ANAHEIM, Calif. – Good people, meaningful work and balance in one’s life. That was the message senior Corps leadership gave to about 30 young engineers who attended the Corps seminar at the Hispanic Engineering National Achievement Awards Conference held here Oct. 6.
Col. Kirk Gibbs, commander of the Corps’ Los Angeles District, opened the seminar by telling attendees many men and women now working for the Corps sat in those very same chairs.
“There is great honor in serving our nation,” Gibbs said. “We take pride in that.”
The seminar provided the student-engineers an opportunity to learn the about the Corps’ history, from its contributions during the Revolutionary War, through the nation’s westward expansion, to fulfilling its responsibilities worldwide today, and the chance to ask questions to a variety of Corps’ employees about the specifics of their jobs.
Brig. Gen. Mark Toy is commander of the Corps’ Great Lakes and Ohio River Division. Before serving in that capacity, he commanded South Pacific Division and Los Angeles District.
“To be successful, I believe you should focus on three things,” he said.
“Find your passion. What is it? If you’re passionate, all the other stuff just happens. You wake every day looking forward to coming to work.
“Find a mentor. Find someone who has walked in your shoes, who’s been where you are. Aspire to follow their example.
“And engage people. Your success is not dependent on your GPA. Make connections. Reach out to others, and not necessarily to only those in your field. Seek someone with passion.”
The seminar then turned to a panel discussion.
“I had a mentor who coached me really well,” said John Moreno, chief of construction in South Pacific Division, confirming Toy’s advice. “And I benefited greatly from the Corps’ intern rotational program. I wanted to find my way, and in two years I got to see all the things the Corps does. I’m proud to be part of this agency. I’m still learning.”
“Your success depends on persevering,” he continued. “Science and math are difficult. A bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, acquiring a professional engineering certification is hard work. But you’ll need to continue to develop yourself.”
Cecy Ordonez in a safety and occupational health specialist for Los Angeles District. She was originally hired as the district’s physical fitness coordinator. Adaptability and passion have been instrumental in her success.
“I think the most important thing in a person’s life is to achieve balance,” Ordonez said. “Work is important, but we all need to ensure we make time for the other things in our lives that are important, like family, health, and quality of life. The Corps allows us to do that.”
Work-related travel, flexible work schedules and transportation benefits help us lead our lives in positive ways, Ordonez said. “These are important and can help us enjoy the things that are important in our lives.”
Tyler Overmire closed the panel discussion describing what he saw as the most significant responsibility of his job.
He talked about conducting maritime surveys related to the Corps’ navigational responsibilities and surveys downstream from dams that help identify areas that could be affected during floods. He described his responsibilities having deployed after tornadoes devastated vast swaths in Alabama. And he briefly described some of the equipment he used to perform those responsibilities.
He then focused on what he felt was the real impact of his work with the Corps.
“Our navigational responsibilities are critical to our nation’s economy,” Overmire said. “Our ports conduct more than $100 billion in commerce and large populations downstream from dams rely on us to reduce their risk from floods.”
“But when you hand a set of keys to temporary housing, provide a roof over their heads to a family who has lost everything they own, that feeling is unbelievable.”
Col. Peter Helmlinger, commander of South Pacific Division, closed out the seminar.
“Please take the opportunity to learn about the Corps and the opportunities we provide,” he said. “You can serve the country and make a difference. The Corps provides meaningful work by providing engineering solutions for our nation’s toughest challenges. We work in 110 countries around the world. We offer a variety of jobs to both STEM and non-STEM positions. We need good people and we offer an almost unlimited opportunity to advance.”