A Look at 30 Years with Civiltec
It’s been 30 years since you joined Civiltec Engineering, Inc. Congratulations on reaching this impressive milestone!
When you joined Civiltec did you see yourself staying with the company this long and becoming our President? Can you speak to the feeling of this progress?
I was a Principal Engineer and Vice President of another consulting firm before I joined Civiltec in 1992. But was not an owner of that firm. I joined Civiltec in the same position, but the exciting part of the move was I came on board as an owner. I knew at that time, it would be a long-term commitment. At this milestone, I had only 3 other full-time positions after college. In those jobs, I was realizing my engineering ambitions, but not my dream of pinnacle leadership and company ownership. Anyone can enhance leadership skills through school, sports, and training. I was fortunate to get those opportunities and had an internal drive to achieve lofty goals. While I did not volunteer to be a student body president or a team captain, I did not shy away from those nominations. Taking on these early-in-life challenges helped me prepare for the positions I have held with Civiltec.
Being the President of Civiltec has been the honor of my life and is a position I take very seriously. In 30 years, I have seen times of growth and retraction due to external economic conditions. Economic downturns have caused us to redevelop our client focus. We have mostly moved away from direct involvement in development projects and refocused on work primarily through public agencies. We have been experiencing a time of prosperity since 2015 due in part to this shift. I am very proud of our achievements together.
When you joined us what was the company culture like and can you remark on any compelling changes?
Civiltec was a breath of fresh air when I joined. Engineering was borne from the military, so this profession has ties to that rigid culture. I only knew this old-school culture in previous jobs and my life growing up. Civiltec was my first introduction to a culture where a work-life balance was encouraged. The big change was flex hours and the freedom to move around the office to collaborate. Our environment promotes a feeling of family. We work hard to have an office that does feel like a second home.
As president you have overseen Civiltec’s growth, how would you like to see this growth continue in the coming years?
Civiltec has positioned itself in the engineering community to grow at a steady pace. Our growth will continue as we maintain our marketing efforts in the public sector. Development has overloaded our public clients so much that we are providing staff augmentation to stem the tide. If development slows, our clients have shown a tendency to focus on their own capital improvements. We attract planning, design, and construction management assignments through sole sourcing and through competition. We are fortunate to have a talented marketing and business development staff that helps us maintain a steady workflow.
Our staff growth can be attributed to our efforts to build a ‘three-legged stool’. (1) Organic growth through our internship program and hiring of young engineers fresh from college. (2) Recruitment of talented engineers and managers with years of experience. (3) Acquisition of small engineering firms with a similar culture. All three of these areas of staff growth are active. You have witnessed our robust internship program over the past summer. This relationship-building may result in candidates joining us full-time, post-graduation. You have also seen our staff grow with new, experienced talent through our intense recruitment program. We are seeing success in this campaign. We have an in-house and external consulting team engaged in the acquisition efforts. While we have not yet completed an acquisition of another firm, we have made our way through the due diligence process more than once. Our ownership has the appetite to grow through these three approaches.
What is some advice you would give to future or new Civiltecians?
Tackling challenges will improve your skills and confidence. There is a solution to every problem – but then the question becomes: can our clients afford that solution?
A culture built around training and collaboration minimizes missteps and indecisiveness.
Use your education to build solid foundations for our planning and design efforts and lean on experienced engineers to bring projects to fruition. Our clients count on us to successfully meet their goals and the communities we serve rely on our expertise to improve their health and safety.
What has been your proudest moment during the last 30 years? (Project-related or company-related.)
One of my proudest moments in time manifested on a particular Day at the Races event. It was my 20th anniversary, and I was presented my tenure award at the podium in front of about 250 people – staff and clients. Needless to say, I became emotional. There were about 25 Civiltecians standing behind me and Rick Shroads looked me in the eye saying “these people here count on you” for their success at work. All I could say back to Rick was something like – no pressure! I took a moment to look at the crowd and it dawned on me they had all given up their Saturday to be with us at the racetrack that day to celebrate Civiltec’s anniversary. I realized everyone there was more than staff members and clients, they were family. That moment became a real motivator to achieve even more in life.
What has been your favorite project so far and why?
Choosing a favorite project among 100s of projects accomplished in my career is no easy task. I have to say the Pepperdine Wastewater Flow Equalization (WFES) project was a favorite due to the design complexity and permitting through the Coastal Commission and LA County. The WFES collected and stored all wastewater produced at the campus. It split the flow between an LA County wastewater treatment plant on campus and the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District Tapia Plant. Flow to LA County was by gravity. Flow to Tapia was through progressive cavity pumps that generated about 600 psi and pumped through a Malibu Canyon force main for approximately 6 miles. The WFES was concrete and buried in a slope to hide it from view. I recall testifying in front of the Coastal Commission. Without their approval, there would have been no WFES. Once approved, I had to present the project to the LA County Public Works Commission. Gaining approval and then providing construction management into a startup was an achievement I will not forget.
Do you have a motto or personal mantra?
“Family comes first.” There is no doubt that we all work to increase prosperity for our families. We face tough choices in our work-life balance. Ultimately, we choose our family first. Civiltec has always supported this choice. This part of our culture helps to build a positive environment.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are”. Of all the sayings a coach of mine said, this one meant the most to me.
What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have outside of work?
I have managed to maintain a relatively good work-life balance over the years. The best era was the 20 years of horse show jumping. I would train 5 to 6 days a week through either dressage work or jumping. I got to see a lot of sunrises on horseback and spent many evenings in the arena under the lights. I competed once or twice a month at shows in California and Arizona. Show jumping was both physically and mentally challenging. There was a physical toll that ultimately caused me to give it all up. What a loss!
The life balance part is hard to manage these days with our workload. I am trying to pick up golf at this age which you cannot take too seriously. Practicing and playing do provide a good diversion. Now that I am playing with bright lime green balls, I am getting better at finding them out of bounds. Traveling is something Laine and I have always enjoyed and now that the world is opening back up, we are planning more bucket list trips. We made a trip to London and Paris in October of this year and checked off a bucket list item – riding on a train under the English Channel at about 200 mph! The UK, western and southern Europe are our favorite destinations. We are planning another trip for 2023 (maybe two). Ever been to the Tattoo in Edinburgh, Scotland? Bucket List!!