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With our new CEO and our recent corporate headquarters move, there have been a lot of big changes within the company. For this episode, we decided to interview some of our CEC veterans to illustrate just how much we’ve changed since we were founded 33 years ago.
Hello, everyone. My name is Adam Cline with Civil & Environmental Consultants. It’s been a big year for CEC. We started out the year with a new CEO; we recently celebrated our 33-year anniversary, and even more recently, we had our corporate headquarters move for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. To illustrate all this growth and the great changes we’ve seen at CEC, we decided to interview some CEC veterans for this episode. These individuals’ time with the company ranges from about 20 years to way back when the company was founded in 1989.
In this episode, you’ll hear from Mary King, a Senior Project Manager from our Environmental Engineering and Sciences practice; Jeff Woodcock, a Vice President from our Civil Engineering practice; Tom Walsh, a Vice President from our Environmental Engineering and Sciences practice; Mary Guinee, our Strategic Development Officer; Tom Maher, a Vice President from our Environmental Engineering and Sciences practice; and Michelle Kosmach, Director of HR Operations and Administration. We asked them questions about how their work has changed over time, to what accomplishments CEC has helped them achieve, and why CEC was the place they chose to build their career. Enjoy!
Jeff Woodcock: Back when the company was formed in 1989, I had previously worked with the four founders and knew that I wanted to continue to work with them. So, I gave them my resume, and fortunately, they had a position to hire me.
Q: So, what position did you start out in, and what’s your position today?
A: I started out as a Project Manager, and today, I am a Vice President.
Q: Could you speak on CEC’s advancement opportunities, and how you personally advanced within the company?
A: Back when the company was first formed, there wasn’t anything like, you know, Do, Manage, Market, Lead. It was pretty much you worked hard, you took on as much responsibility as you could, and you were recognized for your achievements by being promoted or given more responsibility. And it was that way for several years until we started trying to formalize things as the company got bigger.
Q: Are there any key accomplishments in your career that CEC has helped you achieve?
A: A lot of people overlook the benefit of stock ownership, but that has allowed me to achieve financial security for retirement, potentially retire early or comfortably.
Q: Has the culture here changed over time, or do you think it’s stayed the same since it was founded?
A: I think the culture has changed but stayed the same. You know, we were 12 people plus or minus when I joined the company, and so, it’s a lot different when you have a small company like that. We all knew each other personally; we knew each other’s families, not that that’s really the definition of corporate culture, but it did have an influence on it.
And now, we’re a much bigger company. And so, when I say things that haven’t changed, what I mean is we still strive to be the best, quality matters. We still advocate for our clients, and that has not changed.
I’m Mary Guinee. I am in the Environmental practice.
Q: Mary, what position did you start out in, and what position are you in today?
A: I started out as a Project Manager in 1993. I came over from another company, and I started with Environmental Site Assessments. Environmental Site Assessments are kind of like a real estate appraisal that you get when you buy a house, but it’s for environmental liabilities instead of property value. And that’s the kind of work that I started doing. And the position I’m in now is Strategic Development Officer. I took over that position from Greg Quatchak, one of the founders of the company, when he retired in 2020. He and I did a lot of work together through real estate projects and also brought in other types of services that were benefiting our clients at the time, and that’s how we improved a lot of the Real Estate practice.
Q: What made you want to stay at CEC?
A: I never really saw a reason to leave. I’ve been here 30 years. I was always given the opportunity to try new things, take risks, try new services, try new service areas, and try new capabilities. Some of those ideas worked, some didn’t, but I was always supported in what I was trying to do.
I also had support during periods of my life which were rewarding and difficult for me. You know, I had children late in life, and I had a career that I had to balance, and the firm always worked with me on what I needed to do when I had two children. And at the time, I was a Principal in the company, and I had to balance a practice. So, that was very important to me that I was able to do that here at CEC.
And then the other reason is I formed really, really strong relationships both with the team that I work with, with the leadership of the company, other people in other offices, and really good, strong, long-lasting relationships with clients that I couldn’t bear to say I was working at another company It would just not be who I am. CEC is me, and I am CEC. And I just don’t see leaving the firm.
My name is Mary King. I’m a geologist. I’ve been with CEC since the beginning, since 1989.
I started with another company, and I worked for a couple of the founders of CEC. And I worked there for about nine months, and I followed them when they left. I greatly respected their work, and I wanted to be a part of what they were doing with CEC.
Q: So, how has your focus or your work changed throughout your career?
A: Well, I was right out of school; I was right out of graduate school. So, I started out as a Field Geologist. And so, I spent a lot of time in the field, and now I’m a senior project manager with CEC. The opportunities at CEC are pretty much limitless. I mean, it’s where you want to go, and you can change your focus. Like I said, I started in the field, and you have to put in your time in the field to be a good manager. And I like that, and I point that out to people that start out at CEC and feel that as a field person maybe they’re spending too much time there. But you learn a lot in the field, and it helps you be a better manager. And CEC will help you along the way with training to help you grow as a manager.
Q: What accomplishments has CEC helped you achieve?
