What inspired you to want to become a civil engineer?
Growing up in a developing country like Zambia, I witnessed water, electric, and transportation scarcity first hand. Zambia has a chronic infrastructure problem, where infrastructure has been ageing and failing for years. Roads have been the epitome of that issue; portions of the population walk several kilometers to get to their villages from the city. Further, very few individuals have access to means of public transportation due to a lack of roads. Experiencing these inequities first-hand inspired me to pursue a career path where I had the opportunity to make a positive impact and help the communities I live in, as well as the general public.
How did you get involved with industry associations?
I was initially encouraged to attend meetings by my former employer but once I realized the benefit it had on the company as well as my career, I began to willingly attend events. At these events, I networked with people and when volunteer or leadership opportunities arose, I threw my name in the hat if I believed I could provide value in the position. I must recognize RK&K, who from day one has supported my involvement in these organizations and encouraged all staff to participate in professional organizations.
This was one of the main reasons I joined RK&K.
What is your level of involvement with these industry associations?
I am a member of some (NSPE and ISI) and an officer or director of others (ASCE, ASHE, YPT). My roles are
• ASCE National - TD&I Young Member Committee
• ASCE National Capital Section – Education Committee Chair and Younger Member Secretary
• ASHE Potomac Section – Young Member Coordinator
• YPT DC – Sponsorships Chair
How has this involvement been beneficial for you and your career?
The networking benefits excluded, I have been able to learn more about the industry, develop my soft skills, improve my time management abilities, and hone my leadership skills while being a part of these boards. I have also been able to take the skills learned from these groups and apply them to my work at RK&K.
Have you ever networked with someone that yielded an unpredictable result?
Yes, I was able to get my position at RK&K through networking. I was introduced to someone at RK&K at a 5k fun run, and I was actually not looking for a job at the time. But we exchanged information and I decided to join a couple of months later. I think this is a cool story of how powerful networking is even when you are just trying to have a fun.
What advice would you give to someone who has never been to a networking event before?
If you are a young professional like myself, I highly recommend joining or attending any young member events as they serve as a lower stress environment to network in. At the event, I would recommend you find someone else you notice struggling to break into conversation or hanging out on their own and begin a conversation with them. If you have coworkers attending an event, ask them to introduce you to others. I am a strong advocate of building lasting relationships and not superficial ones. With that, I do not recommend anyone go into an event with the goal of obtaining the most business cards possible. Rather, focus on just meeting a few people that you can build more meaningful connections with and
progressively build your network from there.
In time management, how do you weave networking into an already tumultuous workload?
As the adage goes, you make time for what you care about, and in this instance, I care about the growth of my career and my roles in these organizations. I will make the time whenever possible and, in most cases, this will be after work or on the weekend. Fortunately, my employer supports me in this effort, so it rarely gets overwhelming.
You are incredibly active on LinkedIn, what results have you yielded from this?
I personally enjoy using LinkedIn because you can get so much out of it. Being active has resulted in my profile getting more noticed and getting other opportunities like this interview. I typically use LinkedIn for three main items:
1. News – I like to keep up to date with latest industry news and local organizations.
2. Network – I use it to connect with people I have met, rather than having a traditional rolodex. I have also used it to do a bit of research before going out to events, if a registration list is
3. Personal Branding – I create and promote posts that align with my personal brand and what I want to be associated with. It is a powerful tool that can be used for marketing yourself as well as your company.