Alumni in Action: A Bird's-eye View of the World
"The problem-solving skills I learned at Pacific and the encouragement I had to ask questions continue to serve me well." -Travis Ford, P.E.
Alumnus Travis Ford, P.E. (CE, '08) often gets a bird's-eye view of the world high atop the bridges he inspects all over the country. He reflects back on his experience at Pacific, his current work and future plans.
Q. What were some activities you participated in as an undergraduate?
A. I participated in ASCE, Pacific Baseball, Aquatic Chemistry Research with Dr. Gary Litton, co-op's at Lee & Ro (Wastewater design and Consulting), and Engeo (Geotechnical Engineering).
Q. What is your job title, and please describe your work and its impact.
A. Technically I am listed as a water resources engineer but I practice structural engineering and work in a group called Dam's and Hydraulic Structures.
On the job I travel around the country inspecting dams and bridges using rope access or other means. I then take findings from the field and apply them to structural analysis/retrofit work. Much of the nation's infrastructure is often in disrepair. This provides non-stop learning opportunities about the history of our nation's Civil Engineering practice as well as opportunities to apply new three-dimensional technologies (computer modeling) to structures typically designed in two dimensions. Over time, we have also gained knowledge about how structures behave. Often when we analyze an old structure, we find it does not meet the current design criteria. When structures do not meet current code or are unsafe, it spurs a retrofit or repair.
Q. How did your experience at Pacific influence where you are today?
A. The problem-solving skills I learned at Pacific and the encouragement I had to ask questions continue to serve me well. I also benefited from homework assignment collaboration, which was encouraged in upper division coursework so we could help educate each other and learn to walk into the professors' office without fear.
Q. What was the most significant experience you have had during your career? Why this experience?
A. The in-depth steel bridge inspection in Portland, Ore., comes to mind. Our team performed a structural inspection of the entire bridge in ten days (rope access and mechanical equipment) with minimal impact on Portland daily life. There were moving vehicles, pedestrians on walkways, and light and freight rail on this movable double-decker lift span bridge, and large boat traffic underneath. It was like trying to inspect a moving carnival ride. The views from the bridge, public attention, and coordination required were incredible. Rappelling into a small boat and then riding the lift span while it was moving are experiences I will never forget.
Q. What are your goals for the future and why?
A. I have been leading projects in the field and have begun performing some project manager tasks. I hope to keep marketing our team and bringing in work for the company as well as taking projects from the initial lead to completion. I also plan to either finish my master's degree in Civil Engineering or attend an MBA program.
Q. What advice would you give a graduating senior?
A. It is somewhat hard for seniors to find work right now. I suggest that in your job search you be willing to try something new and do the research on what that company or agency needs. If you can't find a job or do not like the one you do get, then you can quickly sign back up for a graduate degree. It seems like the graduate degree is a nice backup plan if you do not get what you are looking for. Using a graduate degree as a backup plan will give you more opportunities to find what you really want and make sure that the graduate work you plan to pursue is what you really want to specialize in.