November 2022 Centennial Engineer of the Month

November 2022 – Niko Ambrose, EIT, A.M. ASCE

I graduated from Old Dominion University with a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and I have worked with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) as a Civil Scholar and now as a Traffic Engineer with Richmond District Operations where I address citizen safety concerns and review corridors of travel for potential safety issues and improvements. While in college and in my professional career, I am actively involved in ASCE where I served as president of the ODU student chapter. I am currently Chair of the Region 4 Younger member advisory council and Government Relations committee for the Richmond Branch.  

Centennial EOM Questionnaire

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

In my young career, I have been fortunate to work with people from varying backgrounds and experiences, and this has allowed me to really see that there is no one “path to success” as a Civil Engineer. Completing the VDOT EDGE program was something I look back on with countless lessons learned. This program allowed me to rotate through various disciplines of engineering that VDOT covers and I was able to work with not just engineers, but with surveyors, technicians, inspectors, and scientists, among others. Being able to see all the sides to a project, from scoping to construction, was a valuable experience; it allowed me to appreciate the smaller jobs, and understand that an engineering decision affects more than just that one part of the project and that Civil Engineering requires collaboration.    

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

Growing up, I had always been fascinated with aviation, and transportation systems. I would always stare out the window on a trip and look at the design of the roadway, signalized intersections, and airport operations and wonder how these systems worked. After attending the L.C. Bird High School Academy for Engineering, I was able to choose an engineering discipline and found Civil Engineering encompassed my interest in transportation operations. My goal has always been to help my community, and Civil Engineering has allowed me to do that and pursue my passion. 

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

My biggest piece of advice is to find mentors. Whether they be ASCE members or someone at work, a mentor can provide you with a level of insight and understanding that can be valuable when making career decisions or have someone who can empathize with the struggles you may face. 

Along with finding a mentor, I would advise fostering new connections through a professional society. ASCE has been hugely impactful in making the connections I have now. Life-long friends I have now were made at ASCE meetings in college and social events put on by branches and younger member groups. These professional societies can help you find something you may not know was an interest through technical meetings and conventions. Building your community through networking can be key in finding a new job, making a vital connection for a project, or sparking a new idea.

Lastly, I would try to find a passion for what you do. Engineering is a fast-paced working environment and with so many disciplines, finding a niche, your place where you can come in day to day and enjoy the work and the people you work with can go a long way. 

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

I would consider a major challenge in civil engineering to be to balance proactive and reactive engineering. Technology is pushing innovations further and further and the world has changed so much in even just 20 years. With outside forces, with monetary and social interests, the struggle comes from managing these existing conditions and deciding the best time to move to the next thing. Civil Engineers have to stay up to date via conventions, licenses, and networks that allow us to truly come up with a sustainable plan for the future.

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

My biggest goal when choosing a career was that I wanted to give back to my community. Volunteering with ASCE has allowed me to combine my professional career with community outreach. While in college I ensured our student chapter of ASCE participated in community events, from cleanup days to K-12 outreach and food drives for those affected by natural disasters. Despite being a young engineer myself, I have made it a goal to give back to the next line of engineers; I am one of the Practitioning advisors for the ODU student chapter and actively mentor engineering students on how to find their passion and where they want to apply their skills after graduation. 

Volunteering is a key part of my personal development by allowing me to devote my time and effort to enriching someone else’s life. This sense of community has driven home the importance of what I do as a professional. I have been able to make valuable connections that I did not know I would need later by volunteering, but also I was able to learn people and event management skills from different volunteer opportunities.