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As a Senior Project Manager and the Austin Civil Department Manager, Linda Barlow has excelled in her dual technical and managerial role at HVJ Associates®. In this post, Linda shares how she ensures a project’s success, what keeps clients coming back and discusses an exciting project she is currently undertaking.
1. Starting with some background about yourself, can you share how you got started in this field and what inspires you most in your work?
I've always been interested in advanced math, and the engineering field seemed like a fascinating career in which I could put my math skills to use. Early on, I was inspired by mentors I met at ARE Engineering Consultants, where I worked while getting my civil engineering degree at UT Austin. ARE Engineering Consultants is respected worldwide, and there I learned the importance of excelling in my technical skills and developing a strong work ethic, including being dependable, productive, respectful, and a collaborative problem-solver. HVJ prioritizes similar core values, which is why it's been such a great professional fit.
I continue to be inspired and challenged by the problem-solving opportunities that arise with each project. There are many nuances, and no single solution is always going to be the best option. Instead, my team and I must seek a holistic view, applying our expertise and learned experiences. We can then give our customers confidence that we provided the most effective solution and have accounted for often-overlooked aspects of the situation that could cause challenges at later stages of the project.
2. What is your role at HVJ, your favorite type of project/work, and why?
As a Senior Project Manager and the Department Manager of Austin’s Civil/Pavement Department, I have a dual technical and managerial role. I have worked on a wide variety of projects, from pavement evaluation/design to full Plans, Specifications, and Estimates (PS&E) for bidding and constructing pavement-related design projects. I've gained a specialized interest in traffic control plan design for work in the Right-of-Way. I've realized that it takes an experienced perspective to understand how drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians react to activity in the Right-of-Way and how this impacts traffic control design. As part of this, I enjoy working with my colleagues to find ways to phase construction to expedite work, so that we are minimizing exposure to the public and creating a safe environment for both workers and the public.
3. What are the common types of problems that your customers are trying to solve? What do you think draws them specifically to HVJ?
We have numerous repeat customers at HVJ; they come back because we provide them with reliable expertise and a smooth working relationship that makes their jobs easier. Our customers want to have peace of mind that we will meet their expectations and find effective solutions, even if it takes outside-of-the-box problem-solving.
The customers I work with are usually looking for pavement evaluation and design, as well as traffic control plan design. However, throughout HVJ we have a wide range of expertise and locations across Texas. In addition to the Civil/Pavement Engineering expertise from our Austin office, HVJ provides Geotechnical Engineering, Construction Materials Engineering, and Testing, and Environmental Geology/Engineering from Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Midland, and San Antonio offices. Clients appreciate this collective access to an extensive range of experience and resources.
4. Can you briefly describe one of your recent projects and what you found most interesting or rewarding? What was the most significant achievement that came out of the project?
I am managing two ongoing City of Austin Street Rehabilitation Program contracts, which I've particularly enjoyed because they have relied comprehensively on my technical and managerial expertise. The program covers the evaluation, design, and construction of rehabilitation of multiple streets. The streets are selected from the City's Pavement Management Information System (PMIS) to achieve an 80% satisfactory rating for the street network. This is being achieved thru a voter-approved $36M Bond Package. HVJ and the City of Austin are working on completing as many projects as the available funding will construct by the end of fiscal year 2024.
I am involved in day-to-day management, technical reviews, and design efforts. The needs range from traffic control plan design for data collection or construction with associated permit applications to pavement design and development of plans, specifications, and estimates. We are continuously adjusting how we approach each street's engineering to reduce delays and produce maximum results.
I appreciate that this project requires expansive knowledge in traffic control design and associated coordination with the City of Austin Right-of-Way Management (ROWMAN) Division of the Austin Transportation Department. We work with the ROWMAN reviewers as peers in the design process since they have firsthand knowledge of the right-of-way activities on their city streets. It is rewarding to facilitate a smooth team effort that produces effective and safe traffic control plans.
5. For businesses looking to start a new engineering project, what advice would you give them about how to choose the right partner?
As a first step, they should consider the potential partner's breadth of services, areas of technical specialization, and approach to project management. During the selection process, the partner should demonstrate their ability to anticipate problems, pay attention to detail and develop a complete understanding of the project needs before identifying a solution. Partners should also show how their previous work experience will positively impact the project at hand. For example, HVJ does an excellent job at using a "lessons learned" team approach to draw on our wealth of knowledge, including drawing from a large portfolio of experienced engineers and successful projects across Texas.
The partner should also be able to demonstrate how they work with others outside their team, as this is especially important for keeping projects running smoothly. HVJ has many experienced engineers internally, but that doesn't mean we don't have close relationships with other partners. If a skillset is required that HVJ doesn't provide, we can offer recommendations of other partners to include on the team. As a bonus, our firm has HUB, MBE, DBE and SBE certifications which assist in meeting minority requirements on public projects.