Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blessed with Employment Opportunites

If you didn't know, we are now living in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, more specifically Plano. Even more specifically living in Richardson and working in Plano. The process of choosing my first post-education job/career was pretty exciting. I didn't go into it pessimistically, like is so easy to do today. In fact, I have been chastised by others for not acknowledging the reality of this economy (try adding the phrase "not in this economy" after every other sentence to get the right tone). My attitude has always been to do everything I can to build up resume and make myself marketable, aggressively look for opportunities and give myself a lot of options through networking (both in reality and virtually, i.e.LinkedIn) even when it seems like I already have something lined up, and finally just realize that employers are almost always looking for good employees—you just have to convince them you are one.

Last October was dedicated to searching for a job. To start off, I cashed in on my free month trial of LinkedIn Premium (a business-orient social networking website) which gives you more capabilities and is normally expensive. I also attended a couple of career fairs at Virginia Tech and scouted out the companies that I wanted to work for. Finally, I opened up the lines of communication with previous employers and others who might possibly help me to find a good job. The results were great.

The entire month of November was dedicated to interviews and evaluations so that by the end of the month I could make a decision. I want to write about some of these companies in the order that they happened:

  • Spiars Engineering: This was the only fruit that I got solely from my LinkedIn account. I simply searched for a job that fit my criteria, found this and pushed the one-click application button. The next morning I had a call from them wanting to set up a phone interview. We had it. It went well and they wanted to fly me out to Dallas, TX for an interview. I accepted. However, I really didn't think I would take the job. I had been talking with my family company Hansen Engineering and was pretty sure I would end up working there. So I called back my potential employer (We'll call him John, because that's his name) and explained that it wasn't worth his time or money to interview me because there was really nothing they could do to change my mind, i.e. even if the job was great I was sure I wouldn't take it over the family business. However, he told me not to worry about the cost and that I owed it to myself to go and see what this could be like, that I was interviewing them just as much as they were interviewing me. I am sincerely grateful that he responded that way. So I did fly out there, had a rental car and two nights in a fancy hotel. The cost of that alone was well over $1,000 not to mention the cost of everyone's time given to me that day. It did the trick. I was sold. I felt that they would give me a great balance of responsibility and mentorship. They're location is great for land development right now. They are ahead of the curve in the use of civil engineering technologies and yet are built on good old fashioned values. And their business philosophies fit well with my own.
  • Bowman: I heard about this company at the Virginia Tech career fair. They also do land development and are located in Washington D.C. metropolitan area. I enjoyed our interview. Their self-proclaimed philosophy is "Aggressive and Progressive." The head engineer their came in part way through the interview to ask me some questions. He noticed that I knew Portuguese and asked me where I learned it. It was one of those future Sunday School story experiences where I wasn't sure if I should just skirt around being a missionary or give it to him straight kind of thing. I gave it to him straight. It turns out he is LDS and a Bishop in the area. I like to think I passed the whole not-be-ashamed-of-the-gospel test.
  • Gordon: This place was an interview at a big table with "the board." It started off with a CAD (Computer-Aided Draft) test. I had forty-five minutes in a room by myself to do different CAD operations. It was cake, basically just to make sure you actually have experience using CAD. Then the interview started. Everyone is very friendly and we're talking when in walks a large bearded man, the COO (Chief Operations Officer). He takes over the conversation and eventually asks me what I am looking for in a company that would distinguish it over another (Let me just add in a note that after going through so many interviews I am so thankful I served a mission. I realized how much it prepared me to just talk with people. Striking up conversations and answering questions in nothing, when you have done it in Portuguese with people that usually aren't too excited to talk with you to begin with). I calmly took a moment to think about as I had really no rehearsed answers. I thought back to the book Outliers and something that Malcolm Gladwell said in there about the 3 requirements for a satisfying job. The one that came to mind was autonomy. I started to explain myself but was interrupted by Bob (COO) who explained to me that that is the opposite of how I should be thinking. He took it to mean I wasn't a team player.  Other things revealed to me a lot about the company culture that they have, a kind of good ol' boy system. I knew I didn't want to work there. they pursued me later and I told them I wasn't interested. Eventually the CFO contacted me to find out what wrong. I imagine (and hope) it got back around to to Bob.
  • J2 Engineers: The only small company in the DC area that I interviewed with. I liked them a lot. Their company structure was a little strange. They only had engineers and surveyors. No CAD technicians (whereas at my current work there is a ration of about 2:1 CAD techs to engineers). No administrative people. When I asked the owners, Jim and Jeff (hence, J2), they said, "Oh our wives do it all from home." Kind of neat. But they didn't exactly portray stability. Not stability like some think as in government type jobs where they won't/can't fire you. I'm talking about stability in their business model, values and relationships with clients.
  • Hansen Engineering: This was my final interview and I knew it was an important one. I scheduled it such that I could also attend a 10 year Globe football team reunion as well. I spent most of the day with the owner (my oldest brother Taylor). Spiars had bragged how its new employees go to meetings with clients starting from the get-go (which is not true of the large companies). Not to be outdone, Hansen took me to a meeting during the interview! It was great talking more about the company and to Taylor's credit, he really treated me like a partner and with a lot of respect. He emphasized the importance of portraying confidence with clients—be able to find a solution, explain that solution and defend that solution with confidence. Hansen Engineering would be different than all of the other jobs in that I would be taking on much more responsibility. There wouldn't be another full-time engineer on staff. It would be high risk, high reward.
At this point the decision was between Spiars and Hansen; two small, family-owned and operated businesses. I gave a football coaching analogy to my friend Jeremy Dalmacio to explain the decision I was making: It was like being a quarterback coach at Blue Ridge High School (Spiars) or the offensive coordinator at Globe High School. 

