Tag: Education

What going Back to School Taught me About My Career…and Myself

Going back to School featured image with wetlands in the background and Deb Coon's profile photo in the foreground

In 2016 I did a thing: I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I decided that I would go back to school and get a degree in Environmental Science. But before I went back to school, I had to go back to school. Sounds like I made a mistake here, right? Well, actually I didn’t. After talking to an admissions councilor, I found out that I was missing two courses from high school: chemistry and algebra. So, before I went back to school I had to go back to high school! I took two adult learning courses, got my credits and in fall 2017, I entered NHTI in pursuit of my degree.

In the beginning I worried about a lot of things. Could I do this? Would I be looked at as the “old lady” in the room? Would the younger students accept me or want to collaborate with me when it came to working together? Am I smart enough to actually do this? To say I had some self-doubt and confidence issues would be an understatement.

When I started this process, I knew three things: I wanted to still work my 40 hours a week; I was going to have to give up a substantial amount of ‘free’ time; and this was going to take a while. Luckily for me, between my husband and Hoyle Tanner, I have an incredible support system. Through this journey, I have taken day classes, night classes, online classes, remote classes, and I even took a week off as a vacation to take a one-week class (known as intensive class). I’ve been allowed to work all kinds of different work schedules to accommodate all these types of classes. All while this has been going on, I have received one consistent message, “Do what you have to do.”

This experience has probably been one of the hardest and most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I found that my worries about classmates was unfounded. The younger students that I take classes with look at me as being an equal and in some cases even lean on me to assist them. I have completed all my coursework for my degree and currently am working on my senior capstone project. This part of my degree is the most exciting for me because the project that I am working on is a partnership with the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Bureau to identify threatened and endangered plant species, which allows me to do my part to assist in the protection of our state-listed species.

Being able to connect what I learn in school and directly apply it to what I do for work has been eye opening for me. As the saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” The education that I have gotten has not only made me better at my job, but it has also boosted my self-confidence. I know now that not only could I do this, but I have done it and will be graduating in May – Magna cum laude!

Giving Back: The Collegiate Experience from the Front of the Classroom

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One of the most important, challenging, and rewarding aspects of the civil engineering curriculum at a college or university is the senior capstone project, or senior project. A “culminating experience” or capstone project is a required component of an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) accredited civil engineering curriculum – but beyond that it provides a student with perhaps their first near-real-world experience of interaction with a client, project owner, community, or others outside of their typical academic world.

Typically students will be assigned to small teams, assigned a project (real or hypothetical), and then taught basic project management, design, and project delivery techniques to work their way through iterative solutions for presentation to their “client.” Each university may handle the details of their capstone program a little differently, but in essence, the students act as an engineering team managing and designing a project as if they were a consulting engineering firm hired by a project owner.

Hoyle Tanner is proud to be heavily involved in capstone programs of schools nearby to our several offices and find that helping to shape our team members of tomorrow to be incredibly rewarding. Being involved in these programs provides many benefits to our team members including sharing knowledge, networking, and the pride of giving back to the universities that provided us with the foundations for our careers. The students benefit by learning how the engineering industry works, establishing real-world engineering contacts that they may be able to leverage for future employment, and the accomplishment of utilizing their educational background to perform on a real-world project. It’s a win-win-win for the industry, the students, and the university.

Many of our professionals have been involved in numerous capstone programs over many years. Some examples include:

  • Matthew Low, PE, Director of Engineering Operations is in his second academic year serving as Adjunct Faculty at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and instructing UNH’s Introduction to Project Planning and Design class. He has been involved in many aspects of the UNH civil engineering program for years including awarding scholarships, and serving on the Civil Engineering Advisory Board, but the capstone program is providing him with the most direct ability to make a positive impact on a student-by-student basis.
  • Wilbur Mathurin, PE, Senior Project Manager, recently completed his fifth year as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Central Florida (UCF) instructing their Capstone Design class. Wilbur wanted to get involved to make a real difference because he believes there is real value to the students in weaving real world experience into their academic journey. He enjoys showing them how what they have learned over their four years is applied at the  project level.
  • Hoyle Tanner has sponsored senior projects for the UNH capstone class six times over the last seven years for project teams including bridge and airport projects providing hands-on mentoring as the “client” for many aspiring engineers. Hoyle Tanner’s engineers involved in these projects have included Josif Bicja, PE; Katelyn Welch, EIT; Jillian Semprini, PE; Kayla Hampe, PE; Nicole Crawford, PE; and Bob Furey, PE, to name a few.
  • Ed Weingartner, Senior Technical Bridge Engineer, is currently working for a second consecutive year as a capstone project mentor at his alma mater the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. With over 30 years of intense bridge engineering experience on complicated structures, Ed is thrilled to be able to pass along what he has learned to the students so that they will be better-prepared when they embark on their careers.
  • For the last four years, several engineers  from our Burlington, Vermont office have been involved in the University of Vermont’s (UVM) capstone program by being judges, providing feedback, and mentoring. It is a great way for our local team of professionals to support the next group of engineers in northern Vermont.
  • Jennie Auster, Associate and Senior Environmental Engineer, spoke at a graduate seminar in October 2021 at UVM. She presented on how engineers help communities solve wastewater treatment problems and have a unique opportunity to be “boots on the ground” environmental stewards. She discussed a diversity of projects and the dynamic blend of hydraulics, chemistry and biology that goes into finding solutions for our communities.

