At Bechtel, we’re on a mission to support our customers and the communities we serve. Together, we’re helping build the path to net zero, protect people and the planet, accelerate progress and innovation, and open access and opportunity worldwide.
Dan Williams has been a part of this mission for over four decades, beginning in 1977 when he joined Bechtel as a nuclear engineer fresh from graduate school. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of roles across Bechtel, from engineering and project management to business development.
After receiving a Bechtel service award for his 45 years at the company, he sat down to share his experiences, highlighting the importance of every person’s role at Bechtel.
What has kept you at Bechtel for over four decades?
“When I came to Bechtel, one of the objectives was to be on a learning curve, a continuous learning curve to be challenged, and as it turns out, the opportunity to achieve that objective was greater than anticipated. The diverse opportunities to move within our company created a long-term challenge that continues to get better. And it’s a great company. I mean, that’s the bottom line, right? It’s a great company to work for. It’s highly ethical. People are important to this organization.”
Of the projects you’ve worked on, which are you most proud of and why?
“The first one was a nuclear project. Bechtel was responsible for coming in to help a company. From my vantage point, it was a first-of-a-kind project. Remember, I was a nuclear engineer at the time. It was technically challenging and demanding, and the assignment gave me an opportunity to personally interface with some of the renowned experts in the nuclear industry. Some of the names you heard about but didn’t have an opportunity to work with. The job was done, and it was completed safely, and aside from the technical challenge that I mentioned, it was an assignment that was important to the nuclear industry and certainly important to the local community. For it to be a success—and to have been a part of that success for something that was very important—I keep that at the top of my list of things I was involved with and proud of.”
How do you feel your work has contributed to building the path to net zero?
“Bechtel is responsible for building a large part of the nuclear power plant infrastructure, and in the U.S., I think we’ve built maybe half of the plants. More recently, we’re constructing Vogtle Units 3 & 4, which use the new AP1000 design. I wasn’t directly involved in the construction aspects of the project, but I did have some involvement on the engineering side of Vogtle Units 3 & 4. But more important is the fact that we have this new generation of nuclear power, commercial nuclear power, becoming a reality in the U.S., and Bechtel is a big part of that. Vogtle is the only AP1000 unit currently being constructed in the U.S. It will be the first. Clearly, nuclear provides reliable, carbon-free energy to local communities. I think back to being a part of that, and it is significant in its own right in terms of its impact on the environment. But I think there’s a broader impact for the industry and for the company and for the country, and we are demonstrating that these plants can, in fact, be built. It becomes a milestone for our customers, for the local communities, and for the industry as a whole.”
How have the people you’ve worked with inspired you?
“I reflect on the people you interface with across the company. Sometimes that’s a project team, or you have a question in a given area, and you hear about a reference, and you reach out to them. Sometimes it’s a less formal engagement; maybe it’s part of a committee or a meeting. But the point, at least for me, is you come to quickly appreciate just how vast our capability is and see the worldwide experience that people bring to bear on whatever the problem is. I’ve been in meetings, assembled a team, and sometimes you just sit back in awe as to how impressive people are when it comes to responding to customer needs and helping them solve problems. When you see things like that, it certainly inspires you because you want to make sure you’re an active participant and that you are having an impact.
“I’ll give you a recent example. We’ve been working on a project. It’s associated with building a submarine drydock. One of the things we wanted to make sure of as we were pulling together our execution plan was to reach out and get experience from other jobs around the world, particularly in the area of marine construction. I was responsible for pulling together what we termed a “cold eyes review,” people who had experience but had not been directly involved in our project, so they would be objective. There were maybe 10 of them, from Australia, Texas, Alaska, and other locations. We gave them a briefing and took them through our power design and intended approach, and we looked for critical feedback. Earlier when I said sometimes you just sit in a meeting and you’re in awe as to what you’re seeing. I was impressed by how quickly this group got a grasp on our project, our design, our constraints and were able to tie it to their experiences and provide constructive and informative feedback. We do it every day. It’s part of what makes us successful—to be able to reach out and leverage experience in other spots and have the organization willing to support us.”