Announcing Stephen “Sky” Younger’s Retirement
Principal Electrical Engineer
Stephen “Sky” Younger. PE, has been in the industry for more than 44 years with the last 5 years spent with Civiltec. Adding him to our staff allowed Civiltec to introduce a new service line and grow our business. With the inclusion of electrical and controls engineering, we have expanded our knowledge base, bringing in projects with more than one component and handling it in-house meaning that young engineers can also enjoy more learning opportunities. Since 2018, Sky has worked as the principal electrical engineer on 131 projects. With his knowledge base and leadership, we have completed 79 of these projects thus far. In 2022, we grew our electrical team and Sky has served as the head and mentor of this new team that includes Heber Torres, PE, principal electrical engineer, and Julia Padilla, electrical designer. He has been a huge part of our Phoenix office and Civiltec, as a whole. Serving as a wonderful source of humor, humanitarianism with his efforts in our communities, and adding some holiday cheer as Santa Claus. It is with sadness and happiness we wish him farewell as he steps into retirement after years of great work with a smile on his face. Here are some of his remarks on his 44-year-long career in engineering.
When you entered the workforce what were some of your goals?
My goals, when I started to work with the Arizona Public Services (APS) in 1978, were to make positive changes to the way that power plants were operated so that both the company and customers were able to benefit from greater reliability and cost containment. That goal has continued in the many different organizations that I’ve been associated with over the last 45 years. Instead of power plants, however, the electrical designs have included hospitals, schools, theaters, museums, laboratories, chemical plants, and computer chip factories as well as the pumping stations, wells, and storage facilities that Civilitec designs.
What changes have you witnessed in Engineering over the years?
My formal engineering education started when engineering students used slide rules for their calculations. My first computer class consisted of creating programs on a punch-card machine. After graduation, all of the designers spent their time doing drafting work by hand on large drafting tables and any copies were made on a blueline machine creating a horrible smell of ammonia. The first computer on my desk had no hard drive so my operating programs (DOS) had to be loaded via floppy disk every time I turned on the computer. Some of the first computer control systems I designed (think PLCs) had less computing power than the cellphones in your pocket today. There was no internet available so product information was only available in catalogs stored at your desk or in a department catalog library. Times have significantly changed.
How have your goals changed over time?
While my goals of helping my employer and customers have always remained the same, it has become a new goal in my later years to help train new employees to take my place in the future. There is so much to know, particularly with the advent of electronic control and communications, that to be really efficient in my craft takes years of training.
When and why did you move to Civiltec?
Prior to my joining Civiltec in the Spring of 2018, I had been working for Elon Musk at SolarCity designing solar power plants in Arizona. The election of new directors for the Arizona Corporation Commission brought about increased changes to the rate structure for both APS and Salt River Project (SRP). As a result, solar power options became less competitive and SolarCity pulled out of Arizona. SolarCity no longer needed an engineer in Arizona. Several weeks later I joined Civiltec and discovered that the vast majority of the projects were installing and upgrading new water sources for both California and Arizona. There was a tremendous need for these sources and the work has been extremely rewarding.
What has been your most memorable experience while working with us?
My most memorable experience is probably not what everyone might guess. Early in my career, I had many out-of-town assignments requiring constant travel away from home. In addition, I had several opportunities to visit remote villages in third-world countries to see what life was like in other cultures. My most memorable experience at Civiltec was the ability to return home every night to be with my family, to sleep in my own bed, and to have meals other than fast food. My home has clean running water, reliable electric power, and a stable food supply. Many other workers in America, and most of the rest of the world cannot say the same. Some of the things that Civiltec employees may take for granted are truly a great hidden blessing.
What has been a project that was particularly significant in your career?
While many of the projects at Civiltec have been wonderful and exciting there have been several other projects with previous employers that have had a significant impact on the history of the human race. In 1984, I designed the largest utility-connected solar power plant in the United States at Sky Harbor; I designed the largest and most advanced computer chip factory in the world (GlobalFoundries in Saratoga, New York); constructed the cleanest-burning coal-fired power plant in the Western Hemisphere (AES Total Energy Plant in Guayama, Puerto Rico); the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado; and the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.
What was the most stressful project you have worked on and how did you manage to get through it?
The most stressful project I’ve worked on at Civiltec has been the City of Industry Four-Grade Separation Pump Upgrade project. It was one of the first projects I started when joining Civiltec, and it’s still being worked on to complete the design. We’ve had multiple review packages sent out to different participants over the years including the City of Industry, Los Angeles County, and various utilities. Each organization has had major comments requiring significant changes to the design. At times it has been a challenge to try and please all of the individuals involved. To deal with this stress I’ve always focused on the endgame to realize that someday the design will be completed and the project will be built.
If you could impart one bit of advice to young engineers what would that advice be?
Learning does not end when you graduate from college. Your diploma only says you have the ability to learn and the actual training starts on your first day of employment. Training never ends as there’s always something more to learn. The opportunity to learn is a great blessing and keeps your future career interesting.
What are your plans for retirement?
In February 2023, my wife and I will be taking a tour of the Holy Land. Many of you are also aware that she and I started an agency in 2008 to provide services to the developmentally disabled in the Phoenix area. After retirement, I will be volunteering my time at the agency with both maintenance and transportation as we expand from one service location to three.
Anything else you would like to add?
Throughout 67 years of life, I have learned that true joy comes not from acquiring “stuff” for yourself, but rather giving back to others.
Once a Civiltecian always one, Sky! We’ll miss you and hope you enjoy your much-deserved break from the workforce! We hope we can take your giving spirit and put it into all that we do!
Here are a few photos of his project-related work.