We are glad to give back to our local universities and share our expertise for the benefit of our future engineering leaders and encourage our peers to do the same. Reach out and find out how you can help your local civil engineering education program – you’ll be happy you did.

What about that Tuition Reimbursement Program?

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One of the benefits of being a Hoyle, Tanner employee is the tuition reimbursement program. Eligible employees may begin participation in the program six months after their hire date. Cost of tuition, books and required course materials are reimbursed based upon final grades.

The purpose of tuition reimbursement is to “encourage employees, through financial assistance, to further their education in courses that will be of benefit to both the Employee and the Company,” as it states in the company policy.

This year, we’ve collected responses from six employees who have or are taking advantage of this policy. We asked them what it has been like to have the financial support to continue their education.

It has been a confidence booster that is for sure,” says Deb Coon, administrative assistant for our bridge department and environmental coordinator. “I have a lot more confidence in myself than I had in the past. The other thing is I feel it has sharpened my analytical skills.  Being in school and having to constantly learn and study new things has had a trickle down effect to work. It has changed the way I read and absorb information which in turn has resulted in me doing a better job at what I do. Without the reimbursement plan I’m not sure I would have gone back at all. Having the reimbursement plan was a big part of my decision to pursue this degree.” 

“I had always wanted to start my master’s and one day I just felt like it was time,” says Nahal Namazi, accountant. “Having this program available to me has made me very grateful and was a major reason for deciding to continue my education. It allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and start something that would benefit me and Hoyle, Tanner.”

“I completed my Master’s in Business Administration – Organizational Management in May of 2019,” says Rychel Gibson, PE, environmental engineer. “The reimbursement program allowed me to take courses in rapid succession as opposed to spreading them out when I could afford them. It made it much easier to complete the program and move on.

“My coursework gave me a much deeper knowledge base on the business side of engineering. It’s already given me the ability to understand why some decisions are made for the company and it will allow me to be more effective moving forward in my career and being able to make decisions that will be best for myself, my clients, and the company.”

We also interviewed Director of Engineering Operations Matthew Low, PE, Land Development Engineer Marisa DiBiaso, PE and Transportation Engineer Audrey Beaulac, PE to get their perspectives. Check out the video below!

Learning Continued

Like many other companies, Hoyle, Tanner remains committed to the ongoing education of its employees. One of the great benefits offered to full-time employees is the Education Cost Reimbursement, which encourages the employee, through financial assistance, to further their education. The dedication to this program started at its conception in 1999, and continues to offer many of our employees the advantage of personal and professional development.Everyone furthers their education for different reasons, and here is what the assistance has meant to some of its participants:

“I joined Hoyle, Tanner after earning a broad Civil Engineering Bachelor’s Degree, and this programinspired me to earn my Master’s Degree. Taking specialized classes in my field has helped me tremendously in my professional and technical development. Hoyle, Tanner is a company that understands the benefits of having a well-educated staff.”            Joe Ripley

“Hoyle, Tanner’s education reimbursement program allowed me to complete a Masters of Business Administration degree at a reasonable pace while still working full time.  The classes have been invaluable in better understanding the business side of the engineering services we provide.”           – Sean James

“Hoyle, Tanner’s tuition reimbursement program allowed me to pursue my BSCE degree at night while still working full time.  As a Resident Engineer, this allows me to better serve our clients in the field by giving me a better fundamental understanding of the engineering process.”          – Shawn Reynolds

“I have been working towards the completion of my Masters of Business Administration with a concentration in Project Management over the past two years. It has been exciting to learn new skills that we are not taught in an engineering program. The greatest value has been gaining an appreciation of what our other departments necessary to run the business. As we all know, education isn’t free so [financially] offsetting any part of the costs is a huge benefit while raising a family, and one of the reasons that coming back to Hoyle, Tanner was very appealing. I am grateful and excited to be part of a company that supports professional development and encourages employees to better themselves.“         – Jason Ayotte

“When I joined Hoyle, Tanner I was working full-time while going to school full-time. I only had a few classes left to complete my Bachelor’s Degree, and this program allowed me to complete those classes without applying for additional student loans. The improved skills and capabilities I developed during those final classes have been implemented throughout my work throughout the company.”           – Nichole Davis

As our vision statement affirms, “We continue to build a corporate culture that honors and values the individuality and strengths of our team members and our clients.” To find out more about our benefits or to apply to an open position visit our Careers Page!