We are excited to recognize a huge career milestone in just a few short days – Alicia Bailey, PE, Practice Leader / Sr. Principal, is celebrating her 20th anniversary with Sain Associates. Alicia wears many hats at our company, leading our Infrastructure and Survey teams and serving as a member of our Executive Committee. We appreciate Alicia’s hard work, commitment to Sain, and investment in mentoring younger staff.
Today we share a Q&A discussion with Alicia on her career at Sain, lessons learned during her career, and her outlook for the engineering industry.
What was your first role at Sain Associates, and what did it involve?
I started as an entry-level engineer in our Infrastructure team. I had experience in Microstation but did not know roadway design. I quickly learned how Sain created plans and the ALDOT roadway plan production process. After a few months, I mastered actual roadway design and understood design standards and criteria.
If you could go back and talk to yourself twenty years ago, what would you say? What advice would you give?
I would probably say the same things that my parents and mentors told me twenty years ago. Words of wisdom do not soak in until you have lived through circumstances and come out the other side. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of advice:
- Money isn’t everything. You work to make money, but it is not the sole reason in deciding whether to stay or change jobs. We spend so much time at work. If you work only for money, you will be a miserable person.
- It is normal not to like every task you do at work. Twenty years ago, this was a difficult pill to swallow. It took me a while to realize that a job has ups and downs, tasks and duties change, and there is no way that you will enjoy everything. The hope is that you like more than you dislike. If you don’t like something, figure out a way to get through it. You will learn from it and become a stronger person for it.
- Be nice to people, and do not be afraid to be open with people. Twenty years ago, I was a private person, keeping my personal life separate from my work life, and I certainly did not view Sain as part of my family. Nowadays, I could not imagine Sain not being a part of my life. My work family is a huge support to my family and me. They pray for me when needed, and I pray for them. You never know what people are hiding behind their “work faces.” Coworkers carry burdens, illnesses, and family or financial problems. Be compassionate because you never know when someone may need encouragement or understanding.
- You can’t fix everything, especially not people. I’m an engineer, and problem-solving and fixing things is what engineers do. It should be common sense, but you cannot “fix” people. They are who they are and will not change unless they do it themselves. Being a manager and working with a wide variety of personalities is a huge learning curve. You must learn more about yourself and how you can adapt rather than thinking you will change somebody else. Complaining about others does nothing for you. If you have difficulty working with another person, you probably need to turn your finger back on yourself because you are the only person you can change.
- It is ok to fail, and you will not excel at everything. I like to succeed, and I thrive when I work hard and excel at something. Making mistakes and doing things wrong are my nemesis. Over my career, I’ve had to change my way of thinking to look at missteps as learning lessons – making me smarter and stronger the next time. Getting down on yourself is just self-pity. Learn, grow, and help others not to repeat your mistakes.
- Do not go “female” at work. When my husband told me, “you went female,” I got angry and upset. What in the world does that mean? I AM FEMALE! But I have come to learn that women can be perceived in a particular manner if they come across as whiny, aggressive, or opinionated. I learned to speak up, be assertive, and advocate for myself. However, women walk a fine line, and I realized that my tone, manner, timing, approach, and choice of wording impact situations. Thank you to all my female mentors over the years. You are all awesome, and I certainly learned “not to be female” from some brilliant women!
How has Sain evolved over the last twenty years?
Sain still feels like the same company to me. Although some policies and procedures have changed, our values and culture remain the same. Sain has always supported me and allowed me to advance my career while being a mother to three children. I “drank the Kool-Aid” and bought into the flexible and family-friendly culture, and I am so glad that I did!
How has the engineering industry changed over the last twenty years?
Technology capabilities have advanced, and software continues to evolve. BIM, 3D models, machine graded surfaces, and surveying equipment (drone, lidar, scanning) have affected how we produce and deliver our work. Cell phone and application data also provide information that we now use in our planning work. COVID-19 has pushed us into the Zoom and virtual world, and we’ve become much more familiar and comfortable with working remotely.
We are so blessed to have Alicia as part of the Sain family. She is an exceptional leader, and we cannot imagine our firm without her. Congratulations on this career milestone, and we look forward to seeing what all she will accomplish in the years to come!