Lessons Learned from a Pandemic – Newly Promoted Staff Share Words of Hope

With a COVID vaccine on the horizon as the year comes to an end, we reflect on some of the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic. Our newly promoted principals and associates share their thoughts and give us some words of encouragement as we look to a brighter 2021.

JANICE MARSTERS, PHD, PE, FACEC, SENIOR PRINCIPAL | Hawai‘i/Guam, Contact: (808) 369-0730, janice.marsters@hartcrowser.com

“Good communication with clients and coworkers is always essential, but even more so now with the distance imposed by the pandemic. Everyone has added stress during these challenging times, and it’s important to stay connected. Clients are concerned about their funding, project costs/schedules, and safety of their personnel. We’ve prioritized keeping in touch, moving projects forward even in this difficult time, and asking how we can help. Staff have the emotional burden of being cooped up at home without the comradery of sharing work struggles and successes in the office. We’ve instituted extra virtual events to make up for the ones we would normally have in person, such as coffee breaks and a Friday pau hana, to keep people in touch outside their normal project interactions. And our managers are reaching out more often to staff to reassure them and keep us all headed in the same direction.”

Unique Challenges Overcome During a Pandemic
“We’ve been working with the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation-Airports doing environmental engineering and compliance work at thirteen state airports on multiple islands. We’ve had to be exceptionally strategic when we schedule travel between islands during the pandemic. If somebody needs to work on Kona, for example, we make sure that any tasks that might need to be done in the next few months get handled on the same trip. We are also diligent about the travel tracking forms. Plus, we continually emphasize the need to follow mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines. We find that we can succeed the best with these restrictions by being detail minded and thinking everything through very carefully, and by making the health of our staff and clients a priority.”

  • Manages Hart Crowser’s offices in Hawai‘i and Guam
  • Leading authority on NPDES (storm water) regulations and environmental compliance
  • 28 years of experience (five with Hart Crowser)
  • Supports several Community organizations: Hawai’i’s Complete Streets Task Force, City & County of Honolulu’s Landfill Task Force, University of Hawai’i College of Engineering Industry Advisory Council (Chair), American Council of Engineering Companies’ (ACEC’s) National Risk Management Committee (13 years including three years as Chair), and ACEC-Hawai’i’s Risk Management and Legislative Committees

MARK DAGEL, LHG, HYDROGEOLOGIST, PRINCIPAL | Seattle, Contact: (206) 826-4534, mark.dagel@hartcrowser.com

“Working from home during this pandemic has reinforced just how much I enjoy the people part of this business. In many ways, I’ve felt closer to clients and coworkers and I believe this has to do with us working remotely, being in the same anxious, uncertain boat, and letting our guard down to reveal a bit more of ourselves in our natural habitat. I would like to build on this enhanced sense of openness and shared purpose as we move forward from this situation.”

Unique Challenges Overcome During a Pandemic
“We were just starting the pre-construction field investigation for the Chinook Wind habitat restoration for King County when the state of Washington first began to shut down for COVID. This project was an investigation of contamination along the lower Duwamish river, which required drilling groundwater monitoring wells and collecting soil and groundwater samples. There were conflicting orders about whether this work was considered essential, since it would involve construction and also had to do with hazardous substances. We had to sort out the differing requirements of our client, the state and local governments, and trade groups (like the Associated General Contractors) regarding health and safety plans, personal protective equipment, social distancing during drilling, health testing (temperature, questions, etc.), hand washing stations, and so on. Basically, we developed multiple health and safety plans and addenda as things progresses, and came up with creative driller safety protocols that were approved. By staying the course and keeping our heads about us, the investigation happened safely and successfully, and we were able to meet client’s schedule and stay within budget.”

  • Mark has broad experience in MTCA/CERCLA investigations, cleanups, source control, and monitoring; Natural Resource Damage Assessment and restoration projects; NPDES compliance; and stakeholder and regulatory negotiations
  • Skilled in managing complex contracts with large teams and many moving parts
  • Work for public-sector clients consistently rated “Excellent”
  • Over 30 years of experience (nearly 12 years at Hart Crowser)

MIKE SCHMITZ, PE, GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEER, PRINCIPAL | Seattle, Contact: (206) 826-4229, mike.schmitz@hartcrowser.com

“Everyone is responding to this time differently based on their experiences, living situations, and health concerns. It is important to understand that my situation is different from the people I manage and the people I report to. Some staff may also feel burnt out and not really know why. We need to keep all of this in mind during our daily interactions. If someone is acting or reacting in a way that is out of the ordinary, it may not be about the current situation or conversation you are having. Remember to look after each other and listen to one another.”

Unique Challenges Overcome During a Pandemic
“The pandemic didn’t change my project work enormously, given that I’ve been working on large design-build projects. But as Geotechnical Services Manager, I’m responsible for 62 members, and when the pandemic first began I needed to make sure they had what they needed to work from home and accommodate video calls, from computers to monitors to chairs. But it’s not over yet! When things change and we can all get back together, the work situation will be a hybrid. We’ll need to have things set up to work in both places, work and home. We’ll all need to keep thinking ahead.

An interesting thing is that before the pandemic, only a few people had to be familiar with video call software, to link between conference rooms in different cities. Then suddenly everybody had to know it. Any new technology has a learning curve, even for tech-savvy engineers. We coached each other through it, and now we have the same type of collaboration as being together. Having a supportive atmosphere makes progress like this possible.”

