christopher consultants, ltd.

A Day in the Life of a Civil Engineer

Katie McDaniel’s Day as an Engineer on our Public Team

Katie McDaniel, P.E. has worked for christopher for over seven years and currently serves as Project Manager in the Public Division, located in our Fairfax Office. In that role, Katie is responsible for designing, completing and submitting engineering drawings, preparing construction plans and SWM/BMP design. Katie’s emphasis is on public clients including the Prince William County Service Authority, George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College. Katie is a member of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) and a Technical Advisor for Engineers for International Development. Katie is a graduate of Virginia Tech.

We caught up with Katie to discuss her day to day routine as a Project Manager at christopher.

Katie receiving her five year tenure award from president Bill Zink

What is your background? How did you end up at christopher?

I got my degree in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech. I actually met James Patteson (Director, DPWES) at a networking event the night before a career fair and sent him my resume, which he then passed along to Bill Zink. I remember interviewing with both Bill and Chris Brown over Thanksgiving break, and I started here a month after graduation.

How much do you get to use what you learned in school? What new skills have you learned from experience on the job?

What I learned in school was mostly the theory behind what we do in practice. While we don’t have to work out the math by hand the long way in the industry, it’s helpful to have the background understanding of the concepts that we use every day to put plans together and make sure that we are doing our designs correctly.

Let’s talk about what a typical day looks like for you. When does your morning start? How is your commute?

I generally try to get in around 7:30 most mornings. Luckily, I only live about 15 minutes from the Fairfax office (20 on a bad day), so my commute is not too bad!

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at the office?

I spend some time catching up on emails, following up on outstanding items and updating my project list. Tuesday is a good example because we have our staff meeting – Tuesday mornings I work on updating my report for that meeting.

Who is involved in your staff meeting and what do you discuss at the staff meeting?

It is a meeting for the Public Division so it includes our manager Andy Gorecki, P.E. [christopher Senior Associate], myself and the three other engineers on our team. We talk about our projects and workload for the upcoming week.

And then after the meeting?

After the staff meeting, I dive into production work! I’m either wrapping up tasks or projects or starting new ones. My workload varies depending on the

Katie and Shane Murphy, Reed Smith, at christopher’s 35 year anniversary party

week, which keeps things interesting.

The afternoons are spent wrapping up project deliverables (which can consist of plans in CAD, reports, or proposals), checking in with the team on questions or attending client meetings (and sometimes a combination of all 3!).

Since we are talking about Tuesdays, Andy and I are also currently mentoring a student group at Tech for a design class project. We have a standing conference call at 4 pm on Tuesdays, which usually takes 15-30 mins. Andy and I are both Tech alumni so I’m glad we have the opportunity to give back to that community!

How much time do you spend in the office versus meetings or in the field? How is your day different when you will be out of the office?

It depends on the week, but the majority of my time is probably spent at my desk in the office.

Katie participating in an industry curling event

The biggest difference in my day is that when I have meetings in the afternoons, I don’t get to go to the gym and work out during lunch! I like taking advantage of the gym we have available at the office.

When does your day usually end? What is the last thing you do before you leave?

Luckily I’m usually able to leave around 5 pm most days. I typically check in with my team to see if they have any final questions before I leave for the day.

What do you like to do in the evenings?

Most of my evenings are spent at the barn taking care of and/or riding my horse, then my husband and I relax at home over dinner and a tv show. But Fridays are date night at Paradise Springs!

Thanks Katie for sharing your day with us! Stay tuned for more of our Day in the Life series.