EWB‑USA, CH2M HILL, and You | Spring 2009
Getting involved with EWB‑USA—it can take you places Whether you are a student or a young practicing professional, I cannot think of a more powerful professional development program than participating in Engineers Without Borders-USA. Engaged participants strengthen their technical skills, sharpen their core values, and expand their world view as they execute projects in the developing world. Perhaps the greatest competence gained by participants and their universities and employers is “ingenuity”...the leadership characteristic marked by adaptability, creativity, resourcefulness, and self-confident service to the less fortunate. In the end, universities, government agencies, and private-sector firms share these benefits as high potential professionals flow upward and outward through our nation’s talent pipeline. —Bud Ahearn, retired CH2M HILL Senior VP and current EWB‑USA Board Member
BorderLines Spring 2009
EWB‑USA lays foundation for exciting international career In development work, it does not matter whether the project is a smallscale system for a rural community or a national multi-million-dollar program to assist in the redevelopment of a society after a natural disaster, unexpected challenges will always arise when least expected. More often than not, the technical solutions are relatively easy to overcome, but preparing for and facing the political, social, cultural, logistical, and sometimes natural hurdles are, in the end, what make the project interesting.
A passion for engineering Having grown up in developing countries for most of my childhood, I had a unique understanding of how access to clean drinking water was a luxury that many people in the world did not and often could not enjoy. This knowledge led me to pursue a career in engineering with a focus on providing drinking water and proper sanitation facilities to those who need it most. I always knew my ultimate goal was to work on these types of projects as a professional, but it took some time for my engineering skills to catch up with my ambitions.
I graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif., in 2002, with a Master’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, and thought that I had the requisite skills to jump right into the international development work. Thankfully, my employer felt that I needed to gain more basic engineering experience and plugged me into more conventional projects stateside. At the time, I was frustrated at not being able to pursue the type of work I had dreamed about, but in retrospect, I recognize that I did not yet have the skills or maturity as an engineer to be an effective part of an international team.
Discovering EWB‑USA So, while gaining basic engineering tools and experience, I found an outlet for my passion by working as a volunteer for Engineers Without Borders–
USA (EWB‑USA). EWB‑USA allowed me to participate in small scale development projects that would help prepare me for the unique challenges of working overseas. In my five years as an EWB‑USA volunteer, I learned from older and wiser professional engineering mentors, led student teams on overseas trips, and faced a multitude of technical, social, and political challenges, all of which helped me mature as an engineer and as an individual. In addition to my work on EWB‑USA projects, I was able to participate in the development of the young organization as one of the founders and the first president of the West Coast Region. I also served on the technical advisory board and wrote some of the first water cont. on page 4
EWB‑USA project work in Thailand.
Co-op with CH2M HILL provides bright future While Adrianna Stanley has been studying hard at Marquette University to earn her degree in civil engineering, she also has been working hard at CH2M HILL as a co-op intern for the Transportation Business Group. And if that weren’t enough, Adrianna is contributing her energy, time, and excitement to Engineers Without BordersUSA (EWB‑USA). With plans to graduate in May 2010, Adrianna has spent the last few years alternating semesters between school and CH2M HILL, taking her learning experience beyond books and the classroom and into real-life experiences and projects like Milwaukee’s I-94 NorthSouth reconstruction. “I can’t recommend the coop program enough,” says Adrianna. “At CH2M HILL, the caliber of people working on the projects is amazing. Every day I am working with a professional engineer or engineer tech—I have picked up more during the co-op than I could have hoped to learn in class. In fact, I understand what we are learning in classes so
much better because I have already done it—I already have the experience.” Adrianna found her position with CH2M HILL early in her college career through Marquette’s co-op program, for which she interviewed with numerous employers for a civil engineering position. In March 2007, Mike Paddock, mentor for the Marquette University senior design project, EWB‑USA advocate, and a senior project manager for CH2M HILL’s Transportation Group, conducted a followup interview with Adrianna on campus. By June, Adrianna was not only a new co-op intern with CH2M HILL, but also had become an active member of EWB‑USA, acting as project manager for the La Garrucha water project in Guatemala. “Mike has become an amazing mentor to me, both at CH2M HILL and in the classroom. He goes out of his way to make sure all of his employees and students are doing something that interests them and that they are getting it done well. He helps make sure I am doing
Adrianna (fourth from left) stands with the Guatemalan community in Cuarto Centro where she helped build a bridge as part of another EWB‑USA project. page 2
As part of her co-op experience, Adrianna (right) tours the Marquette Interchange, a large transportation project completed through a CH2M HILL joint venture.