  • Manages Hart Crowser’s Geotechnical Business Unit
  • Particularly knowledgeable in transportation projects with both design build and design bid build experience.
  • Recently joined the ACEC-WA Business Practices Committee
  • 17 years of experience (nearly four years at Hart Crowser)

KELLY ENG, HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGER, SENIOR ASSOCIATE | Seattle, Contact: (206) 826-4467, kelly.eng@hartcrowser.com

“Though I miss running into people in the hallways or lunchroom I feel a bit more connected to the staff. I feel that this pandemic has humanized us a bit more and maybe some of the facade we carry has chipped away a bit. I work at my kitchen table where my husband makes his coffee, my son asks for lunch, and the dog wants to be let outside. Many staff have engaged in conversations with my son and have listened to my dog’s various howls. At first I was a bit mortified about this, but over time I have embraced that this is where we are at and my two families (home and work) definitely understand each other a bit more.”

  • Twenty-four years of experience (eighteen at Hart Crowser)
  • Responsible for the planning, implementation and administration of all functional areas of human resources including: recruiting; employee orientation; affirmative action and associated reporting; reviewing and administering benefits programs, group insurance renewals and benefit communications with staff; compensation oversight, including participating in and conducting salary surveys; coordinating the performance evaluation program and, as appropriate, performance improvement plan counseling
  • Works with the Corporate Health & Safety Manager in the retention of health and safety statistics and completion of OSHA and other compliance reports

ANGIE GOODWIN, LHG, HYDROGEOLOGIST, SENIOR ASSOCIATE | Seattle, Contact: (206) 826-4495, angie.goodwin@hartcrowser.com

“I’ve found that people have been really kind during these unusual times. They know that we’re all going through the same thing and it’s important to have patience and understanding, which has gone a long way to relieve my stress as a mother of two children. I’ve learned that while it is important to treat others with kindness, I also must have patience with myself and to be kind to myself.”

  • With Hart Crowser for fourteen years
  • Supports projects involving water resources, environmental hydrogeology, remediation, property due diligence/redevelopment, and groundwater computer modeling
  • Environmental project manager for multi-phase construction projects involving significant soil management and disposal
  • Board member of the Washington Hydrogeology Symposium since 2015

ROLF HYLLSETH, PE, LHG, GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEER, SENIOR ASSOCIATE | Seattle, Contact: (206) 826-4586, rolf.hyllseth@hartcrowser.com

“It’s simple, really…Wear a mask, social distance and don’t gather in big groups!  This is a time put the interests of others above your own, to save lives. Do it for your friends, neighbors, extended family members…and yes, even for people you don’t know.”   

  • Thirty years of experience (nine at Hart Crowser)
  • Work includes mixed use developments, deep excavations, landslides, bridge foundations, rockfall mitigation, and rockslide evaluation/instrumentation
  • Clients include the Washington State Department of Transportation, Washington Department of Enterprise Services, US Fish and Wildlife Services, US Naval Facilities Engineering Command, City of Normandy Park, City of Bothell, City of Seattle, City of Tacoma, Pierce County Surface Water Management, King County Parks and Recreation
  • Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

SIMONE SIMBECK, ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST, SENIOR ASSOCIATE | Hawai‘i, Contact: (808) 369-0729, simone.simbeck@hartcrowser.com

“2020 has been a challenging year and we are all in it together. Since we may not know what goes on in everyone’s life and what their struggles are, we (our team and company) have been regularly checking in with our staff and clients to offer support. We have made a point to help and connect with each other, whether it’s individual phone calls, or sharing weekly virtual Pau Hana/Happy Hour events and coffee breaks, so staff can communicate and feel more connected. I believe this difficult time has made our team grow closer, stronger and ultimately more resilient.”

  • Fifteen years of experience (two with Hart Crowser)
  • Environmental assessment, stormwater management, environmental sampling design, dredge management, and regulatory compliance
  • Contributed to a diverse array of projects in the Hawaiian Islands, contiguous United States, New Zealand, and New Caledonia
  • Active member of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Hawai‘i (ACECH)

LORNE ARNOLD, PHD, PE, GEOTECHNICAL ENGINEER, ASSOCIATE | Tacoma, Contact: (253) 271-1728, lorne.arnold@hartcrowser.com

“I’m impressed with how willing everybody is to be understanding and flexible, both at Hart Crowser and outside of the company. I’ve experienced an even bigger sense of camaraderie than before. And I’m hopeful that as we come out of the pandemic that we will use this experience to shake things up and question the way we do things—on a massive global scale, on a community scale, and individually. As painful as this has been, it’s an opportunity to make things even better by reshaping them using this new perspective.”

  • Nine years of experience (six at Hart Crowser)
  • Founder and manager of the Tacoma office
  • His projects include high-rise, highway, and port and waterfront development. He was the geotechnical project manager for the Southbound I-5 bridge over the Puyallup River, and the South Sound 911 Public Safety Communications Center in Tacoma
  • Board member of the City Club Tacoma and member of the ASCE
  • Volunteers for community efforts that promote STEM education for young people, particularly with diverse backgrounds, including Washington Middle School Career Day and MESA Day at Pacific Lutheran University