At Chastain-Skillman, our work is driven by a relentless commitment to innovation and accuracy. This drive is made sustainable, however, by a genuine, people-first culture that is supported by leaders with decades of experience.
A Senior Project Manager in our Civil Engineering group, Doug Forni has been with our team since 2019. Graduating with a BSLA and BSCE from West Virginia University, Mr. Forni first started his career in landscape architecture at Hartwig and Associates in Jacksonville, FL (1986 to 1992), followed by his time at The Thrasher Group in Clarksburg, WV (1995 to 2019).
Mr. Forni has 31 years of experience in multi-discipline engineering and landscape architecture in both the public and private sectors. His project experiences have included securing funding, project management, design permitting specification writing, and construction management for large federal projects, commercial developments, and environmental mitigation projects just to name a few.
To mark the second day of National Engineers Week 2021, we talked to Mr. Forni about his experiences, what led him to change his focus from Landscape Architecture to Civil Engineering, and what some of his favorite projects have been over the course of his 31 years in the industry. Read more below:
Describe your typical day: What do you do as soon as you get to the office? What takes up most of your time? What is your favorite part of the workday?
A typical day is difficult to describe. Usually what I have planned gets changed early on when other issues surface. I just try to keep projects moving forward. My favorite part is doing the actual engineering and design; solving problems and seeing what you have been involved in coming to life.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When did you realize you wanted to become an engineer?
I kind of wanted to be an Engineer I guess in high school. My father was a Chemical Engineer who worked for PPG and Bayer in the Ohio Valley, so I was familiar with a little of what engineers did. I just changed my direction to Civil rather than Chemical.
Describe your transition from Landscape Architecture to Civil Engineering. What made you want to switch/make civil engineering your primary dedication?
I actually started in Engineering at WVU my freshman/sophomore years, so I had a year of engineering under my belt before I decided to change majors. I met someone who piqued my interest in Landscape Architecture and looked into it and decided to change majors and graduated with a BSLA degree. After graduation, I got a job in Jacksonville, FL, and worked for Hartwig and Associates for 5-6 years. After some time I decided to go back to school and finish my engineering degree to give myself more opportunities. So back to Morgantown, WV it was. I finished my engineering degree in 3 semesters and a summer and got a job at the Thrasher Group in Clarksburg, WV. The firm was relatively small when I started — 25 to 30 people. When I left we were up to 700 employees with 10 offices in seven different states.
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on?
Believe it or not, correctional facilities. I have been involved in three (3) large facilities. Locations in Scranton, PA and Gilmer/Mcdowell, WV. They were very large projects that required a lot of work and thought with a lot of other trades. A lot of traveling to the job sites, Washington DC, and the general contractor’s office. All three of them were design-built projects, so we worked for the GC. Also, they were all done in metric. Federal requirement. Don’t ask me why it is a federal requirement, but it is. Learned a lot of interesting details about the facilities.
What, in your opinion, is one of the most underrated skills to have as an engineer?
The ability to be open-minded and think out of the box. Every project is different that requires a different solution. You have to think logically, but also be innovative.
What is one of the most fulfilling aspects of your job as an engineer? Why have you continued to be an engineer all of these years?
Seeing a project get built and finalized. Projects usually take years from conception to construction. It’s a good feeling to see it built after dedicating that amount of time to a project. Sometimes you say “Thank God that it’s over,” but you usually look back at the process fondly after some time passes.
What advice would you give to young people who want to pursue engineering as a career?
Keep an open mind. There’s a lot more to this profession than just crunching numbers. The business aspects, communication, management, etc. Learn all you can about these tasks in school when the opportunities are available.