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Employee-Owner Spotlight: Chris Calhoun, Project Engineer, La Porte, Texas

We met with Chris Calhoun who recently joined the engineering and testing team in our La Porte, Texas office to discuss his expertise in deep foundations and how he started his career path in geotechnical engineering.

How did your start on your engineering career path?
I first went to school not necessarily knowing what I wanted to do. I spoke to my advisor and ultimately decided on the civil engineering path. At first, I concentrated more on the structural engineering side, but when I got out of school, I started a job in geotechnical engineering and the rest is history!

What were your impressions of the La Porte engineering & testing team?
My first impression of the group was that they are focused and easy to work with. Texas has a great leadership team, too. Kim Macy, Ryan Venable, and Bryan Landers have all been awesome to work with. I am still new but this has already been a great experience.

What can you tell us about your expertise in deep foundations?
I have experience with both the design and construction side of deep foundations and have worked on drilled shafts, driven piles, auger cast-in-place piles, and observed load testing — I have seen it all. One thing I have learned over the years is that you can put together a design, but once you are in the field, you need to make adjustments on the fly. When we design something and send a report, we want to make sure it does not just disappear. Clients want to see projects done correctly. So, yes, we design it, but we also want to see the project through to completion.

What experience do you have in the labs?
I consider myself a bit of a soil classification expert. I’m good at that, which is important if you’re a geotechnical engineer. Soil classification is especially important for younger engineers to learn. Very early in my career, I also spent a lot of time back in the lab working with concrete which also was a great learning experience as a young engineer.

As someone with so much knowledge to share, how do you approach mentorship of your teammates on the job?
I believe that you have two ears and just one mouth for a reason. We all need to listen more! I have learned that if you go out and listen, even to the people you are mentoring, you will learn something you didn’t know before. Oftentimes you have a preconceived notion of what you think you want to do, but then after listening to someone else, you end up adjusting your plans and still accomplish your goal. With younger engineers, you especially need to listen. Be helpful, listen, then teach.

How does safety factor into your day-to-day work?
Safety is extremely important to me and has been throughout my career. I was excited that Braun Intertec was focused on safety because you can never be too safe. I’m the person that’s always making sure people have Personal Protective Equipment and are hydrated. We all want to go home to our families the same way we came to work.

What does it mean to you to be an employee-owner?
I love the idea of being an employee-owner. I think it feels more like a family when you all work for an ESOP. The fact that you have some skin in the game with the company makes people more excited to go to work.