SEEKING EXCELLENCE, from page 7
a different perspective, finding creative ways to reduce the project’s capital and long-term operation and maintenance costs, and identifying and securing alternative project funding sources. TZL: How has COVID-19 affected your business on a daily basis? JP: COVID-19 has created a complete disruption of the daily workflow process. We’re finding that many of the things we did in the office and face-to-face are taking much longer to complete and we’re having to reinvent how we do certain things. Some of the limitations and inconveniences have included small laptop screens at home compared to the large dual monitors in the office, having quick access to team members and office resources, general collaboration, new employee onboarding and reduced business development opportunities. Fortunately, we haven’t noticed much of a slowdown in our market sectors, but some property tax funding shortfalls are expected to cause impacts over the next several years. “CWE strives to maintain balance and be representative of the communities we work for and serve. We are a certified minority and disadvantaged business enterprise and have successfully maintained a diverse workforce and client composition that emulates those communities we’re located in.” TZL: They say failure is a great teacher. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve had to learn the hard way? JP: There was a three-month stretch where the workload was light and the backlog was strong, but we were waiting on numerous Notices to Proceed. We had secured an executed contract with an existing client city to prepare drainage improvement plans, but had not been issued the NTP. Being that the work was for a city we had previously completed work for and had an executed contract in hand; we estimated the risk of starting work without the NTP was very low. We immediately got our subconsultants (environmental surveys) to start work so we could gather the information needed to keep our staff busy. Five years later, the city still has not issued the NTP and we needed to pay our subconsultants for their efforts. This was an expensive lesson to never start work without a written authorization from the client, even if you have worked for them previously. TZL: How many years of experience – or large enough book of business – is enough to become a principal in your firm? Are you naming principals in their 20s or 30s? JP: We are ready to name principals in their 20s or 30s if
CWE staff volunteering in their local community.
they demonstrate the exceptional ability and execution necessary to grow and maintain a book of business that contributes to the overall growth of the firm. We currently have a young manager who has exhibited exponential growth as a technical professional and is displaying business acumen beyond her years. She has successfully demonstrated the qualities necessary to be a future leader in our industry and is likely to be named a principal soon. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? JP: CWE strives to maintain balance and be representative of the communities we work for and serve. We are a certified minority and disadvantaged business enterprise and have successfully maintained a diverse workforce and client composition that emulates those communities we’re located in. Our firm is composed of 38 percent females and 57 percent minorities, which mirrors Southern California. Our clients also represent similar demographics with affluent cities like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica and disadvantaged communities like San Bernardino and Long Beach. CWE hasn’t made a conscious effort to hire this way; it’s been a function of hiring the best people given the local pool of candidates. TZL: A firm’s longevity is valuable. What are you doing to encourage your staff to stick around? JP: With so many choices it’s easy to be tempted to go elsewhere because the grass is always greener on the other side, right? At CWE we seek excellence and try to hire well so staff is surrounded by fellow employees that are valued for their behaviors and skills, and want to help each other to be great. We believe that a great workplace starts with stunning colleagues in an environment that fosters trust and mutual respect. CWE plans and hosts fun activities throughout the year to engage people across service lines so staff get to know each other on a more personal level. Activities include picnics, weekly breakfast gathering, potlucks, holiday parties, river clean-up events, food drives, etc. CWE also offers attractive financial and benefit perks such as performance-related bonuses for all employees, profit sharing, defined benefit plan, 401(k) match, generous vacation and sick leave packages, and medical and dental coverage for employees and their family.
ELEVATEHER Jason Pereira is a member of the ElevateHER 2020 cohort; join him at the ElevateHER Symposium on September 30th in Denver. Click here to learn more!
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THE ZWEIG LETTER JUNE 15, 2020, ISSUE 1349
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