A: CEC has helped me grow because they always encouraged you to grow as a person and get the appropriate training you need. And the people here are great. You can interact with anybody, at least that has been my experience. I love the people I work with. We can always approach them to discuss things, and nothing is ever, rarely, set in stone. It’s pretty open to discuss a project or how things are progressing, any ideas you have, and that’s helped me grow as a person. And I encourage other people, now that I’m a Senior Manager, to come to me to help them grow too.
Q: What are some future career goals you have?
A: Well, since I’ve been here for 32 years, the goals are to retire in the not-too-distant future, but to be more involved in mentoring is one of my goals and encourage people to grow.
I am Michelle Kosmach. I’m currently the Director of HR Operations and Administration.
Q: And what position did you start out in and how did that kind of translate into what you’re doing today?
A: So, when I started at CEC, I started in a part-time role in HR and payroll, and I actually took that role because it allowed me to stay home with my daughter at the time who was a baby. That was a long time ago. And now currently I am now the Director of HR Operations and Administration.
Q: What are some of the challenges you faced while navigating through time here?
A: I would have to say, you know, being in HR, we really love to see the growth of the organization, and I’ve really seen it. Because when I started here, we were probably around 100 employees, and we’re well over 1,200 employees right now. So, I would have to say the growth, the challenges I think we face in HR is just making sure all of the employees feel engaged. We need to continue to attract talent and manage the relationships with not only the employees in Pittsburgh but within all the locations.
So, we’re based in Pittsburgh. So, it’s great for the folks in HR to be able to get out to the other offices and make our presence at all the other locations. So, I think that’s really, you know, we just want to make sure that all the employees and all the offices know we’re here for all of them.
Q: What has made you want to stay at CEC?
A: Although we’ve had so much growth, the employee – the culture and employees still kind of seems very similar to when I started. When I started at CEC like I said, we were 100 employees and everybody kind of felt like your family, but over the years, we’ve grown so much, but you still have that small firm culture here where I think everybody still kind of feels like your family, and it’s still easy to kind of build those relationships, maintain those relationships with employees.
Hi, my name is Tom Maher. I’m the corporate Environmental Engineering and Sciences Practice Lead at CEC.
Q: What position did you start out in? What brought you to CEC?
A: I started out as a Project Geologist way back in 1991, and to be honest with you, what brought me to CEC was I wanted to move back home. I’m from the Pittsburgh area, and I was living in Baltimore, and it was time for me and my wife to come back home.
Q: How has your focus or your work changed throughout your career?
A: Dramatically. I started as a Project Geologist, so I was primarily in the field when I first started and now, I’m more responsible for a lot of corporate activities and coordinating the Environmental practice across the company in addition to doing my project work.
Q: What made you want to develop your career at CEC?
A: It’s been a good team. I’ve seen it grow. I’ve been a part of the growth and helped it become what it is, and it really feels like a family to me. I like a lot of my coworkers. We work well together; we work as a team, and it’s a great place to work and have a little bit of fun while you’re working hard.
Q: What was the biggest or best change or addition you saw here?
A: The addition of a wide variety of skill sets and the geographic expansion to kind of go hand-in-hand as we’ve expanded. I’ve hired a lot of really cool people with really cool technical skills that let us get involved in a greater variety of projects which is really interesting.
My name is Tom Walsh. I’m the Pittsburgh Environmental Practice Lead. So, I was hired as a Staff Geologist right out of graduate school back in 1991.
Q: And how did you sort of get to the position you’re in today?
A: Just doing the work, working hard, seeing opportunities that came up, and doing my best work, and advancing through the company, and taking on more responsibilities, and never turning anything down, and taking everything that came along, and doing my best at it and just kind of steadily advanced over the course of the last 31 years. And it’s kind of interesting because at this point, as the Environmental Practice Lead, I’m now doing the job of the guy who hired me 31 years ago.
Q: Over the last 30 years or so, what was the best change or addition you saw here?
A: So, probably the best change or the most impactful change has been our interconnectivity and the Internet. When I started, we communicated with phone calls, meetings. We did our research in books and at the library or at the courthouse. We printed out reports and snail-mailed them to our clients, and now that we’re very connected, and we have internet access and emails that we use on a regular basis, the pace of work has changed dramatically with the entire breadth of the Internet at our disposal. Research is done online very quickly. We can get our hands on just about everything. We communicate with clients almost in real-time with emails. We email over reports. So, as a result, the pace of the work has increased dramatically. We turn around projects a lot faster, and clients have come to expect that, and overall, I think it’s a good thing.
Q: What made you want to stay at CEC?
A: The people, the people I work with. I genuinely like the people I work with. It’s a nice environment. We all get along. It’s a very team atmosphere. It is completely apolitical. There’s no agenda other than doing good work and doing work for our clients that is meaningful. So, the people I work with, plus, I don’t get bored. It’s a lot of different work. It changes up every day. I’ve always got a different problem to solve, a different challenge to come up with. So, it’s interesting work, and it keeps me engaged.
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the podcast. We hope you enjoyed hearing from our CEC veterans, and we hope you tune in next time.
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