Month: February 2020

Young Member’s Perspective of the NCSEA Structural Engineering Summit

SENH members at summit

This past November, I attended the NCSEA Structural Engineering Summit at the Disneyland Hotel and Conference Center in Anaheim, California. I was able to go because I was awarded a Young Member Scholarship, one of 15 scholarships awarded this year!

At the Summit, I met a variety of people from around the country including other Young Members, senior mentors, vendors for different products and software (including a woman who went to Oyster River High School in Durham, NH and whose parents live right here in Newmarket, NH like me!), and, of course, Disney characters. I connected with multiple Young Members from the Massachusetts Young Member Group (YMG), and we hope to hold a joint event so our members can expand our networks. The Young Members from around the country I met shared their YMG experiences and events that provided me with ideas to bring back to our YMG.  

There was an assortment of keynote presentations and educational topics that were well done, and I was able to walk away with something from each one, even if they weren’t directly related to what I work on every day. Presentations ranged from A Perspective on the Future of Consulting Engineers to Limitation of Liability Clauses in Engineering Contracts to Talk Nerdy to Me: Science Not Communicated is Science Not Done about presentation skills. There was an abundance of presentations to choose from during each session and even as a Young Member, there was always something for me; they even had a Young Engineer Track series on Thursday afternoon specially geared towards members 35 and younger.

Talk Nerdy to Me: Science Not Communicated is Science Not Done

During the Talk Nerdy to Me: Science Not Communicated is Science Not Done, presenter Melissa Marshall discussed how we as technical presenters could improve our presentation skills from slide presentation and content, to how presentations are given. One of the points that stuck with me was “bullets kill.” Her point was that you lose the audience’s attention by filling up slide shows with bullets because this overloads the audience with information; they usually cannot read the slide and listen to what you are saying at the same time.

She pointed out that the default PowerPoint slide hasn’t changed since the 1980s and that we all assume that bullets are what make slide effective. She suggests using a single sentence at the top of the slide (the main point you want to get across for that slide) and a visual aid. This would also help narrow down the presentation content to what is important that you want to get across to the audience.

Melissa also pointed out that it’s not only what’s on the slide, but also how you present the information. She showed a video of a statistics professor presenting the trends of life expectancy in various countries; normally people do not find statistics very riveting, but this professor sounded like a sportscaster as he showed the data changing across time and was very easy to pay attention to. Her point wasn’t that we all needed to sound like sportscasters, but to be enthusiastic about what we’re presenting and find a presentation style that really works for us as individuals. I think it’s important for all of us to know how to present to an audience effectively and Melissa’s presentation is applicable to all of our presentations.

Mentor Roundtable: Business Leaders Giving Advice & Perspective

Another session was run a little differently than the presentations: we had a mentor roundtable discussion about business development. This was held in particular for the young engineers at the Summit. We split into small groups of about eight to ten people, and then business leaders came to our tables for a ten-minute discussion. They told us a little about themselves, including how they achieved their positions and roles in their companies, and then we were able to ask them questions. This was very beneficial to see the different career paths they each took, get their advice, and caused us to think about where we want to go in our careers. Do I want to manage other people? Do I want to run my own office? Or even, do I want to own my own business? I’m still not sure exactly where my future will lead regarding these questions, but I’m glad to be thinking about the future and I think it’s important for all young people to think about where they want to be in the future.  

Takeaways

The summit allowed for plenty of social events to establish and grow relationships with new members, as well as cultivate those with members you already know. These events also allowed us to celebrate other engineers and everything we do!   

When I returned, I participated in the SENH Board Meeting on December 5th with our two Summit Delegates. We provided a lot of information to the Board that we brought back from the Summit.

I highly recommend other SENH Young Members consider applying for a scholarship to attend. The scholarship makes an amazing educational, social, and fun engineering event affordable and you’ll make lasting memories and connections. If you want to know more about my experience, please don’t hesitate to ask!

NEWEA Young Professionals Summit: What I learned about Empathy and Strength

Photo shows three young professionals, including Monika Ingalls, meeting and networking at the NEWEA Summit

On Sunday January 26, 2020, the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA), partnered with New England Water Works Association, held a Young Professionals Summit to bring together young professionals (YPs) from the water and wastewater industries to hear from leaders in their profession and network with peers across New England. I was intrigued by this summit as I believe networking is important to furthering one’s professional career, as well as listening to those who are leaders and considering advice that they offer.

