Engineer’s Week Spotlight: Holt Wheeler

Feb. 26, 2021

In celebration of National Engineers Week (Feb. 21-27), we would love to introduce you to Holt Wheeler. Holt is a Senior Project Engineer in the Rocky Mountain Region, and joined Team Odin in November 2019.

Holt graduated from the Colorado School of Mines with a BS in Mining Engineering, and a minor in Explosives Engineering. He kicked off his engineering career as a summer intern for a limestone quarrying company in eastern Kansas before moving into the mining industry full-time. Holt worked on a large scale mine closure in a remote location, initially performing documentation and QC tasks and ultimately managing the execution of several scopes of work. Later, he expanded his knowledge of HDPE pipe installation and surveying/CADD on several smaller projects in the mine remediation and coal ash remediation sectors. After years in the mining industry, Holt decided to switch gears.

“Frankly, I came to the geotechnical construction industry because the mining industry was in a bit of a slump. I figured that mines would be closing and that my knowledge of the mining sector would be useful,” Wheeler stated.

But, the transition from the mining industry to the geotechnical industry did not come without challenges.

“The biggest challenge I’ve faced is gaining the respect of field personnel and superintendents. There is a preconception among field personnel that engineers have little functional construction knowledge. It’s a valid point for engineers fresh out of school. We all graduate thinking we know how things are supposed to work, and what is ‘correct’ per what we’ve learned. In industry, things are rarely ever that cut and dried. Trying to change your expectation of what is ‘correct’ to what you’ll see in the field takes time. Overcoming this takes a combination of interpersonal skills, compromise, and standing your ground when you need to. It’s a delicate dance sometimes, but it creates leaders.”

Holt now has six years of experience in environmental remediation, civil construction, conventional and drone surveying, and CADD support. With ever-broadening industry experience and knowledge, Holt has accumulated a well-rounded skill-set, which contributes to his success.

“I’ve had the phenomenal luck to have been challenged in many ways in my career so far, which has allowed me to broaden my skills both as an engineer and as a manager. I’ve had the opportunity to manage construction crews, perform preconstruction design work, and work to address field changes, manage entire scopes of work, and work with many people who have helped shape me into the engineer I am today. I would say that each project that I’ve worked onhas taught me something important. I’ve learned that the definition of success varies by project. Some projects can be smooth sailing with minimal challenges, and some projects just seem to be made of challenges. As long as you overcome those challenges, I consider it a success.”

Through his time with Odin, Holt has completed two projects, and continues to work on and lead multiple others.

“Two of the projects I’ve been on have been completed thus far: a slurry wall in Colorado, and a levee strengthening project in California. The project in California had interesting challenges, particularly as I was moving into more of a management position. We were able to overcome different challenges on this project, some of which were new for me personally. The Odin Team came together though, and the project was executed safely and successfully.

After tackling and succeeding in mining, transitioning to the geotechnical industry, and learning how to go from engineer to manager, Holt has gained impressive and unique work experience. Holt’s experience, motivation, and attention to detail make him an important part of the Odin Team.

“A little bit of practical advice for both soon-to-graduate engineers and recently graduated engineers is to take your FE exam now! Do it before you get swept up in work and have to balance your real-life workload with studying for the exam. Push yourself to learn everything you can from each opportunity you’re exposed to. Ask questions, draw conclusions, solve problems, and learn all you can so you become the person that people look to for answers.”

We are thrilled to have Holt on Team Odin, and can’t wait to watch his career progress!