The newest members of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering External Advisory Board exhibit a decidedly entrepreneurial streak.
Three of the five new members have started companies — two remain involved in running the businesses — and a fourth runs the company his Tech-alumnus father started.
Their paths to entrepreneurship, however, couldn’t be more different.
Founder and CEO, CESEL Engineers
Raul Delgado always knew he wanted to return to his native Peru and start a consulting company. He used a scholarship from the Fulbright Commission to earn his master’s degree in civil engineering at Georgia Tech, graduating in 1968 and working for a few years at Bechtel.
“I love my country, I love Peru. And I just said to myself, if God Almighty made me born there, it’s because He wanted me there,” Delgado said after his first advisory board meeting in October. “And, obviously, I love to work on big engineering projects.”
Delgado continues to serve as founder and CEO of CESEL Engineers, which focuses on those big projects, like subways, airports, roads and other big infrastructure. He credited his engineering courses and his minor in economics at Tech for helping him run the nearly 40-year-old company.
“I didn’t realize how much that would serve me in the future. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do what I’ve done, what I’ve accomplished, without having that minor combined with my core engineering knowledge,” he said.
The School’s advisory board is a group of around 30 alumni and industry leaders who counsel the School’s leadership on everything from curriculum to alumni outreach. Delgado joined the board this fall along with Fred Carlson, Murray Griffin, Rebecca Nease and Art Williams.
Chairman, Atlantic Coast Consulting Inc.
For Griffin, the idea of starting his own firm came after he’d already been a practicing engineer for nearly 30 years. But he partnered with another Georgia Tech-educated engineer in the early 2000s and formed Atlantic Coast Consulting, where Griffin is still chairman.
“We jumped out. Were we prepared, engineering-wise? Yes. Business-wise? You know, we’ve learned a lot, and I've learned a lot, over the 13-plus years we've been in business,” said Griffin, who graduated with his civil engineering bachelor’s in 1979.
He credited his mentor, Charlie Jones, who ran the firm where Griffin worked for years before striking out on his own: “I had a good model to go after. Pretty much everything that we did, I modeled after what Charlie Jones had done [at Jordan, Jones & Goulding].”
Now that he has stepped back somewhat from day-to-day leadership, Griffin said he wanted to see what he can do for the School.
“I love Tech. I've gotten a lot out of Tech, so I look forward to trying to give back.”
Branch Chief Engineer, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Likewise, Nease is looking forward to staying busy with the board as she gears up to retire from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where she is a branch chief and oversees the inspectors who examine nuclear fuel facilities.
“My engineering degree from Georgia Tech has opened many doors for me — and still is,” said Nease, who finished her civil engineering bachelor's in 1979.
Those are doors that may not have opened, had Nease not taken a community college course on engineering.
“I had always high scores in math and science, so my high school adviser suggested I become a math or science teacher — she didn’t mention engineering,” Nease recalled. “Not knowing what I wanted to do, I took random classes at a community college near my home, and was lucky enough to take an introductory class in engineering. At the end of the class, the professor suggested I go into engineering. The rest is history.”
BSCE 2001, MBA 2004
Vice President of Construction Cleaning, Triad Cleaning Solutions
Carlson knew he wanted to be an engineer from the time he was in eighth grade.
“It was having that tangible [project], that you’re actually building something that’s going to be there for the long term and that would be impacting communities and people. It always was that,” said Carlson, a 2001 civil engineering graduate.
It didn’t hurt that his father was a Georgia Tech civil engineer who exposed him to the road construction industry. Carlson did the same for a while, but then returned to Tech to earn an MBA and thought he’d end up in real estate development.
Along the way, an opportunity came up to partner with his dad and with farmers in South Georgia on an automated bagged-ice machine. Together, they founded Ice House USA in 2003 and ultimately sold to outside investors in 2010.
Now Carlson works as vice president for construction cleaning at Triad Cleaning Solutions in Tampa, where he works with contractors to clean up projects before they’re turned over to the owner.
“Every day, I’m poring through building plans. I wouldn’t want to not be involved in some way with civil engineering and construction,” Carlson said. “It’s fun to work with all the different business owners that we deal with.”
President, Williams Steel Erection Company Inc.
Solving problems and “building stuff” is what attracted Williams to civil engineering and, ultimately, the family business. Williams continues the business venture — and Tech tradition — his father started in 1960. He’s president of Virginia-based Williams Steel Erection Company, one of the family firms he now runs with his brother.
“Our whole family was Georgia Tech-involved,” Williams said. “I always knew I liked solving problems. Engineers solve problems, so I think it was just a natural fit.”
Williams and his brother earned civil engineering degrees at Georgia Tech, just like their father. Now they share responsibility for Williams Industries and its subsidiaries. He said joining the advisory board is an opportunity to give back in more ways than donating money.
“It’s an opportunity to be more involved in the School and an opportunity to give back to the School that’s help me get where I am.”