Chastain-Skillman is excited to celebrate National Engineers Week 2022 by recognizing our talented & dedicated engineering staff. Each day in #EWeek2022, we’ll highlight members of our team on social media and in our blog. Today we’re chatting with Tom Davis, PE!
Chastain-Skillman’s (CS) Director of Civil Engineering, Tom Davis, PE, joined our team in the summer of 2021 with nearly 40 years of engineering experience. Graduating with a BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky, Tom subsequently began his professional career, both working on and managing the civil and design engineering of numerous developments across the country.
As Director of Civil Engineering, Tom oversees all civil engineering functions within CS, providing oversight and civil engineering design for various multi-phase developments. He also contributes his breadth of knowledge in projects containing regulatory and permitting processes, particularly water quality permitting for a range of infrastructure developments involving environmental design projects.
Tom is certified as a Professional Engineer (PE) in Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina. In 2019, he received the Middle Tennessee Engineer of the Year award, as well as for the State of Tennessee, by the Tennessee National Society of Professional Engineers (TNSPE), the highest award offered by the organization.
To mark the fifth day of National Engineers Week 2022, we talked to Tom about his experiences, fulfilling aspects of his job, and what some of his favorite projects have been over the course of his 39 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?
I enjoy wearing several hats at Chastain-Skillman. As the Director of Civil Engineering, my duties include keeping up with the performance of a department. But the most rewarding part of my workday is the day-to-day management of several projects. I really enjoy the communication with our clients. I typically have several project meetings every day. Although I don’t get down into the project details like I used to, I still stay very involved with each of the projects I manage.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When did you realize you wanted to become an engineer?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a trash collector. I couldn’t imagine a better job. They got to hang onto the side of a big truck and ride around the neighborhood. They jumped off the back of the truck, lifted heavy trash cans over their head, and threw the noisy metal cans back onto our driveway. What could be better? It wasn’t until right before college started that I decided to become an engineer. One of my grass-mowing clients was a retired civil engineer. He saw the potential in me and encouraged me to explore engineering. He even helped me secure an engineering scholarship.
What has been one of your favorite projects to work on?
One of my favorite projects was over 20-years ago. I managed the site design of a new high school campus. Much of the 120-acres was in the flood plain. The project involved moving a stream (no small task), relocating a family cemetery (which included several unmarked slave graves), and documenting a prehistoric gravesite. The Smithsonian Museum, in D.C., came to the site to document the unmarked gravesites, which included several cast iron caskets. The prehistoric gravesite (> 10,000 years ago) was found when several dark circles appeared during grading operations. The dark circles contained “folded” skeletons of people holding their pets. So I guess if you were a dog, once your master passed away, you knew your days were numbered!
What, in your opinion, is one of the most underrated skills to have as an engineer?
In the consulting business, the ability to communicate – with your client, with the regulatory agencies, with your design team, with the community – is the most underrated skill. Most engineering firms have technically competent engineers, but the engineers at Chastain-Skillman have the skill set necessary to not only successfully produce a set of construction documents, but to also navigate the complex regulatory environment in which we find ourselves.
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?
Over the years, probably the most fulfilling aspect of my job has been when driving by one of my project sites with my family. I would say, “I designed that”. It might not have impressed any of my four kids, but I was proud to show off my work. I continue to be a consulting engineer after 39-years because the work continues to give me deep satisfaction. I love helping clients bring their projects to life.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in engineering?
When I talk to a young person considering a career in engineering, I, first of all, tell them what a fulfilling career I’ve had. I encourage them to work hard and to expose themselves to as many different opportunities as possible. Keep an open mind regarding any particular engineering discipline. Try to experience as many disciplines as you can before specializing in any one discipline – if ever. In my case, I’m proud to be a generalist; I enjoy the variety of working across several disciplines.