It’s Engineers Week in the United States, and this year’s theme is Reimagining the Possible. Toole Design engineers use their experience and expertise to reimagine what’s possible for our clients and communities every day. But how did they get that experience and expertise in the first place? What made engineering possible for them—and what keeps them going?
For some, inspiration came at a young age. For others, mentorship and a little bit of serendipity helped them find their way. In all cases, though, Toole Design engineers continue to be inspired and motivated by their everyday experiences.
As a child, VJ Hiraesave, PE was taught to leave the world better than he found it. He knew he wanted to improve people’s lives and solve challenging problems. “Improving a community’s transportation network improves the lives of everyone there,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to see something you worked on grow from a concept on a piece of paper into a tangible built environment.”
Chris Bower, PE also knew from childhood that he wanted to impact the built environment. “I grew up near a 100-year-old bridge that spans an entire river valley,” he explained. “I would look at that bridge and think about how cool it would be to design something like that.” Like all our engineers, he approaches his projects with the future in mind. “I hope they’re still around 100 years from now!”
While Cipriana Thompson, PE, PTOE knew what she wanted to do from an early age, it took a role model to help her envision herself—and her future—in this field. She said, “Faces like mine, those of Black women, weren’t always present in the engineering spaces where I was learning and interning. I was super excited when I got to work with an engineer who looked like me!” Under the mentorship of another Black woman, Cipriana was now able to see what was possible for herself as an engineer. “She helped me believe that if she could do it then I could do it, too.”
Kristof Devastey, PE, PTOE, PTP found his way by accident. “I only picked engineering because I was good at math and physics,” he said. “I thought I would be a structural engineer, but I found a job in traffic safety.” It may not have been intentional, but the transportation field ended up being the perfect fit. “Best decision of my professional life. It felt so much more meaningful than structures—I was actually saving lives! Like literally.”
However their engineering path began, all our engineers find gratification in the ways their work makes things possible every day. Perrin Falkner, EIT explained, “One day I’m riding the bus to work. A few months later, I’m designing priority lanes for that very bus. Fast forward another few months and the new lanes are in the ground.” Not all projects move that quickly, and not all are in our own communities, but they all make a real, tangible difference on the ground. “It’s pretty special to do work that has a direct impact on everyday lives—including my own!”
Tyler Wong, PE feels that same sense of pride in making a difference in communities. “Whenever I tell someone I design bikeways and pedestrian spaces, they are always so excited to hear more,” he said. “I think there is something about shaping the cities and towns we live in that excites people.”
Even outside of specific project work, Toole Design engineers are planning for tomorrow. Gwen Shaw, EIT teaches at a transportation camp for girls every summer, and she gets a glimpse into what may be possible in the future. “I have them do an activity where they reorganize an existing street into a Complete Street,” she said. “They are uninhibited by our standards and guidelines, and I’m always inspired by their imaginative solutions.”
As we spend this Engineers Week thinking about how engineers reimagine the possible, we are grateful for the opportunity to reflect on who and what made engineering possible for us—and the futures we can help make possible for others.