Last month, we sat down with Alejandra Flores, principal of Civilitude, as she commemorated her two-year work anniversary with the firm. Alejandra reflected on her time in the civil engineering industry and her experiences rising up as a leader within the organization.
What specific challenges have you faced in your role as a leader in the civil engineering field, and how have you overcome them?
Being a young woman in this industry is an incredible challenge. Feeling like you don’t have enough experience compared to others can make it hard to feel like a leader. However, Civilitude has so many folks with diverse knowledge backgrounds that you are always able to lean on someone else that may know more about a certain topic. Learning how to delegate has also been hugely beneficial in my role.
Can you share a significant project or accomplishment that you’re particularly proud of during your time as a leader in this firm? What made it memorable or impactful?
One project, Seabrook Square, recently received permit approval to begin construction. I am incredibly proud to have worked on this project not only because of the funding on the line, but because of how many stakeholders were involved. Working with Capital A Housing for this 100% affordable development in partnership with the National Housing Partnership Foundation (NHFP) with a permanent supportive housing component through Integral Care was incredibly rewarding, and we are all super thrilled to see this project come to fruition.
In your opinion, what are the key qualities or skills that make an effective leader in the civil engineering industry? How have you developed and applied these qualities in your role?
I think there are three main qualities that make you an effective leader.
Positive Attitude. If something doesn’t happen according to plan, you are better able to adapt and come up with a Plan B with a positive attitude. The positivity also trickles downward. If you are a confident leader, that will show through to the rest of your team.
Knowing your own limitations. You will never know everything, and that is okay! You become more valuable to your team when you know when to ask for help.
Be willing to go the extra mile. Be curious about learning new things and be willing to help others, even if it is outside of your scope of work.
What strategies do you employ to foster a collaborative and inclusive work environment within your team?
Make sure you take the time to understand how different folks work within your team. For example, I have a more extroverted personality, but not everybody is that way. So as a leader, pay close attention to people’s personalities and work styles so you can facilitate conversations as needed.
How do you balance the need for innovation and creativity with the practical considerations and constraints that come with civil engineering projects?
Don’t try to be a one-man shop. It really all comes down to collaboration. There are things that as a civil engineer that I may not really consider while working on a project, but there are things that an urban planner or architect may find important and change to make a project better. This is true internally as well. We are really lucky that being a part of HEXAH, we have folks from Capital A Housing and Urbinden that have different areas of expertise that we can rely on when we need help.
As a leader, what do you see as the greatest opportunities and challenges for the civil engineering industry in the coming years?
The greatest challenge I see right now is the massive growth Austin is experiencing. Austin is becoming a big city, but it is known and loved for its small town feel. There is a hugely unique opportunity to shape the future of development in this city. Will Austin be a pedestrian-friendly city, walkable and bike-able? Or will it be even more car-dependent? All of these outcomes are highly influenced by engineering decisions. It’s incredibly exciting to be involved in such explosive growth and is driving up the demand for civil engineering work.