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country, and especially in Texas, over the next 25 years. Doing our job right is critical for our profession. The environment, the quality of life and safety of individuals are in our hands – we must get it right. I am excited about this challenge and this tremendous responsibility. TZL: Does your firmwork closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, experience, and innovation and/or recruiting to find qualified resources? SD: We’ve been engaged with higher education institutions for decades, as this is a critical resource for sustaining and expanding our workforce. Various employees have served as guest speakers for classes at both four-year and two-year programs. Our talent management leader sits on advisory boards of colleges and universities to provide employer insight, and we participate in panels, mock interviews, etiquette lunches, resume reviews, and engineering competition judging panels to prepare students for their careers. Several of our engineers also participate in senior design projects on a consultant level, and have been doing so for about a decade, attending practices and presentations to offer critiques, questions, and suggestions for improvements. We also offer internships and one-day externships for students to practically apply their knowledge and expose them to civil design. The great thing in all of this is that there are mutually beneficial outcomes to these experiences. Through engaging with the next generation of engineers, we’re supporting their development and encouraging their professional growth, but we’re also grounding ourselves in the latest technology, questioning the ways we’ve “always done things,” and recruiting future employees. TZL: In one word or phrase, what do you describe as your number one job responsibility? SD: Character is everything. If you are a person of truth and character, people will respect you. If they respect you, they will trust you. If they trust you, they will be willing to follow you. Pape-Dawson’s mission is to be the most respected engineering firm in our geographic and technical areas of practice. We believe that we will be defined more by our character than by our products of service. And if we are going to be a trusted company, we must be a trusted people, and that starts with me. TZL: What skills are required to run a successful practice? What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now? SD: Passion, faith, flexibility, endurance, commitment, humility, and compassion.

A good local economy doesn’t hurt either. One lesson I wish I’d learned a tad sooner than I did is that change can be good. When you transition from working for your family to running the family business, there’s an immense pressure to maintain the status quo. You know the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In order to grow, you have to welcome change and have a willingness to change direction when you are wrong. “Pape-Dawson is relentlessly focused on being the most respected engineering company in Texas. Not the biggest. Not the richest. The most respected.” TZL: Research shows that PMs are overworked, understaffed, and that many firms do not have formal training programs for PMs. What is your firm doing to support its PMs? SD: Pape-Dawson is blessed to have a dynamic Chief Employee Engagement Officer who has stood up our internal corporate university we call APEX: Academy for Professional Excellence. Every Pape- Dawson employee is invited to participate and is slated for personal development. Within that framework, we have specific programs for project managers that touch on all aspects of the job, from people skills to business skills. We use a wide variety of assessment and development tools since all of our managers and employees are unique. We use the global recognized standards of the Project Management Institute, but none of this is static. All our programs are evolving every quarter as we add more and more content designed to help our managers and employees be more effective. Effective managers lead to better work for the client, but that’s just one small benefit. We are specifically equipping our managers to lead great teams and increase their personal wellness and life skills. We can’t take great care of our clients if we’re not taking great care of ourselves. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? SD: In terms of ownership transition on my end, I don’t intend to pass the baton anytime soon! Whenever that time does come,





■ ■ San Antonio, TX

■ ■ Austin, TX

■ ■ Houston, TX

■ ■ North Houston, TX

■ ■ Dallas, TX

■ ■ Fort Worth, TX

■ ■ New Braunfels, TX


■ ■ Transportation

■ ■ Water resources

■ ■ Land development

■ ■ Surveying

■ ■ Environmental

■ ■ GIS

See CHARACTER, page 8

■ ■ Support services

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RUARY 21, 2022, ISSUE 1429

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