It was conveniently Fast Sunday that weekend and I knew what I was fasting for. I got strong, peaceful answer to my decision. Not only an answer but an explanation. For whatever reasons, I knew Dallas would be the best choice for my family (i.e. Rachel and our kids). I've learned more information since that have confirmed that revelation and am sure I will find out even more in the years to come. But as of now, we are firmly planted in Plano, Texas with no intentions of leaving.

After we had already moved to Texas and were settled in I finally heard back from a company that I had a short interview with at a career fair at Virginia Tech. The company was ARUP and they are a global company whose values and mission resonate with me. They were interested in my Portuguese speaking ability and asked me if I would be interested in working in Brazil in a new office that they had opened. I told them I would be very interested. then I didn't hear from them for 2 months until a couple days before starting my new job.

Hi Talmage,

Your resume was passed along to me by Kelley Simpson at Arup. Are you still seeking a full-time opportunity?

We are currently looking for candidates to join our NYC office as a GIS specialist and a Civil Engineer to start in NY and eventually work in Sao Paolo. Would you be interested in either of these opportunities?


According to this website New York is the 2nd largest city in the world followed by São Paulo, Brazil. I looked up their New York office and it is downtown Manhattan which actually means something to me having visited there and been wowed by the city. I would've been very tempted to take this offer had it come sooner (I can't say the same about Rachel who does not like the idea of living with kids in NYC after what I told her about my visit there). However, I'm certain I still would've made the same decision based on the same criteria of what is best for the farm (as Kimball would say).

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Move to Texas

I was slated to graduate from Virginia Tech in May 2013. Then I started getting job offers. To the surprise of many, including ourselves, about mid-December we decide that we were moving to Dallas, TX at the end of the month. I would drive our possessions and tow our car in a U-Haul with Heber and Hannah. Rachel would fly in a couple of days later with Olive on her lap.


We left in the late afternoon on January 2nd and arrived the next day in the evening. I got about about an hour and a half sleep at a truck stop. The kids seemed to sleep all night and all day. It was a tough trip. I'm just glad we made it alive. Old ward friends helped us move out and our new ward friends helped us move in.

Plane Ticket for Rachel and Olive: $105 + thousands of our US Airways Dividend Miles
Gas: $462.21
U-Haul: $1,315.60
Texas Vehicle Inspection Fee: $47.23
Place forward on mail from old home: $1.00
Toll fees to date: $6.99 and counting
Texas Plates and Registration: $125.50
Loving your new home and job: Priceless
(I made that up, btw, nbd, ttyl)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trip to Canada

The day after Christmas we jammed our family of five into a car and began our trip/vacation to Canada. Traveling with kids is a challenge. I was the only authorized driver for our rental vehicle (being that Rachel is not yet 25 years old) which made Rachel the navigator. She did an awesome job directing us to destinations, appeasing 3 cooped-up kids, controlling the music/audio-books, making meals on the go, etc.

We took our time for the drive up there and decided to see some sights along the way since it'll probably never be more convenient to see them. Our first stop was in Gettysburg. I had been there this past summer and loved it so much despite never caring much for the Civil War growing up. It had a profound effect on me.

This time it was snowy all over and much too cold to get out and explore. Also many of the touring roads were closed. After Gettysburg we visited Hershey, Pennsylvania and explored the amusement park there. It's all centered around the making of chocolate and there are roller coasters and everything else you would expect. We opted for the free tour of how they make chocolate which includes a free chocolate sample at the end. The lines were short and the kids loved it so we went 3 time in a row before we got back on the road.

Our next destination was Palmyra, NY. We stayed in the Palmyra Inn and only had a brief opportunity in the morning to go and see the Palmyra Temple and Joseph Smith's home. There was just too much snow to go tromping around the Sacred Grove. I feel like I can envision a little better the setting that some of these church history events happened in. Some day we'd like to go back in the spring.

Finally, it was time to go on to Canada for the real reason that we took our trip in the first place—to go to our friends' (Zak and Donna Price) wedding. Rachel was the Matron of Honor and I was a groomsman. It took a long time to get across the Canadian border and of course we came prepared with passports and birth certificates.
I was not expecting the sudden loss of my life line (mobile data connection) when we crossed the border. No more navigation, roaming phone calls and no more internet of any kind. That definitely threw us for a loop. But we managed to get there. The wedding was great. More on that as soon as we get some pictures to accompany it.

Sunday morning we set out to return home in 1 shot, as opposed to the 3 days we spent getting up there. We had gas stops, bathrooms breaks, a McDonalds dinner and play, and a quick stop at dusk at Niagra Falls.
Other than that it was just driving while  listening to Divergent. I feel like the book was a cross between Hunger Games and The Giver. It was alright. Below are the costs of such a trip. I include it because it was surprising to me even though it probably shouldn't have been.

Foreign Transaction Fees: $10
Roaming Charges: $15
Groceries: $56
Restaurants: $12
Fast Food: $37
Gas: $245
Rental Car: $265
Passport: $290
Hotels: $350
Total: $1,280

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013