something constructive and important—not menial—and learning how to be an engineer, both while I’m working with EWB‑USA and with CH2M HILL.” The EWB‑USA La Garrucha water project in Guatemala has been designed and is in implementation phases. The water system will serve the community of 1,500 residents, who currently lack a potable water source. Some of the residents currently have a small existing water distribution system that draws from a contaminated spring with a low flow rate. Others must draw water from other sources. This leads to problems with infant mortality and school attendance, as children must help their parents haul water from distant sources. Led by Mike, Adrianna and four other Marquette University seniors, and fellow EWB‑USA members, used clever engineering to design a conduction line at an affordable cost for the community/ The project utilizes the community’s existing spring and a purchased spring, using slow sand filtration to make
sure the water from both is drinkable. In August 2008, all of the system’s distribution and break pressure tanks had been constructed, as well as the spring boxes, which keep debris from flowing into the water sources and contaminating them. With the upcoming completion of the pipe distribution system, the people of La Garrucha will have fresh, clean water to drink. Adrianna says her EWB‑USA work has been an eyeopening experience for her, both personally and professionally. “I have learned to appreciate engineering as much more than math and science problems. Through EWB‑USA, I’ve learned to not just think as a student, but to think as an engineer dissecting and solving a real-life problem. I am so grateful for my skills and how I can give back. It’s great to see that CH2M HILL also believes this – and in us--and sponsors service through our skills. These experiences reflect well beyond career benefits— cont. on page 3
they reflect on me and who I want to be.” Though Adrianna’s co-op ends this August, she plans to continue her work with EWB‑USA, and hopes to maintain her relationship with Mike and with goals of a future career with the company.
“I have picked up more during the co-op than I could have hoped to learn in class. In fact, I understand what we are learning in classes so much better because I have already done it—I already have the experience.” “CH2M HILL is a great company, and it’s so big, which means as an engineer you could end up doing anything. I’d love to stick with it and see where it can take me.” Adrianna co-presented the project with Amy Micas, a fellow Marquette senior involved in the project, at the EWB‑USA 2009 International Conference in Milwaukee, and looks forward to continuing working on the La Garrucha water project.
Meghan Hartman shares her international project experiences Meghan Hartman is a CH2M HILL employee working on a very cool international project and also is an active EWB‑USA member. She shares her experiences and advice for students wanting to work overseas. CH2M HILL Current Title: Water Studies Project Manager Project Name: Masdar Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Describe your current projects
2008, our chapter travelled to Ngelenge with the goal of constructing a water distribution system for previously drilled wells. The project has been ongoing since 2004 and also includes public health education, agriculture, and solar energy.
I have been involved with EWB‑USA since 2007 on a project in the Ngelenge village in southwest Tanzania. In the summer of
With CH2M HILL, I am working on the Masdar project, a program to build the world’s first carbon-neutral city for
EWB‑USA Title: Project Engineer Project: Ngelenge Village (San Francisco Professional Chapter) Location: Ngelenge, Tanzania
Adrianna’s advice for fellow students is, “Don’t just sit there with your head in a book; you can learn so much by doing things with EWB‑USA or through a co-op. Not just learn, but help people, and realize what being an engineer really means—that you really affect people’s every day lives and improve them so much. It’s not just math— our work sticks with people forever—keep your eyes open, you will learn something, and impact the world before you even know it.” CH2M HILL is serving as the program manager for Masdar City. Located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, it is the most ambitious sustainable development in the world today — it will be the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero waste city. BorderLines Spring 2009
50,000 residents. I work on water technology, which looks at innovation, technology piloting, and future considerations for city implementation. Construction of the city is ongoing with projected completion in 2016.
