Jeff Stephenson, P.E., is the Team Leader of [...]
Born and raised on a farm outside of Pulaski, Tennessee, I always thought my first order of business after high school would be to move to the city. And I did. I attended Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee, and then I moved to Nashville and worked there for a couple of years.
But I discovered pretty quickly that working in the city wasn’t a good fit for me. I knew Richard Holt, who is the Branch Manager at Sain’s Pulaski office, and he’d been trying to get me to come work for him since before I graduated. I originally told him there was no way I was coming back to Pulaski. But things changed, and before I knew it I was back and starting my job at Sain Associates, 10 years ago this month.
In those 10 years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and about being a professional engineer living and working in a small town. It might be hard to believe, but some of my engineering friends are often jealous of my situation. They know I’m getting great work experience, because even though we are in a small town, we are doing design and planning projects that the firms in larger cities also do, and I’m living somewhere that fulfills me.
Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to being an engineer in a small town, so here are just a few.
- Easy commute. I live out in the country, but it takes me only 10 minutes to get to work, and the worst traffic I encounter usually involves a school bus. Even when we need to drive into Nashville to see clients, we can be there in just over an hour. We can jump on I-65 or US-64 and be at in other areas of the state pretty quickly as well.
- Easy access. We do a lot of work for the City of Pulaski and Giles County. Our office is across the street from City Hall and only half a block from the county courthouse, which is very convenient.
- Wear many hats. Since our office isn’t large, only four employees, we all take on different roles at times. For example, as the first person people see when they walk in the door, I’m often mistaken for the secretary. I’m an engineer, but I do some tasks that a secretary would complete such as supply orders and FedEx shipments. In larger offices, different engineers might handle various components of the project process, such as management, design, CAD work, but I usually play ALL of those roles, which provides valuable experience.
- Not as involved. It can be a little difficult to participate in engineering societies like the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). But this disadvantage is also somewhat of an advantage. All four of us in the office do a lot of volunteering locally and it’s often more intimate and personal than what you might do in a larger city. So whether it’s working with the Giles County Humane Association, the Public Library, or the Tree Board, as I do, we have a lot of volunteer opportunities and usually know the people we are helping.
- Close to family. For me, this is a major advantage. My parents, sister, two brothers and their children live here, so I’ve been around to see births, graduations, school activities and more, which has been the most important part about moving back to Pulaski.
So even though I always said I never wanted to move back to a small town, I’m very happy living in the country with my seven acres, donkeys, roosters, dogs and cats. Evidently I’m meant to be a country girl who is lucky enough to be an engineer in her hometown.
Sain Associates, Inc., is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with offices in Cullman, Alabama, Pulaski, Tennessee and Mandeville, Louisiana. Sain is a site engineering, traffic/transportation engineering and planning and land surveying firm with experience in more than thirty states.