Promoted to SEH regional leader in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, veteran airport engineer Benita Crow shares thoughts about her role, advice to aspiring young leaders, the future of A/E consulting, a few personal tidbits and much more.
What does this promotion mean to you/SEH/our clients?
It’s exciting! I feel so much positive energy and momentum throughout SEH. Looking around – not only do you see the great work we are doing for our clients, but you see teams of individuals from different backgrounds working together to find new and innovative ways to provide SEH services. Or, you see other teams working together on initiatives that are not project-based but geared toward providing opportunities for the learning, development and growth of our staff.
Our experience and expertise, together with our motivation to continue to improve the way we do our jobs, makes me extremely excited about what we can do for our clients.
What are some things you are looking forward to as you take on this new role?
I am most looking forward to meeting more of the talented individuals across all of our Central Region offices in Minnesota Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska, learning about their clients and projects and gaining a better understanding of some of the challenges they face. I also look forward to taking our individual experiences and using them to collaboratively work together improving and growing the services SEH provides and expanding our geographical reach.
How will you use your background in the aviation to benefit our clients?
The benefit of working in aviation for 21 years is the diversity of the clients and the variety of the projects I’ve been a part of. I've worked for small communities with grass runways to large cities with commercial service airports. The focus is on understanding the needs of a community then translating that into projects that improve safety, restore infrastructure, expand resources and provide economic growth.
The variety of projects I’ve worked on have allowed me to partner with many different practices. Airport projects can involve architecture and structural engineering, environmental studies, utility design, stormwater management, civil engineering and fueling systems, survey and construction services – the list goes on. The aviation team here at SEH is fortunate to have opportunities to work hand-in-hand with many of our practices.
What advice would you give to young people who aspire to a leadership position like yours?
Focus on people. As I’ve moved from a technical position into leadership roles, I’ve found that the most important thing is the people around you. Take the time to encourage, mentor, listen, problem solve, help them with their challenges and celebrate their wins.
What would you say to your 10-year-old self?
My advice to young people starting their careers is to never sell yourself short. At times in my career, I have looked at others and thought that they would be better suited for a new role or promotion over me. It was easy to believe someone could do the job better than I could. What I have learned is to trust myself and take those chances. We don’t get good at our next job while we are doing our current job. Expect and embrace the growing pains, and learn from those experiences.
What do you see as the future for A/E consultant and client relationships?
I hope the future of the consultant/client relationship can stay somewhat rooted in the past. We’ve seen technology and the use of text messaging and other applications replace person-to-person communication. While I really value these types of communications in light of coronavirus concerns, I still value the importance of picking up the phone and talking to someone. I also eagerly await when we can have lunch or schedule an in-person meeting again. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with some clients for all of my 20+ years and those relationships are equally as important as the work that we do.
Can you explain the importance of investing in your staff?
You can’t be a leader if people don’t follow. The leaders in my career that I most wanted to follow were those who were actively engaged in my own career development. Success for them was defined in part by my success. As a leader, you want to ensure that you advocate for your staff and play an active role in providing opportunities for their own learning and development. I want to ensure the clients we serve are clients for life; this means always making sure we have staff who are prepared for the next step.
If you didn’t get into the consulting business, what would you be doing for work today?
I’ve always been interested in the medical field. I was the kid who knew the names of all the bones in the body when I was in seventh grade. I was also the kid (and adult) who was a little injury prone, so going through the rigors of healing made me interested in how the body recovers and resumes normal activities. If I wasn’t an engineer, I think I would have enjoyed being a physical therapist and having the opportunity to help people overcome physical and mental challenges.
How do you prioritize work demands with family and personal life?
This is probably one of the biggest challenges for all of us in the consulting business, especially in an environment that has made it increasingly easier to stay connected via technology. I don’t do as well as I should with regard to disconnecting, but one small tactic I do use is leaving my phone behind. If I want to do some things outside, I purposely leave my phone in the house. If I am visiting family, I leave the phone in the car. It helps to eliminate the temptation to take a sneak peek at emails.
What do you like to do for fun?
I have loved sports for as long as I remember, and they have always been a part of my life. As I’ve gotten older, it has become a little harder to be an active participant, but I still take time to shoot a few baskets, toss a ball around or play some golf. I also love watching sports. I am a Minnesota Vikings season ticket holder and “bleed purple,” as they say. Though, I also enjoy the other professional sports teams and our Golden Gophers. Each year, a group of friends and I follow the Vikings to a visitor’s stadium and experience a new city. It’s a fun way to find a reason to travel to a place that may not be a normal or popular destination.
Anything interesting about yourself?
I am a big advocate for animal rescue. My two dogs are from rescue organizations, and I have fostered many dogs over the years providing care for them until they are adopted into their forever homes. I also encourage anyone who is interested in getting a pet to consider a rescue organization. There are so many wonderful pets available for adoption, and so many that deserve to have a loving and safe environment. I feel so much happiness when I see a neglected or abandoned animal thrive in a new environment of love and attention. Please consider pet adoption!