How did your EWB‑USA experiences prepare you to take on professional international work? Working with EWB‑USA helped me understand how to operate in a completely different environment. This has allowed me to experience professional success overseas and has helped me learn to adapt much easier to various cultures. I think EWB‑USA did put me at an advantage because it demonstrated not only my flexibility, but the depth of my professional capabilities. My advice for young professionals who want to work overseas is to have patience, flexibility, and persistence – there are a number of opportunities available and staying committed to a goal of working overseas will eventually pay off. page 3
EWB‑USA paves path to international career (cont’d.) resources guidelines. Even as a young professional, EWB‑USA provided this opportunity for leadership and mentoring, which helped build my confidence and gave me the skills that continue to benefit me as a project manager. In 2006, I joined CH2M HILL as a wastewater engineer. While there were many reasons for the move, one of the most important was CH2M HILL’s participation and support of the EWB‑USA program. From the highest levels of the firm, there was recognition of the value of the participatory, handson approach that aided in the growth of all levels of engineers. EWB‑USA’s focus on sustainable, holistic, engineering solutions also aligned closely with CH2M HILL’s culture. As soon as I started working at CH2M HILL, I saw the firm’s support of employees who volunteered their time with EWB‑USA. Funding is provided for employees to attend the regional workshops and international conferences. Conference rooms and teleconference facilities are available for project planning and meetings after business hours. A grant program was developed to supplement travel costs typically borne by the employee/ volunteer. Personally I was given an incredible amount of encouragement and support by my supervisors and colleagues, and my work with EWB‑USA was recognized in firmwide news articles. While I obviously gained some personal satisfaction from the recognition, I did not page 4
realize at the time that this type of exposure was what led to the opportunity I had been dreaming of. In 2007, just five years into my engineering career, I was asked to join the Sri Lanka Tsunami Reconstruction Program as a construction manager.
International work The 2004 tsunami that affected much of South Asia had a particularly devastating impact on the Southern and Eastern coasts of Sri Lanka. These areas had already been scarred by a 25-year civil war, so when the tsunami came, it took not only lives but also destroyed the livelihood of the subsistence fisherman. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) envisioned a program that would replace and improve the infrastructure, educational opportunities, and economic potential of these regions, and CH2M HILL was selected to lead the effort. When the three-year, $50 million program was complete, the team had constructed a bridge, a water treatment facility, three fish harbors, and nine vocational education schools, two of which had achieved a LEED Silver rating
Collecting water samples from the raw water tank.
for the use of green building techniques (the first in Sri Lanka). My role in the program was to oversee and guide the final design and construction of the water treatment plant. As a LEED Accredited Professional, I also assisted with the construction of some of the schools. Since I had a nice digital camera, I was designated the official photographer for several of our ceremonial events. It was the first lesson in overseas work for me; you have to be a jack of all trades and not be afraid to take on tasks that you’ve never done before. Prior to the project, I had noticed how in engineering school as well as the workforce, we tend to become segregated into different groups and specialties and don’t have the opportunity to try on different hats. In the overseas engineering world, you have no choice, and being willing to jump out of your comfort zone on an almost daily basis becomes the norm.
One of five completed wellheads for the Sri Lanka Water Project.
Dealing with the cultural and political challenges of an overseas project is often one of the most difficult tasks. Although my
volunteer work with EWB‑USA prepared me to anticipate and manage these aspects of the
“Dan did a great job managing and leading construction efforts of the Pottuvil/Ulla Water Treatment and Supply scheme. Dan’s past experiences growing up overseas and having extensive experience with EWB‑USA allowed him to hit the ground running on complex, demanding international project. He was able to jump into a dynamic and diverse environment that required understanding of cultural diversity and an ability to work around limited resources (communication systems, engineering technology, water treatment knowledge base, construction, and start-up) in a remote, high-security region to successfully complete this project. Dan was a strong communicator. He is a problem-solver who understands that different solutions are required based on geographic location and complexities. His maturity and experience in this type of challenging international setting allowed him to take on a leadership role of the team at the site.” —Rick Robertson, CH2M HILL Tsunami Reconstruction Program Manager
project, I discovered that the magnitude of these problems increases significantly with the size of the project. During
my experiences on EWB‑USA projects, we were generally able to avoid dealing with local governmental authorities by dealing directly with the communities. In Sri Lanka, however, we were building a facility that would be turned over to the government, and thus had to deal with no less than 14 different governmental agencies, NGOs, community groups, and individual citizens, each with a separate agenda. While the demands of these groups sometimes seem unreasonable, it is important to listen closely to each, try to understand their perspectives, and see if you can make accommodations without disrupting your project schedule or scope. It is important, however, to avoid the perception of corruption or doing ‘favors’ for one group over another. The most important lesson that I continue to learn is to expect the unexpected. While this sounds trite or even obvious, it is essential to keep in mind when working overseas. No matter how good the design, cost estimate, or construction schedule is, there will ALWAYS be
something that throws a wrench into plans. Knowing how to manage change is a critical skill in managing successful projects. My project had problems with weather, material supplies, design, security, and labor. The only way we delivered the project on time was through creative problem solving and intentional, direct change management. As I move The completed 450-cubic-meter water tower. on to my next Dan Garbely, PE, is a water/ assignment, I am grateful for the wastewater engineer at lessons I’ve learned through my CH2M HILL and an active member of EWB‑USA. He is a founder EWB‑USA experiences. I plan and past president of the West to continue to play a role in the Coast Region of EWB‑USA, has organization and to assist in served on the Technical Advisory developing well-rounded future Committee, authored EWB‑USA international engineers. As water treatment guidelines, and overseas infrastructure markets has played an active role in several EWB‑USA projects. In 2007, Dan expand, there will be many received the EWB‑USA Founders opportunities for enthusiastic Award and was named one of the engineers to put their EWB‑USA New Face of Civil Engineering. volunteer experiences to good While most recently living in use as part of the Sri Lanka, Dan also has lived in CH2M HILL team. Indonesia, Nepal and Romania as well as traveling to 35 countries around the world.
