My name is Melonie Hart, PE, ENV SP and am a Civil Engineering Project Manager at Paradigm Design. I am currently in the process of relocating to the Grand Rapids area from Northwest Indiana. I am currently working a hybrid schedule, 2-3 days in the Traverse City or Grand Rapids Paradigm Design office and 2-3 days remote due to a combination of Covid-19 restrictions and my current relocation situation. I have only been back in the Engineering Consulting world for about 9 weeks but have been a Project Manager for over 7 years.
My interest in Civil Engineering stemmed from a combination of childhood experiences that ended up making an impression on me. One experience that really drove my decision to study Civil Engineering in college was developing a love for houses because home improvement shows where always on TV at my house growing up. I would always draw houses throughout middle school and high school in my notebooks and knew I wanted a career that related to my love for houses. I applied to Purdue University for Civil Engineering, Ball State for Architecture and the Harrington Art Institute for Interior Design. Ultimately, I chose Purdue for Civil Engineering after visiting the school, really liking the campus and finding out my best friend was also accepted to Purdue. My college senior design project was the design of a subdivision and ironically, I have not designed a subdivision since.
Throughout college I had summer internships which included (2) different civil engineering consulting companies and one summer at a construction company. Thanks to my internship experience, I landed my first job out of college working at one of the top 20 largest civil engineering firms in the country. I worked out of a field office in Chicago doing construction inspection for the Chicago DOT. Since I was out in the field daily, I was able to observe and inspect numerous types of CDOT projects while building relationships with a number of Contractors, Engineers and CDOT personnel. One of my favorite projects I was involved with was the Chicago Green Alleys project where I inspected locations that implemented the sustainable idea of porous concrete and asphalt which helped manage stormwater and allow water into enter the ground instead of through pipe systems.
Following that job, my title has been Project Manager in a few different capacities. I’ve been a Project Manager for a Fortune 500 Company in an Owner’s Representative capacity and now a Project Manager for Paradigm Design within their Civil Engineer department. As a Project Manager, you will see numerous types of projects, all unique in their own ways and will have to be able to adapt to the needs of each project to bring them to the finish line.
One of the main requirements of being a Project Manager is communication. A Project Manager’s day consists of many forms of communication, i.e., meetings, phone calls, emails, letter writing, etc. The goal of all the communication that occurs throughout the project is to be the point person for all the details about the project and to keep a project moving smoothly.
A day at the office could consist of jumping between tasks for multiple projects. I may start the day making a few phone calls, and sending emails to permitting jurisdictions (i.e., the Zoning Administrator, Public Works, Building Department, DOT, EPA, etc.). I’ll then find myself talking with the internal team members about a project design, and then have to call into a Teams meeting with the Developers of a Project. The day could end at a City Hall meeting to present the project to a Board and the Public for feedback about the design. Every day is different and everyday the projects require something new based on where the projects sit within their project schedule.
Outside of work, I’m a Mom to a 4-year-old girl, who has no problem keeping me busy, so her and my husband keep me motivated to strive for a good work-life balance because I love being with them. I am also active in ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers). I am currently the Secretary for the Northwest IN branch but will be moving over to the Grand Rapids branch soon. I’ve held various positions within ASCE NWIN Branch and have planned and coordinated a number of ASCE meetings. ASCE has been wonderful for networking and continuing education and I look forward to being active in the ASCE Sustainability Committee in the future.
Being a Project Manager can be a whirlwind at times. I look back at certain projects and think how neat it is to be able to be a part of a project that can just start with an idea or vision and evolve into something beneficial for the community. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many types of people within different professions throughout my career including Senators, Mayors, Developers, Attorneys, Planners, Architects, Contractors, so many types of Engineers, etc. It has molded me into a person who strives to build relationships and have a team mentality. I look forward to making a positive impact and positive impression whenever I can and enjoy working on projects that benefit the community and the environment around them.
Read Melonie’s Industry Person of the Week interview.