We had a lot of fun highlighting what the engineers at BFW/Marcum do on an average day. We received some entertaining answers and even found some hidden wisdom. Being an engineer comes with daily challenges that are unique to each individual, so we thought we’d extend our Day in the Life piece to include two more of our people, John Negangard and Peter Wagner.
John Negangard, Transportation Engineer
I’d like to say that I cultivate a peaceful, steady-as-she-goes kind of morning where I have time to take a long shower and sit at the kitchen table, where I sip a cup of gourmet coffee and let my thoughts drift as the sun peeks out over the trees in my backyard. In reality, I’m the kind of guy who allocates exactly what I need to get a job done. For me, it takes approximately thirty minutes to get out the door.
My drive to work, due in part to the early hour, has minimal traffic, and it takes almost exactly twenty minutes before my hand touches the doorknob at the office. I’m frequently the first person at work, so I unlock the building and flip on the fluorescent lights. Most engineers thrive off of coffee, but coffee gets in the way of getting work done, so I don’t drink it. Now it is focus time. I turn on the computer, check my calendar, my emails, my team messages, prioritize my day based on the needs of my clients and team, and begin to work.
Mid-morning finds me still at my desk. I take care to answer important emails. All others I flag in Outlook with a custom, color-coded system. A red flag is the first wave, which is to be answered immediately. Blue flags need to be answered within twenty-four hours. A green flag can wait forty-eight hours.
My highest priority late-morning is to answer my team correspondence. Without good communication, projects can and will grind to a halt, and I don’t want to be the man who last had his hands on the monkey wrench. I like to keep everyone abreast of my status and what I need while being open to helping my teammates. By the time I’m finished with my correspondence, it’s lunchtime.
On Monday I bring my lunch—usually a sandwich. I’ll eat at my desk and continue to catch up on the work that gathered over the weekend—engineering doesn’t stop for Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday is for fast food; I alternate between Subway, Panda Express, and Wendy’s. I allow myself some time away from my desk while I eat since most of the Monday rush has been taken care of. On Wednesday, I grab another bite at one of the three aforementioned fast food establishments and run a few household errands to keep up on things so I’m not running around on the weekend.
Usually, by the afternoon, I get a second wave of work, so I use the rest of my day to stay on top of things so I don’t feel overwhelmed the next morning. In my line of work, it’s easy to stay busy until it’s time to clock out. Sometimes, I need to put in some overtime before I feel comfortable leaving. If it’s a steady day and not a “hit your head on the wall” kind of day, I can usually be out the door at exactly 6:00 pm.
In all seriousness, I like to be particular about my time and my resources. It helps my productivity. I try to make work a systematic part of my day so I can be fresh and available when I’m challenged by bigger and even more important things, be they work or personal. I feel that the more you can set down on paper, or craft into a routine, the easier it is to successfully improvise when the time comes. So far, it’s worked well for me.
If I could distill my principles into a mantra to live by, it would be to have fun and enjoy your work as much as you enjoy the rest of your life. Most of all, be positive to others and push away negativity.
Peter Wagner, Project Manager
I’m a big music fan. When I was asked about a day in my life, I couldn’t help but have The Beatles run through my head.
Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
I wish I were the kind of guy that had the liberty to “fall out of bed.” The reality of my morning is much different. Typically, I’ll wake up 4:30 am. Thanks to daylight savings time, 4:30 am might as well be one in the morning. It’s a bit depressing to be on the move when no other soul is stirring, not even a mouse. However, I found that the earlier I rise, the more I can fit into my day, and the better I feel.
After waking up, I give the possibility of a workout the old college try. Some days I surprise myself, snapping back to reality with a dumbbell in my hand and realize I actually did it—I fit a workout into my morning. Other days, I satisfy myself with the mere thought of a workout and instead live vicariously through those good-intentioned notions.
At about 5:30 am, I’m out the door and heading into the office. I like to stop at Caribou Coffee and get a cup of the good stuff. While John may not like coffee, I am a two-cups-a-day guy. Depending on my supply, I’ll also make a quick run for some chewing tobacco. What can I say—I’m a man of many cravings, and I’ve found indulgence to be the best way forward.
I’ll arrive at work by 6:30-7:00 am. I’m not the first in the door, but I’m certainly not the last. For the first hour or so, I partake in the quiet quality an early morning office has before the rank and file come in. I use this time to check my email, create a to-do list for the day, and figure out my priorities.
I’m a straightforward guy when it comes to office work. I spend the rest of my morning at my desk, plugging away at the highest priority work that’s come through overnight. I don’t take much time in the morning to mingle, schmooze, or do any other goldbricking that can be prevalent in an office job.
I am careful to spend my lunches at home. I’m not far from the office, and I like the quiet. I eat in peace, reflect on the morning, and by the time I’m back in the office, I’m feeling refreshed and ready to finish out the day.
Many people will tell you that, no matter how much you’ve caught up in the morning, lunch is the perfect opportunity for situations to once again spin out of control. After lunch, I put out any new fires and begin plugging away again to ensure I can leave on time. I like to take the last hour to evaluate the day and better understand the problems that arose, the successes (no matter how small) I had, and whatever else I deem important to dwell on a bit before I head out the door.
Evenings are for coaching soccer and/or finally getting that dreaded workout over with. You’d think coaching soccer would allow you to break a sweat. Let me tell you, as a soccer coach of many years, most of my time coaching is spent on the field, wincing, yelling, and otherwise vocalizing some sort of consternation. As a coach, not much sweat is broken, just hearts, and maybe even my own mind depending on the day. Engineering and coaching soccer can, at times, feel very similar.
Once coaching is over or I’m done at the gym, I head home, make myself dinner, turn on the TV, and get ready for the next day. John and I might do things differently in our daily lives, but we both have an appreciation for the good, old-fashioned routine. Controlling your day as much as you can and molding it into something that gratifies you is what much of life is about. To put it simply, control what you can and make the most of everything else.