Make health and safety a top priority
Shared wisdom—tips from the field CH2M HILL employees and EWB‑USA members share lessons learned and tips for EWB‑USA projects. • Identify a strong, local contact early in the project. This helps keep the project on track, keeps the team informed of the community’s changing needs and expectations, and provides a great resource to identify local contractors and vendors. If possible, meet with local officials early in the process to get a good handle on local regulations that may impact your project design and implementation. Leaders in the community can also change, so having a stable local contact allows for continuity in the project. • Remember that it can take a couple of months to get reimbursed for project expenses, so do not over commit your credit cards for your project. • Flexibility is a must because project goals and scope can change in an instant. • When possible, identify local suppliers and page 6
contractors in advance of your trip. This allows the team to maximize their time in-country. • Practice using all equipment before arriving onsite (e.g. surveying equipment, water testing kits, etc.). Make sure the team has a backup plan in case the equipment does not work properly or if supplies/equipment do not arrive in time.
CH2M HILL employees work in the harshest conditions on the plant and—because of their steadfast determination— they are setting safety records doing it. The firm’s Target Zero work processes bring best practices from around the world to deliver world-class health, safety, security, and environmental performance for industryleading clients. CH2M HILL is committed to a mindset where all injuries and incidents are preventable. By engaging employees and integrating safety into the project culture, safety becomes an enabler for improving operations efficiency. CH2M HILL’s Engineers Without BordersUSA (EWB‑USA) volunteers have found that this same model applies to EWB‑USA projects.
• Divide and conquer by using a team approach for assessment and implementation trips. Have one group gather data while the other group does research with the community and local officials. This allows all team members to play a role and increases the amount of information that you can gather during a short trip. • Remember to keep safety top-of-mind. You will have members of the community on your project sites who may be unfamiliar with even basic safety precautions (e.g. not walking under a ladder or wearing safety goggles). Be vigilant to keep everyone safe.
the life of the community. Safety is an integral part of that. By modeling proper safety procedures and engaging the community in your daily safety moments you will be sharing important lessons that may well save a life.
Take personal safety seriously Staying safe on EWB‑USA projects means knowing your surroundings and the dangers that are unique to the area, including flash floods, landslides, earthquakes, dangerous animals, and poisonous flora and fauna. Transportation also can be an area where volunteers need to be more vigilant about personal safety. Many developing countries do not have standard or enforced traffic rules, and roads often are not constructed to the same safety standards as in the U.S. Make sure your team has a reliable vehicle and a safe driver.
