E-Week Spotlight: Tyrel Clark, PE

Tyrel Clark is a Professional Civil Engineer and leads Water & Wastewater team based out of the West Fargo Office. He has 10 years of Engineering experience involving water and wastewater projects throughout the state of North Dakota and Minnesota. These projects include the planning and design for water treatment and wastewater infrastructure and facilities. Tyrel graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental and Civil Engineering from Brigham Young University and is an active member of the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Federation.

Give us a general overview of the duties/functions/responsibilities specific to your practice area.
“I provide planning and design for water treatment, pumping, storage, and distribution infrastructure. I provide planning and design of wastewater treatment and pumping infrastructure and final disposal permitting. We typically work for cities and towns to help them hire contractors to perform work on their infrastructure.”

What do you love most about being an Engineer?
“My favorite thing about being an engineer is providing solutions to problems and keeping costs as low as practical for water and wastewater service for people. It might only be ten dollars per month saved on people’s water bill, but when I think of that savings applied over months and years as well as over the thousands of residents served by the systems we work on, it’s very satisfying.”

What drew you to engineering as a career?
“I worked in construction starting at age 12 during the summers. I was working for a concrete and framing contractor family business washing tools and running to the trailer to get things for the people doing the real work. As I got older my role expanded to all aspects of the business including running my own pours on occasion. Over the years of that work, I started to notice the engineered plans. One day it occurred to me that I could make a career out of drawing the plans rather that doing the construction. It seemed working as an engineer would be a lot easier on my knees and back so I started into Civil Engineering right from the beginning in college.”

What drew you to your practice area?
“I was working in general municipal utility and subdivision design at my first job out of college. One of the supervisors that does water/wastewater work saw some of my work and asked me to come work for him and learn water/wastewater. I resisted at first because I didn’t want to be isolated to just one kind of engineering. In the end, I’m very glad I choose to go work with him because I have found there is a lot of variety because of the depth of water/wastewater. The technologies we use for treatment and the standards that we’re required to treat to are constantly changing. It makes for a field that requires constant learning which is appealing to me.”

What do you find unique about the engineering field?
“Engineering is all about taking an idea and turning it into reality. It’s kind of the grown up version of playing with Legos as a kid. As engineers, if we can imagine it, and apply proven principles to it, we can take it from concept, to design, to reality. I don’t see that in many other industries.”

Do you have advice for someone interested in this job/field?
“Don’t get student loans. Work in college. Work before college. Work in the summer during high school and save the money. Work during the summer during college. Go to a college with lower tuition. Apply for thousands of scholarships, maybe you’ll get awarded 1% of them. Take 6 months or a year before college and work/save money. There are many options, just don’t take on loans. Also, explore the different areas of engineering right away so you can start right into the program that suits you best. Find out what is the difference between civil, mechanical, electrical, etc. Then, within each of those arenas, what specifically do you want to work on? Civil for example is made up of structural, general civil, water/wastewater, transportation, and geotechnical, to name a few. If I had it to do over again, I would try to interview one or two people from the various professions to find out what it’s like to spend “a day in the life” of that field. When you have more information, it’s a lot easier to find a path that works with your specific talents and interests.”

What are the particular talents or skills that are most important for an engineer?
“There are some baseline things. You have to be capable in math and science. The degree program is challenging and making it through requires work in those arenas. Everyone that graduates with an engineering degree is capable in math and science. From my observations, the thing that separates competent engineers from great engineers are the “soft” skills. The ones that excel are able to teach complicated ideas to intelligent people who are not knowledgeable in our particular field. Concise, accurate, and orderly written communication is highly valued. Being able to read people and understand what they want/need, and then applying the technical expertise to meet those wants/needs is usually a characteristic of a great engineer. Working in groups is necessary as well. If you hate working in groups for classwork, it’s ok, it’s not like working in groups in college or high school. It’s more like working in groups where everyone is motivated and wants to do their part.”