Why I’m passionate about my job | Meet Al Walus

With 36 years of experience in the design and construction of large scale industrial and public works projects, Al taps his diverse experience to seek sustainable solutions for the infrastructure challenges facing businesses and communities. His experience includes managing capital improvement projects; collaborative planning, funding and implementing watershed restoration and improvement projects; and project management, engineering study preparation, design engineering, and on-site field engineering. Below Al shares with us why he is passionate about his work at CBBEL and in the community, and also gives us a glimpse of his sense of humor.

1. What are you most passionate about in this job?

Solving problems.  How can we remove these 500 homes from the floodplain?  What can we do to improve drainage in this neighborhood?  Why is the streambank eroding along this reach?  Analyzing data and determining solutions that will positively impact communities is extremely gratifying.

2. Other people don’t find this exciting, so why do you?

Other people don’t find this exciting?  That is heresy!  Actually, that is quite true.  I was forced to come to terms with this realization about 25 years ago when I was helping my young daughter with her math homework.  In reply to my suggestions and tips on how to add four digit numbers (Hint: align the numbers NEATLY on the page so the digits line up properly) she said quite emphatically, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, Dad, I am NOT going to be an engineer!”  Nonetheless, solving problems is exciting!  I’ve found my lane and I’m staying in it.

3. Why is working for Burke different than anywhere else?

My peers at Burke do find engineering exciting and share a passion for solving problems.  And the technical expertise available within the company leads to high quality engineering and solutions for our clients.

4. How long have you been doing your thing?

I have been ‘doing my thing’ for 36 years or exactly 1/3 as long as the Cubs 108 year World Series drought.  (Thank you, Theo, for ‘engineering’ a World Series win for the Cubs!  That was a huge problem to solve!)

5. What, in your opinion, is the most important take away for your clients?

Finding a solution to a problem is not the end of the story.  Once a solution is determined, it has to be implemented but funding projects can be difficult and challenging.  That’s where communication and advocacy come into play.  The general public has the capacity to understand local issues and to make informed decisions about projects.  And, as engineers, we have the obligation to explain our data analysis and recommended solutions in clear language that can foster an environment for informed decisions to be made at the local level.

6. If you could be any natural feature, what would you be and why?

As a mechanical engineer and a mentor for a high school robotics team, I would choose to be a robot!  Robots are the ultimate challenge in “solving problems.”  First, you must determine what functions the robot will need to perform and then design and program the robot.  Wait – you say a robot is NOT a natural feature?  Well,  technically, you may be correct in 2017 but let’s wait a few years and see when robots become natural!