Maintain good health
Lead by example Demonstrate safety every day on your EWB‑USA projects and lead by example. EWB‑USA’s mission is to improve quality of life and to engage local community members in projects in order to transfer skills that will allow them to continue to better
Health and safety go handin-hand and it is important that anyone traveling on an EWB‑USA project take proper precautions to stay healthy during your trip. It is important for your wellbeing and also important for the community. In addition to receiving all of the proper pre-trip vaccinations, take special precautions incountry to avoid contracting illness. Know who prepared your food and how it was prepared. Know where your drinking water is coming from and take proper precautions (e.g. drink bottled water; boil water before drinking, etc.) BorderLines Spring 2009
Milwaukee EWB‑USA team nominated for prestigious national award Exciting news has been announced since James Ritter was featured in the Fall 2008 issue of BorderLines, discussing his EWB‑USA experiences and new career with CH2M HILL. The Rio Motagua Bridge in La Garrucha, Guatemala, designed by Ritter and fellow Marquette students through the EWB‑USA Wisconsin Professional Partners as their senior engineering project, has been nominated as one of only six finalists for the prestigious Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award (OCEA) by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Ritter, as student project manager, along with fellow seniors, were led by Mike Paddock, PE, PS, and Mark Maday, PE, from CH2M HILL’s Milwaukee office, in the creation of the 67-foot bridge that is now improving accessibility for more than 100,000 people to community resources, including bus routes to schools, medical facilities, and markets. “The opportunity to be part of a project of this magnitude, with so many contributors and such impact on the local Guatemalan communities is truly humbling,”
BorderLines Spring 2009
says Ritter. “The successful planning, funding, and construction of this bridge was a collaborative effort of multiple Mayan communities, regional government leaders, a grassroots local Guatemalan non-profit, a university, and an international engineering service organization. The recognition the project is now receiving is a reflection of civil engineering expertise, community and government partnership, volunteerism and service.” The OCEA honors the project that best illustrates superior civil engineering skills and represents a significant contribution to civil engineering progress and society. This is both the first university student design project and the first non-profit organization to be nominated for this award. The project was presented during the Engineers Without Borders-USA 2009 International Conference in Milwaukee, March 26-29, by members of the La Garrucha community, project mentors, chapter members and local project donors.
“The opportunity to be part of a project of this magnitude, with so many contributors and such impact on the local Guatemalan communities is truly humbling.” -James Ritter, Student Project Manager
Career corner—common interview myths In today’s economy it is more important than ever to be aware of the way you present yourself during and after a job interview. You are one of countless qualified candidates who are fighting for the same position. Below are some common myths often ignored by the average job seekers, which could make a difference between receiving an offer letter or the dreadful “thanks, but no thanks,” letter.
Your questions allow the interviewer to understand what is important to you. You also demonstrate your organizational skills by having your questions written down. Recruiters don’t spend time on MySpace and Facebook – FALSE! Believe it or not, recruiters do look at social media sites, and decisions have been made based upon the information
It is not necessary to prepare questions prior to the interview – FALSE! Do not count on going into the interview thinking that questions will just come to mind. Nothing can kill a good interview more than saying “no, I do not have any questions”… trust me, this will be remembered.
discovered on these sites. Take a moment and think about the way you want to be represented not just to your friends, but to potential employers. Reference checks will not impact whether or not I receive a job offer – FALSE! More employers are becoming technically savvy and are sending surveys via e-mail to your references. Upon completion, your prospective employer receives a report that graphs your strengths and weaknesses in various areas. Thank you notes are no longer necessary – FALSE! Since
many people do not send out a thank you letter, this can be your golden opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. Take the time to recognize the interviewer’s time, highlight a topic that was brought up during the interview, and reiterate your sincere interest in the position and the company. Elizabeth “Liz” Gill is a lead recruiter for CH2M HILL. She has been with the company for more than 10 years and is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. To learn more about exciting career and internship opportunities at CH2M HILL, visit ch2mhill.com/careers.
CH2M HILL and EWB‑USA CH2M HILL has been a founding sponsor of EWB‑USA since 2003. As a leading global engineering and construction firm with the mission of making technology work to build a better world, CH2M HILL sees a clear alignment with EWB‑USA and its mission of building a better world, one community at a time. CH2M HILL supports EWB‑USA because of our common values and a shared commitment to: • Deliver sustainable engineering solutions • Inspire and mentor a future engineering and construction workforce • Give back to the global community • Use engineering principles and technologies to improve quality of life page 8
From providing leadership in the boardroom to mentoring students on projects, CH2M HILL has a growing network of employees who are actively engaged in local EWB‑USA chapters. These individuals contribute countless hours and substantial passion and technical expertise to help grow the EWB‑USA organization, mentor students, serve as public speakers and ambassadors, and bring sustainable engineering projects to life in countries such as Guatemala, Thailand, and Kenya.
provides financial support to the national EWB‑USA organization. EWB‑USA is an important part of the firm’s commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainable development.
To learn more about exciting career and internship opportunities at CH2M HILL, visit ch2mhill.com/careers.
Continue Your Commitment to EWB‑USA; Apply Today with CH2M HILL
These efforts are supported by the company through CH2M HILL Foundation grants that help employees offset the personal costs of project travel and related expenses. The firm also BorderLines Spring 2009