The NEWEA Young Professional Summit began with opening remarks and a large speed networking activity. This was a great way to get to know fellow YPs in the New England area. There were YPs from other consulting firms, public works departments, and graduate students. NEWEA provided several guiding questions and from there it was interesting to hear what projects other firms and municipalities were working on. One YP whom I spoke with, who was a graduate student from UNH, talked a bit about her research into removal of pharmaceuticals from water, which she was presenting in a session on Monday.

Empathetic Professionals

After four rounds of swapping partners and networking, we returned to our tables and prepared for a speech by Dr. Claire Baldwin, from CDM Smith. She spoke on the importance of empathy as engineers and as future leaders in our profession; it’s important as engineers to consider how our actions and designs will affect everyone, not just people with similar outlooks on life as us.

One example that she mentioned that I felt was especially powerful was an image of an older person with a walker attempting to climb up a steep slope next to stairs – it is clear in the image that those who are unable to use stairs were not considered during the design process. She pushed the importance of putting oneself into the shoes of all people who will be effected by a project.

Water’s Inspirational Future

Part of the day included the documentary Brave Blue World. The Water Environment Federation helped partner to create this film which provided a positive outlook on the future issues with water that the world will be faced with. It covered many different areas globally and presented entrepreneurs and scientists who are all doing their part to help solve their respective water issues. Once we viewed the documentary, we moved into a discussion about the movie and were tasked with creating panel questions for different audiences: high school students, the general public, and public officials in an area where a screening may be held. Overall, I felt this showing left me with an inkling of hope for the future – while there are problems that will become more prevalent, there will always be individuals to step up to the challenge and help the world and its inhabitants.

Strengths in Career Pathways

After this session, another speaker, Hannah Mento of Mento Mindset presented about finding what our strengths are and using these strengths to improve our creativity at work. This presentation was interesting and she helped guide us as we thought to ourselves what our strengths are, even going as far as messaging people we know to tell us what they feel our strengths are; and pushed us to consider these strengths moving forward in our careers to help improve our productivity and happiness with our jobs. It was interesting to hear the variety of strengths people discovered about themselves, whether it be communication, listening, organizational, etc. and to see whether there were strengths that we all had since we are all young engineers.

Hearing From other Young Professionals & Key Takeaways

Finally, two professionals were able to chronicle their first years as engineers and field questions from any of the YPs in the room during a panel discussion. One takeaway from this panel was the importance of remembering that it takes time to come into your own as a professional and not to feel discouraged if it is taking longer than expected.

After closing remarks, I had the opportunity to introduce myself to the president-elect of NEWEA, Jennifer Kelly Lachmayr, as well as talk with a few YPs who were new to the New England area. All in all, this was a good experience to connect with other young professionals throughout New England and to hear from speakers who wanted to help us grow more into our careers. After exploring my strengths and connecting with the professionals at the event, I am excited to participate more as a member of NEWEA and learn more from the professionals associated with the organization.

Photo credit: Charlie Tyler/NEWEA. See the full album.

Employee Spotlight: Paula Boyle

Paula Boyle, Environmental Engineer, and Longtime Resident of Her Hometown
1.  What drew you to Hoyle, Tanner?
I had co-op’d (cooperative) at several engineering firms in the Boston area but wanted to try a new firm when I graduated from Merrimack College in 1987.  The co-op office suggested Hoyle, Tanner and so I interviewed and liked the idea of being a part of the newly forming Environmental Group in our then Burlington MA office.
2. What’s something invaluable you’ve learned here?
Fully understand the client’s objectives, concerns, and budget constraints before starting a project.
3. What’s your favorite time of year to work at Hoyle, Tanner?
Springtime – new beginning after New England winters and outdoor projects get underway.
4. What’s the coolest thing you are working on?
Developing an Industrial Pretreatment Program for a Vermont community that doesn’t currently have one.
5. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you so far this week?
My husband has been making our favorite cup of coffee in the morning!
6. How many different states have you lived in?
Just 1 – Massachusetts.
7. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?
Pasta with (homemade sauce, of course ) bread, salad and tiramisu for dessert.
8. What kind of pet do you have and how did you choose to name it?
We had goldfish when the girls were young and they named them blackie and goldie.
9. What is a fun or interesting fact about your hometown?
I grew up in Reading MA in a large family ( I am one of six girls! no brothers) and now live there with my husband Tom and two daughters.  Reading is 12 miles north of Boston and best known for its easy access to trains & major highways.  Reading is a family-friendly community and is known for our excellent school system.
10. What are three things still left on your bucket list?
1. To visit each of my  grandparent’s farm and relatives in Ireland
2. Travel to Italy & Spain
3. Watch our girls graduate from college
11. Name three items you’d take with you to a desert island
My family, food, and a good book
12. What characteristic do you admire most in others?
Honesty, compassion, intelligence, and artistic and athletic ability
13. How old is the oldest item in your closet?
I’m afraid to say, very old – My high school prom dress (I thought my daughters would want to wear – HA!)
14. Words to live by? Favorite quote?
“Do to others what you would have them do to you” 
15. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
 A Landscape architect, then I had a high school mechanical drawing teacher who encouraged me to study Civil Engineering, so I did – and the rest is history.
16. If you were to skydive from an airplane what would you think about on the way down?
I hope I make land!

