Staff Spotlight: Gretel Ochoa-Nhac 10-Year Anniversary and Promotion to Project Manager

Gretel Ochoa-Nhac, PE has spent the last 10 years with Civiltec Engineering growing from a staff engineer to a project engineer and now to project manager of several contracts all while completing her master’s degree and family life. Her driven attitude, attention to detail, and passion is very clear in over 523 projects that she has worked on. Congrats on 10 years and hears to hoping for 500 more projects with you! 

What skills have you gained since joining the Civiltec team?

Since joining Civiltec, I have learned a lot more about multi-tasking, the value of working with others and understanding my team’s strengths. As I moved through my career in the early days I was used to doing it all and as a PE enjoyed having a hand in everything. Now as I have started managing projects I’ve found that learning how to delegate is super important. While you may want to handle everything it is much better to utilize and gain confidence in your team’s strengths to keep a project going and be a better mentor.  

How did you manage to juggle work, gaining a master’s, studying for a PE, gaining Audit Validator certifications, and family life? Any tips? 

Be sure to have a great community around you. I really couldn’t have accomplished so much without my village, my husband, my mom, and my brothers by my side. If I could offer any advice or words of wisdom it would be that work will always be there but those little moments will not. Make the award ceremonies and baseball games a priority because that little smile the little ones give you makes all the extra work worthwhile. All that to say as well I couldn’t have done it without the flexibility that Civiltec has offered me over the years. It’s one of the main perks of being here and why I am happy to be a part of this work family. 

Is there a particular specialty that you lean more towards? (Water, wastewater, drainage, transportation, etc.)

Definitely Water and Water Infrastructure. I did originally start out in transportation but as I continued my career with Civiltec I figured if I could calculate vehicle flows/traffic flows I could do water. 

What are some of your favorite types of projects to work on? Do you recall a specific project that you look back on over the past 10 years and feel pride in? 

I would say my favorite as well as the bulk of my work is master planning. I really enjoy them as they tend to be longer projects that allow me and my team to gain great relationships with clients as we work together towards their goals. 

As a women in STEAM/STEM what advice do you have to offer others looking to get into the field? 

I would say get in there and that times are changing. Us women in STEM are growing in numbers. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions and have a willingness to learn. The best quality in any engineer is to have that willingness to learn and take criticism. Just be sure to have that and confidence in yourself and you will be a great engineer. 

What is a task you look forward to daily?

I really look forward to working with my team each day. It is quite a cool thing to work with Tim and Ariel and see them grow and develop into the engineers they are today. Both of them started out as interns here at Civiltec and now Tim is a PE and its very cool to see Ariel on the same track. Like I said earlier I couldn’t accomplish as much without my team so I am very happy to see them and be in the Upland office with everyone. 

What associations are you currently apart of and what would you say the benefits are? 

I am currently a part of SCWUA, AWWA, and  APWA. It is really important as you get on in your career to network and get to know people within your industry as well as clients. I recall when I first started going to these events with W. David Byrum and I was so nervous wondering what are I was doing there. Thank goodness for his help along the way because now it’s like people come up to me with questions. That shift happened at some point and it’s great being on the other side where now I am the one pushing our young engineers to get involved. Additionally communicating with past and current clients is a bonus to these events. I met my current mentor Tara Robinson with Valley County Water District at an event. She has helped me grow as a mentor for Civiltecians and other engineers within our industry. It’s great to get involved and a great place to meet clients who turn into friends. 

What do you think are the criteria for the best barbecue? 

Well, good friends and family of course! Marinating the meat you’re grilling up for at least 12 hours beforehand and some nice beverages on a Saturday can’t hurt either. 

What is the best concert you have been to and why?

It would have to be my first festival, OzzFest 2005. It featured: Black Sabbath, As I Lay Dying, Iron Maiden, Rob Zombie, Trivium, and Slipknot. It was my first festival ever which is part of why it was so cool I’m sure, but every time I think back to that day I remember thinking that this is what music is and continues my love of festivals and concerts. 

When you are at work, how do you motivate yourself?

I got responsibilities! Mainly though it would have to be my kid’s photos and their little masterpieces on my desk and hung up all around me helps me focus on whats important. 

What are some of your goals for the next few years? 

Continue working hard and managing projects to hopefully eventually become a part of leadership. Would be pretty cool to be an associate or partner one day especially the first female one at that. 

Read previous articles about this rocking engineer in this article and this one. Read about her Water Auditor status here.