacher and received a teaching certification. After a stint of teaching high school math and physics, I attended the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in mathematics and English literature. Then I studied engineering at the California State University, Los Angeles.

I chose engineering as a profession after evaluating potential options based on my educational background and my life’s realities. Despite my love for math, literature, and philosophy, I realized I would need a terminal degree to make an equitable living wage teaching these subjects. I considered journalism, but feared I needed a lifetime to lose my accent enough to be competitive!

I was engaged to be married and start a family, had a good background in the sciences, and concluded engineering would quickly provide a stable and reliable income for me and my family.

Tell us a little about your family.

I am blessed with a wife, Denny (ageless, of course), Daniel (married to Sara), Ruth and Paul, who has a little over a year of Obamacare left to his credit. We are claimed and owned by two pets, Angel, the Pyrenees/Saluki dog and “Wild Thing” the cat.

Utility worker inspects cathodic protection (CP) rectifiersWhat has been one of your favorite projects to work on?

Apart from the variety of corrosion related projects, my favorite non-corrosion project was managing the water relocation design aspects of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Viaduct Project.

What attributes does a successful engineer have? What is one piece of advice that you have for someone entering your field now?

Being an engineer takes an interest in the way things work, dogged persistence, and a resilient attitude. My advice to those entering the field is to be open to the challenge of hard work needed for being grounded in the fundamentals.

What’s your favorite thing about working at the Water Bureau?

I love the opportunities available and the friendships I’ve made with my colleagues and supervisors.

What is your favorite pastime when not in the field?

Reading, writing, journaling and spending time with family and friends where I commune.


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