What is the PFC Debate about?

To become financially self-sustaining, airports are continually evaluating ways to generate the revenue needed to support their facility. One key program commercial service airports use to support development and maintenance is the Passenger Facilities Charge (PFC).

The PFC program was established in 1992 and instituted a fee up to $3 charged per passenger per stop, to be used by the individual airport for approved projects that include enhancing safety, security, or capacity, or increasing air carrier competition. Two decades ago, the maximum PFC was raised to $4.50 and has not been adjusted since. The PFC rate amount has been the topic of many discussions between Congress, airports, and airlines. The PFC cap increase debate is once again a topic of discussion in the current FAA reauthorization.

 

1992-2000-2020

 

Rationale in Favor of Increasing PFC Charges

Airports and industry organizations such as the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and Airports Consultants Council (ACC) have been fighting for an increase in PFC charges and argue:

  • PFC is a user fee a passenger pays for using an individual airport. If you do not use the aviation system, you do not pay the price. The PFC is not an additional tax.
  • The current proposal to increase the cap on PFCs is needed to account for future inflation.
  • A simple adjustment to the PFC to account for inflation would directly support each individual airport’s infrastructure and fund the improvement projects needed.
  • As traditional revenue sources begin to decline such as parking due to rideshare companies including Uber and Lyft, airports need to identify additional revenue sources.
  • Large airports can drastically reduce their Capital Infrastructure Bonding Debt Service by funding more of the project with PFC revenue. Small communities can use the PFC to cover local share of the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant. Airport Council International (ACI) has a summary document that provides an example of how using PFC would significantly reduce the cost of a large scale terminal project by eliminating long-term debt payments.

Rationale in Opposition of Increasing PFC Charges

  • Airlines do not want to charge passengers additional fees.
  • The public is sensitive to airline ticket pricing and is not likely to support increased fees that will raise those fares.
  • Some airports negotiate fair and reasonable rates and charges without utilizing a PFC.

AIP Funds & Questions to Consider

Many United States airports rely on federal, state, and local funding to maintain existing capacity, accommodate growth, and support a safe, reliable national airspace system. The reality is, our nation’s airports are vital public utilities with sizeable operation costs. To meet the airports’ individual infrastructure needs the FAA established the AIP trust fund. This program was created as part of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1981 as a means of distributing federal entitlement and discretionary funds to airports that are part of the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

As we continue to watch the debate unfold over the following weeks, it will be interesting to see if there is an increase with future adjustments for inflation or we keep the status quo. There are still many questions to be considered. Per U.S. Code Title 49 USC § 47114(f), the amount of entitlement funds for large and medium hub airports that also collect a PFC, are reduced based on the PFC collection level approved for that airport. For example, if the airport is collecting at $3.00 or less, the amount of entitlements is reduced by 50%. If the airport is collecting more than $3.00, the amount of entitlements is reduced by 75%. If PFC raises to $8.50 or something in between $4.50 and $8.50, how would this further affect the process for AIP entitlement and discretionary distribution of funds? Would there be additional federal money supporting small airports while larger commercial airports can support their operations through PFC?

The Future of Airport Infrastructure

Airport executives are in a position where they are required to plan for future growth, support airlines, support aeronautical activity including the safe and efficient transport of people and goods, and enhance passenger services. How these improvements and services are funded are an integral part of the PFC cap increase debate. Legislators need to decide if an airport is a public asset that is to be supported by the government as an essential and vital piece of transportation infrastructure; or is an airport a business just like any other that is fiscally responsible for their operations? How this on-going debate over raising the PFC is addressed in 2020 will be key to airport infrastructure funding in the future.