Joining Stantec helped Tim return to his chosen career field—transportation
At one point in my career, I was burned out. I’d been designing bridges for a large international firm, and I felt like I was on a bridge to nowhere. Honestly, I was uninspired. I decided to make a drastic change and put my structural engineering background to work for buildings design firm Neill and Gunter Inc. (NGI). After a year or so, I was involved in some bigger projects in the power and industrial sector and was supervising others. However, designing buildings was very different from the bridge work I’d done for 15 years, and I faced a steep learning curve. Then my career took an unexpected turn when, in 2007, Stantec acquired NGI. I knew that Stantec designed bridges. They also designed buildings. I could do either, and felt very conflicted.
Did I want to go back to my roots in bridge design? Or should I stick with my new career in buildings? My love of bridges, which had sparked my interest in engineering as a teen, was still strong. But I’d recently made a career change that was pretty exciting, too. I was torn.
Over time, my initial confusion began to subside. And it was replaced by a realization that I was now working for a very diverse company. Stantec does a lot of things in a lot of places. My career was not just limited to this new sector—or to bridges, for that matter. I was beginning to see Stantec as a place of endless opportunities. That put my mind at ease.
Ultimately, a combination of market forces helped move my career to the next level. The tragic I-35 Minnesota bridge collapse happened in August 2007, a few months before we were acquired by Stantec. That event put a lot of scrutiny back on bridges. As a result, the bridge market had a huge swing upward in late 2007 and 2008.
I didn’t return to working on bridges right away, though. I kept working in buildings until the recession in 2008 and 2009 drastically slowed down the power and industrial market. Then I knew the timing was right to start my transition back to my roots and first engineering passion—bridges.
Flexibility for growth
My very first bridge project for Stantec showed me the exciting opportunities that came with being part of a large, international firm. In 2009, I was working remotely from Scarborough, Maine, on a large pedestrian arch bridge project in Calgary. Not only was the project itself inspiring, but the team dynamics and work sharing opportunities opened my eyes to the geographic and technical scope of bridge projects that I could support and work on at Stantec. And, shortly after that project, I started working on other bridge projects in Maine with the South Burlington, Vermont, office.
Even then, I was still spending most of my time on building projects.
Then a casual conversation with Transportation senior principal Greg Edwards in the South Burlington office led me back to transportation and bridges. Greg and I were just chatting when the bridge work in Maine came up. We talked about how this work was growing and how we could start a local bridge group to service the Maine Department of Transportation. From there, we just said “let’s see where this takes us.”
That sort of career flexibility brought me back to my bridge engineering roots. I learned a lot on my foray into buildings. Honestly, my time working on buildings refreshed my passion for bridges, which is what I have wanted to do since I was 13 years old.
One of the things I enjoy most about my job now is that I have so much diversity in my day. I get to work on client and project management, staff mentoring, business development, teaming, and technical engineering. I’ve helped grow our team in Scarborough to six (soon to be eight), and our goal is to get it up to nine or 10.
I may not be what some consider a stereotypical engineer. I enjoy the people side of the business. I like business development. And in my present role, I’m able to do those things and more. I design bridges. I help mentor others. And I’m able to build a practice in my office. That makes me happy.
Also, our big firm has a small-town impact—something I like. I’ve worked on four projects that are less than 15 minutes from my office. Daily, I see the fruits of our labor. For me, it’s the best of both worlds—to work for a Company that has the size and depth to do work anywhere around the world, and also the local presence to work right in my own community.
About the Author
Tim Merritt has a sincere passion for bridge design that is still evident after more than two decades of planning, designing, and managing roadway structure projects.More Content by Tim Merritt