Each February, Bechtel proudly celebrates Engineers Week, an event organized by DiscoverE, that aims to celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world, increase public dialogue about the need for engineers, and bring engineering to life for kids, educators, and parents.
As we celebrate Engineers Week’s theme of “Imagining Tomorrow,” we sat down with Bechtel’s corporate Manager of Engineering & Technology, Brian Hartman, who provided insights as to how he imagines tomorrow.
Interviewee: Brian Hartman (BH)
Interviewer: Jennifer Whitfield (JW)
JW: Hi, I’m Jennifer Whitfield and I’m a communication specialist for Bechtel. I’m joined today by Brian Hartman, Bechtel’s Corporate Manager of Engineering. Today we will talk about Brian’s exciting career in engineering. Brian, thank you so much for joining us today.
BH: Thank you for having me.
JW: Let’s go ahead and get started. Did you always want to be an engineer? If so, what inspired that?
BH: No, my initial love was music. We always had an organ in the house as I was growing up, and when I was in elementary school, my parents actually gave me a saxophone and after that I was hooked. There’s many close ties between the logic of music and that of engineering while still providing that freedom of a structured environment. But you can go create new things from within the structure, within the balance of sort of that science. It was a natural progression, which was stimulated by the break of my band when I was in high school, that I actually needed to go think about something else and engineering was it. You know, my plus to engineering was that I like taking things apart and putting them back together and engineering seemed to be a good fit for me.
JW: Can you tell us a bit about your career and how you’ve progressed to where you are today?
BH: Well, while I was in University, I actually joined Bechtel as a summer intern, and I got to work around some extremely interesting people that were doing some very unique things in different parts of the world that I hadn’t been exposed to. So again, that experience hooked me. Being able to work on a myriad of different types of projects using all the skills at my personal exposures and some of the things that I actually learn from my coworkers was quite adventurous. I worked through many of the engineering positions, including positions in design engineering, field engineering, and commissioning engineering. As I progressed through my career, I was able to also work in our business development organization, seeing how we bid and obtained new work to move through, and I then also was able to work in both project and functional management that, you know, showed me how to execute work from cradle to completion of those jobs. All of those assignments over my career have contributed different things to sort of my overall skill set, and I actually currently use all of those skills in my Corporate Manager of Engineering & Technology position.
JW: Which project or assignment are you most proud of?
BH: I have quite a few assignments that I’m proud of, mostly because of the challenge they provided and the opportunity they gave me to continue learning and growing as a person. However, the one that I’m probably the proudest of is actually another project that I had any direct impact or influence on. That project goes to Quezon Power Project in the Philippines. It was a power job that we did in a remote area of the Philippines and when it was built, it was very, very remote. It would take our teams like 8 to 12 hours by bus just to get to the job site. So, very remote for our teams that work there. But I had the opportunity many years later to visit that job site. It was still a four hour journey for me in a car, but when I realized that the roads that I traveled on were lighted and paved when I got near the job site, there was a thriving community around the job site with people that were working and kids that were playing. And you know, just parks to actually improve people’s quality of life. It was a stark difference to what was there then to what was there when the project was originally conceived and constructed. Seeing that actually made me extremely proud to be working for a company that could make the type of impact to the communities that they are surrounded and actually have an impact to people’s lives.
JW: So as you know, this week we’re celebrating engineers week and the theme is “Imagining Tomorrow”. As we imagine tomorrow, Bechtel’s engineers will be at the heart of the solutions to improve the resiliency of the world’s infrastructure, to increase access to energy resources and vital services, and make the world a safer, cleaner place. What is Bechtel doing to imagine tomorrow to make the world a better place for our colleagues, customers, partners, and the communities in which we work?
BH: Well, many of our projects we’re doing are actually helping to make the world safer, cleaner, and more efficient place. We constantly challenge ourselves to be more efficient in the materials that we use for construction. Our core businesses each have projects that directly support the concept of making the world a better place. The company in itself, supports stewardship programs such as DiscoverE, Engineers Without Borders, FIRST, and Junior Achievement. But in the end, how we deliver those projects, how we actually imagine the solutions to the challenges of the world, what we actually do to improve upon, what has actually been done before, is up to the ingenuity and the talent of the people that we assigned to perform that work. So, it’s really up to us as a community working for Bechtel and the projects to actually come up with those solutions to help move us forward.
JW: It’s incredible what our people can do. What advice would you have for early career hires who might be pursuing a career in a technical excellence path?
BH: So, my advice is first to take care of themselves. You really have to become good –actually no, great – you have to become great at something, so don’t try to get a wide base right away. Really try to figure out what you’re good at, then when you figure that out, help other people become great at that thing while you’re taking the opportunity to learn from other people that may have become great at something different. For the technical excellence career path, you need to focus on something that you like that you feel enthusiastic about learning more at, and then learning how to improve it and actually show others your knowledge and show others those improvements. It doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning everything else, but you become the person that you know people want on their team when that opportunity arises. The other thing is, you know, for the technical career paths is that you should reach out to existing people like the Bechtel distinguished technical specialist and the fellows to ask them about their journey in the company and how they got to the positions that they were, and I know they really love to hear from you.
JW: What would you say are some of the best resources that have helped you personally along the way?
BH: Well, the best resources for me have been our fellow coworkers. Bechtel has a culture where people feel really excited to help others on the team to know what they know. So, it actually will help the team achieve greater things than they could achieve by themselves.
JW: You mentioned earlier some of our stewardship programs at Bechtel. Let’s talk more about giving back. Do you participate in any volunteering efforts within your community or what other ways do you give back?
BH: Well, I like volunteering and I like doing things like helping people at my local church and other organizations. But, my actual joy is helping young people discover the wonders of science and seeing that spark of curiosity take hold that you know it’s something that they couldn’t grasp and go, Wow! As I mentioned before, Bechtel stewardship programs can provide those structural opportunities for you to contribute. If you don’t have any of those other places to go to, the Bechtel Resource Groups (BRGs) are always looking for volunteers for you to help with their outreach program that they’ve actually already started. So, those are the things that I participate in and try to, you know, focus in on how to actually help that next generation of engineers see what actually can occur from their knowledge.
JW: That’s so inspiring! Last question for you, what does being an engineer mean to you?
BH: For me, it actually means that I can be one of those people that other people look to, to solve problems. That’s what everybody’s concept of an engineer is, “you know how to solve a problem, right”? But mostly it allows me to talk people into letting me take their stuff apart and put it back together, which is one of the real things that started me on this track to engineering, I like doing those types of things.
JW: That concludes our podcast. Thank you so much for joining me today Brian and talking about your career in engineering.
BH: Thank you.