National Engineers Week, taking place February 19-25, 2023, celebrates how engineers make a difference in our world. Using this year’s national theme of “Creating the Future,” we spoke to Jeff Henson, JEO President, to discover his take on the future of engineering and how JEO fits into those plans.
How do you describe the future of engineering?
Engineering is in the background of everything we depend on as a society, from roads and bridges to the delivery of water and electricity to our homes and businesses. When we look at where we are as a country, much of our infrastructure was built decades ago, and we’re approaching the next evolution of it. Engineering will lead the way in those endeavors. Additionally, new elements, such as broadband infrastructure, have been welcomed into the fold. The future of engineering is strong!
However, the financial resource pool for addressing these needs isn’t growing at the same pace. We have less funding and greater needs which puts us in an interesting dynamic. This requires the ability to be innovative in how we address needs, consider non-traditional solutions, and even challenge past thinking. We’re going to have to look at innovative ways to not only solve challenges, but how we view the challenges themselves. As we pivot on that mindset of what has always been, we’ll process the world around us in a different manner, therefore manifesting unique solutions.
Additionally, technological advancements will impact the future. They will push us, challenge us, and alter how we arrive at solutions. We need to be receptive of these and look for ways to integrate them into our deliverables.
How does JEO fit into that future?
JEO is in an awesome place as it relates to changes on the horizon. One of the things I like best about our position is the breadth of clients we serve. We have a broad geography and a unique opportunity to learn about cutting-edge solutions, then determine how to extrapolate those innovations and plug them into different environments where they may not have been initially considered.
Our ability to be successful in that venture depends on one of JEO's core philosophies: relationships. When we have positive relationships with the communities we serve, it enables us to not only understand their immediate needs, but also understand the implicit needs that underlie them. By being a trusted advisor, we can present innovative solutions that not only address the pressing need but also position the community for better, more sustainable outcomes for the future.
How is JEO creating that future of engineering?
Again, trusting relationships—not only with clients but also vendors—are the cornerstone of all we do. Understanding how vendor technologies can be implemented allows us to better assist our clients. Consider one recent project. We have a strong relationship with this client, and we understood the project needs, but we didn’t have the expertise to develop a software solution the project required. Because of our relationships with our client and a vendor, we were able to bridge the gap, bring the technology vendor onboard, and provide the necessary project outcome.
Relationships with academic institutions play a vital role, as well. Several JEO staff are involved in the classroom, providing advising services and sharing the practicality of engineering that’s not found in textbooks.
But the most significant way JEO can create the future of engineering is by continuing to invest in our own people. Our team excels at what they do and invests in relationships with their clients. The more we challenge the status quo, the better we’ll be at serving our communities.
What does JEO most look forward to for the future?
We’re excited to continue to support the communities we serve. We can be a force for innovation with our open-minded, solution-driven approach. We have an 85-year history of helping communities find stability, resiliency, and infrastructure solutions. I expect us to do the same for another 85 years.