Title: Project Manager
Years with company: 15 years
- Over the course of his career at HNTB, Adam has worked in Missouri, Utah and Virginia.
- Adam has donated hundreds of books in support of the African Library Project, an organization that builds libraries in rural Africa.
- Outside of work, Adam loves spending time with his wife and four kids.
When you think back to the path you took to get where you are, when did you know you wanted to be an engineer?
When I was about seven years old I used to drive around the countryside with my grandfather who worked in the heavy construction industry his entire life. He worked on seemingly every road we drove on. He’d always point out specific roads and start telling me stories about them, saying so and so got injured and was off of work for two weeks or how he and his coworkers all banded together and finished the project a month ahead of time even though the engineers told them they couldn’t do it.
We’d see a bridge every once in a while and he’d say, “I spent two years of my life building that bridge. It was the only way people got from one town to another.” I didn’t realize what a big impact those stories had on me until I was ready to make a career choice near the end of high school. At the time I knew there was nothing more that I wanted to do than drive around the countryside and point to things and say, “I built this road that helps hundreds of thousands of people get where they need to go.”
What’s your favorite part of your current job and why?
On a grand scale it’s working on projects that help people across the country. Almost everybody that I meet around my office in Arlington, Virginia has driven on roads that I helped construct and they are all very appreciative of the work I do. But what drives me on a day-to-day basis is problem solving. I love to analyze, piece together and figure out problems. As a civil engineer I don’t focus entirely on making the math work. Sometimes I’m required to think outside the box and come up with new solutions. I always try to rethink the problem as I go along.
What is one of the most exciting projects you’ve had the opportunity to work on?
Finalizing the I-95 express lanes project in Northern Virginia. That project is already helping to relieve congestion in an area that hundreds of thousands of people pass through annually.
Who is someone you look up to or are inspired by?
My biggest inspiration was my grandfather. He passed away last year during the course of the I-95 project, but the last time I talked to him I was able to tell him that he was the one who guided me and helped me along the way when I was growing up. I like to think that my contributions to this successful project were made possible by my grandfather, who inspired me to pursue engineering years ago.
Where do you go to learn new things?
Organizations like the American Society of Civil Engineers are designed to help engineers with that, but where I learn about new things is from colleagues. Occasionally engineers working on other projects stop by our office and I get the chance to sit down with them and talk about what they’re doing and how they go about solving problems. Even if it doesn’t relate to a project I am working on at the time I enjoy being able to talk to engineers that solve problems in different ways.
What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve received?
The more you think things will stay the same, the more they will change. As engineers we focus a lot on following the rules and always adhering to a set structure of how to do things. But then all of a sudden a specific rule doesn’t apply to the next project you’re working on so you’ve got to come up with a new solution.
Fill in the blank. If I couldn’t be an engineer, I would be a “______________.”
That’s a tough one. I honestly haven’t ever considered a different career path. In high school I didn’t know what it was called, but I knew I wanted to build things. I’d probably end up working for a contractor or managing construction.
I noticed that you are involved with the African Library Project. Could you describe what that organization does and what drew you to it?
The African library project sources books from here in the United States and then packages them up before sending them to various countries in Africa. They try to find donations to help pay for the shipping of thousands of books to New Orleans. From there the books are sent to Africa.
I got involved because of my four kids that are home-schooled. As our kids grew older we decided to get rid of hundreds of books we no longer needed. At the same time we were also looking for a good cause that could help our kids learn about and do something good for people in an entirely different part of the world. It was a natural fit once we understood what the organization does.
Have you been able to travel to Africa to see any of the libraries where your books are being used?
Unfortunately not, but it is one of our lifelong goals. With four kids it is something my wife and I are most likely going to have to put off for a while. We’ve been tremendously happy with the organization. They’ve been very supportive of our efforts to send as many books as we can. They also do a lot of work up front by getting into specific towns in Africa. The town donates the building and then a librarian is trained. There’s a lot of work that goes on in the background and it is all coordinated through the African Library Project.
What does being successful mean to you?
We define the success of projects within our company using metrics, but on a personal level I strive to find the right balance between being successful at work and being successful as a husband and father. Those two things take a tremendous amount of time, but they are very important to me so I do my best to strike a balance that enables me to be successful at work and at home.