Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability ‘19
Project Engineer, Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives (IEA)
Vincent graduated in 2019 after majoring in Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability. He now works as a Project Engineer for Infrastructure and Energy Alternatives (IEA) in Santa Monica, Texas. IEA is involved in the construction of renewable energy projects, including wind farm development in South Texas.
Read the full interview with Vincent:
A Glance at Vincent’s Current Work
The company I work for is heavily involved in the construction of renewable energy projects (primarily wind, some solar, and some heavy civil). My current role has focused on the power delivery facet of a wind farm construction project in South Texas.
Our team is responsible for the installation of 500,000 feet of medium voltage (MV) cable, as well as the grounding and conduit installation of 125 wind turbines. My last project also included the construction of an electrical substation and transmission line.
I start my day off attending meetings with the owners of the project and other subcontractors. I’ll generate a plan of the day (POD) that is sent out to our upper management team and site personnel. What I do next really depends on what my Project Manager delegates to me. Most of the tasks I am expected to complete daily are related to procurement, progress tracking, and communicating with our client, vendors, and other stakeholders. The weekly and monthly tasks I am responsible for are mostly related to financial analyses and measuring productivity.
The most rewarding part of my current position is contributing to the decarbonization of our country’s electrical grid. Every circuit that is energized reduces the amount of fossil fuel required to meet energy demand. It really makes the long hours and time away from home worth it.
Throughout my job search, I definitely knew I wanted to do something more than sit at a desk all day. I don’t know that I had any “deal breakers”, but there were certainly roles I wouldn’t actively seek out or apply to. I knew I was looking for something in the renewable energy industry.
Did you have any internships or seasonal positions in college?
I had plenty of jobs throughout college, but the most meaningful and impactful experience I had was through an internship I did the summer before graduating. I was hired as a sustainability intern for an electric power cord manufacturing company a few miles away from my parent’s house in Cleveland, Ohio.
While I was there, I was given some daily and weekly tasks, but I was largely left to manage myself. I submitted proposals to my supervisor for projects I thought would help the company, and several of them were approved.
My biggest contribution to the company was probably reorganizing their inventory in a way that optimized the route of the tow motor – the powered, industrial truck that is used to transport products around the plant and to the warehouse. Reorganizing the inventory boosted productivity and reduced the amount of fuel used to during the transportation process.
"I would advise anyone trying to get into a project-oriented career to take any project they work on in school seriously... These class-based experiences were excellent talking points in interviews, and they were excellent opportunities to develop skills in project participation."
Which extracurricular activities did you participate in?
Rugby had always been a big part of my life. I played for OSU’s club team most semesters, as course load allowed. I think it’s important to do things that you enjoy outside of work/school to keep yourself from burning out. Rugby was a great way to keep myself healthy and boost morale after a tough academic day. Working hard is important, but it is healthy to engage in activities outside your work/academic obligations as well.
Which experience do you feel was most valuable in your professional development?
The most meaningful and impactful courses I took at OSU were my capstone course and Dr. Neil Drobny’s project-based learning course. If you take these kinds of learning opportunities seriously, you will absolutely find value in them. These class-based experiences were excellent talking points in interviews, and they were excellent opportunities to develop skills in project participation.
You develop more skills than you realize when you actively participate in experiential class projects. I learned a lot about workload balancing, time management, and professionalism in these classes. I am grateful to have had professors who provided hands-on, project-based learning opportunities for their students.
I would advise anyone trying to get into a project-oriented career to take any project they work on in school seriously. Taking advantage of the controlled environment a college classroom provides is an excellent way to develop your ability to manage and participate in projects.
Considering Graduate School
I don’t think that not having an advanced degree held me back in my job search. In fact, I don't even have a degree typically held by someone in my position. Most of my peers majored in engineering or construction management. IEA took a chance on me because I showed them I was determined to overcome the challenges this job would present.
I really didn’t believe people when they told me that some employers will take a chance on someone who shows they are willing to work hard to overcome their known deficits – but I do now, thanks to IEA. I may obtain an advanced degree someday, but for now I am happy with my job and the opportunities for development it provides.