June 2023 Engineer of the Month

June 2023 – Paolo Scardina, Ph.D., M. ASCE

Name:  Paolo Scardina, Ph.D.

Employer:  The Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Virginia Tech

Position:  Instructor, Professor of Practice

Area of Practice:  Environmental Water Resources (EWR)

Fun Fact:  I did all of my schooling at Virginia Tech.  It just worked out that way. 

Engineer of the Month Questionnaire

Question 1. What do you consider your major achievements in civil engineering in our Section area?

This is a great question, and I will answer in this context.  When I look at some of the other engineers recognized as engineer of the month, some of them have been my former students.  There is no better achievement than seeing former students become successful.

Question 2. Why did you decide on a career in civil engineering?

My undergraduate degree was in Mining and Mineral Engineering.  I had a great education and great work experiences in the mining industry.  Upon graduation, I knew that I wanted to transition from the mining industry.  Civil engineering offered many opportunities, so I transferred to civil and environmental engineering in graduate school.  I feel a kinship to both industries, and at this point in my career, civil engineering has created opportunities that have been meaningful and worthwhile.

Question 3. Provide some career guidance for young civil engineers.

The best advice that I could offer is to get a good mentor.  That mentor could be either at your university (when a student), within your company, or via ASCE.  A good mentor doesn’t push their agenda or perspective, but rather help you recognize and then achieve your own personal/professional goals.  Then, when you become a seasoned or established engineer, provide the same service by being a mentor to an aspiring young engineer.

Question 4. What do you consider the major challenge to a career in civil engineering?

In response, every damn thing that converges simultaneously.  Pick a problem or issue, and then add a hundred items to that.  That is the current state of our profession:  a multitude of challenges to resolve all at the same time.  Everything has a compounding effect.

Here’s the thing, all the easy work has already been completed, which means only complicated or challenging work awaits our profession.  That is not daunting or discouraging because every challenge creates an opportunity.  Opportunities equate to work for our profession, which means we need good civil engineers to get the job done.  There is no better time to be a civil engineer, because all of the work is stimulating, necessary, and satisfying. 

Question 5. Tell us about your volunteer activities. What is the motivating factor for volunteering? How has being a volunteer enriched your professional career?

I volunteer significant time to my students.  I have an open door policy, meaning when I am in my office, then my door is open for anyone to stop by as needed.  This is a known thing, and I never know who might happen to wander through on a given day.  The subsequent discussion runs the whole spectrum of topics, and no one gets rushed out prematurely.  On any given day, I can volunteer a substantial amount of time to these students.  It’s needed and is beneficial, so if that means I have to come back later or on the weekends to finish my actual work, then so be it.  I feel like every unit of time given or volunteered gets paid forward in larger quantities,  making my investment small but significant nonetheless.