H/A Day in the Life of One Civil Engineer

A Day in the Life of One Civil Engineer

Adam Smith is part of the project team working on the new Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion. Adam is a Senior Project Manager in the Civil Engineering Department at Barry Isett & Associates. You might be surprised to learn how he spends much of his work day. Read on to find out!


Describe your role at Barry Isett & Associates.

As Senior Project Manager in the Civil Engineering Department I manage site design and approvals for construction projects. Civil Engineering responsibilities include site layout, parking and walkway design, site grading, stormwater management to prevent flooding in our streams and rivers, erosion and sediment controls to prevent dirt from washing off the site during construction, and helping the project navigate through the many agency approvals that are required prior to starting construction.  


What is your typical day like?

I maintain a very long “To Do” list, so every morning I start by identifying the most urgent items on that list and set goals for what I’d like to accomplish that day. I spend a lot of time emailing with clients, associates, and review agencies. I also spend a lot of time coordinating with other members of the project team at Isett to ensure projects are running smoothly. I always have several projects going on at the same time. Projects typically take 8-12 months for design and approvals, and each project has several Isett team members.


One thing that’s kind of unexpected about my job is that most people associate engineering with math and science (which are important!), but since we spend most of the day communicating with clients, agencies, and team members, effective writing and communication skills are also essential in my field. One of the best and most rewarding parts of the job is visiting a project site after construction is finished; we spend a lot of time looking at a project on paper and trying to visualize how it will look, and then it’s always interesting to see how those expectations compare to the final product.


What are some of the most interesting projects you have overseen?

The projects I enjoy the most are the ones that benefit the community. I’m excited to be part of the project team for the new Da Vinci Science Center in downtown Allentown, which will be a fantastic place for kids to visit and learn, and will also be a benefit to the surrounding community.  I’ve worked on a lot of K-12 schools and colleges, including the recently constructed Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays Elementary School in Allentown. Working on schools is very rewarding. 


What is most challenging about your work?

The process to get approvals from various government agencies is complex and takes a long time. Additionally, that process can vary depending on where the project is located. So it can be challenging trying to guide a project through that process as efficiently as possible while also teaching clients about the process and helping them set a project schedule.


Did you always know you wanted to become a Civil Engineer? If not, how did you end up following that career path?

I’m very passionate about nature and the environment, so I originally wanted to be an Environmental Engineer when I started college at the University of Delaware. Environmental Engineering is similar to Civil and many of the college classes overlap. However, after I took several classes on Environmental Engineering and Civil Engineering, I decided Civil was the way to go. In particular, I enjoyed studying stormwater management and transportation in college, which guided me toward Civil.


What is your favorite thing to do when you are off the clock?

I have a son who is 11 and a daughter who is 8, so they keep me very busy. They’re at a great age right now so my wife and I are making the most of it by traveling, coaching their sports teams, and spending time doing other fun things with them. Last summer we took a trip to Georgia and another one to Utah and Colorado, which were beautiful. I spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, biking, birding, camping, etc. I also really like watching and playing sports and I am passionate about the Olympics and Philly teams!


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