Orange County Branch Newsletter
So It Goes…
By Clint Isa, Remi Candaele, Melissa Hilsabeck, Ashlyn Alexander | 2020-2022 Branch/YMF Presidents
With the new fiscal year having begun in October, we felt this month’s President’s Column would be a good forum for our new presidents (Remi Candaele, ASCE OC Branch President; Ashlyn Alexander, ASCE OC YMF President) to introduce themselves and for me and YMF counterpart (Melissa Hilsabeck) to reflect on our respective terms as president of the OC Branch and OC YMF. I hope that the Q&A that follows helps you get to know more about each of us.
QUESTIONS FROM OUR OUTGOING PRESIDENTS TO OUR INCOMING PRESIDENTS
- What field of civil engineering do you practice and why did you choose that field?
REMI: My expertise is in stormwater engineering. That said, while my projects are driven by storm water challenges such as flooding, erosion, or pollution, the scope typically involves many more fields… grading, geotechnical, streets, ADA, electrical, landscape to name a few… I truly enjoy the diversity and the constant learning experience that my job brings in on a daily basis.
My family is from Flanders, Belgium. As a kid, I was fascinated by the drainage canals (or watergangs) of Flanders. It still amazes me that, in the 7th century, monks engineered a gate system to lower the water table in the region and allowed a civilization to establish residency below sea level.
ASHLYN: My field is transportation and I have experience in road & highway design. My projects vary from preliminary design to construction phases that include preparing layout designs, profiles, typical sections, traffic control, ADA details and quantities.
I chose transportation because my internship at CH2M Hill (now Jacobs) exposed me to the importance of advancing our infrastructure so that everyone can get to their destination efficiently and as safely as possible, whether they are biking or driving to work or just taking the train to a football game, like we used to do down at San Diego State. It was also a fun environment to work in and I have been blessed to continue working with great people at Parsons now.
- Tell us about your ASCE career thus far.
REMI: My OC YMF years are certainly ones to remember. We had such a strong, cohesive, and fun group of friends that the sky was the limits. If I am not mistaken, I think we organized over 100 events in 2015. On a personal level, outreach events proved to be the most fulfilling: such as the Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition and the Ronald McDonald House Cooking Night amongst many others. I also loved participating in the Mentorship Program and in the Women in Engineering Panel.
Since then, I have served in various leadership roles at the Branch, Section, and Society level. I still sit on local and Society committees of the Environmental and Water Resources Institutes. I also serve as the Chair for the Society’s Committee on Awards and Scholarships.
ASHLYN: I do wish I participated more in ASCE in my college days, but I moved to Orange County right after college where I really had to start from scratch. I knew I needed to do more than just go to work and go home and through meeting other YMF members at a mentorship program, I was invited to join the Branch Social Committee. From there, I heard about YMF and was invited to a Board meeting and have been going ever since! At my first couple of board meetings, there was a need for a Community Service Chair, so I signed up and just started planning things and additional chairs and committee memberships started falling into place! It was fun to get YMF back into the community such as serving at Ronald McDonald House, serving holiday meals, toy drives and more.
Since then, I have been Internal Activities Co-Chair, Branch Social Committee member and attended amazing conferences such as WRYMC and YMLS. With these conferences, I realized I was developing leadership skills and wanted to apply them by being on the executive board. I was secretary from 2019-2020 and after much consideration/encouragement and prayer, I wanted to be a part of continuing the great legacy of YMF and run for President.
- What made you pursue a position of leadership for ASCE Orange County?
REMI: As several Orange County Branch fellows like to say: get involved with ASCE and you will definitely get your return on investment. I would have to fully agree with that statement. Over the years, the Branch has drastically helped improve my soft skills such as handling conflictual situations, conveying a leadership message from the top down, and proactively listening to stakeholders to name a few. These skills have become incredibly helpful in my career. The OC Branch has had an incredibly positive impact on my personal circle, especially when I think of the solid and reliable friendships I have made over the years.
In short, I want other members of our Branch to live through similar experiences and get THEIR return on investment.
ASHLYN: The best part of YMF is the combination of developing professional and soft skills that can be applied to every part of life while creating relationships that go beyond YMF and into our professional and personal lives! I have been in a variety of leadership roles from the local to regional levels in other organizations, but I love the uniqueness of YMF and I wanted to make sure that I help continue that great culture and expand our outreach to make sure we are serving our members and communities.
- What are some of your primary goals for your presidency?
REMI: I am glad you used the adjective “primary” because there are many goals to support our 20+ committees and institutes. All committees are incredibly proactive. My primary goal is to make myself available to help committees grow organically, and make sure that active members get their return on investment. That said, I would mention two specific goals of mine.
First, we have been looking into avenues to host a few in-person events, ONLY when it makes sense, where safety protocols can be implemented, and always within the framework of Federal, State, and local requirements. In our implementation plan, one featured mean and method includes hybrid events that would allow remote attendees to get a quasi-similar experience to in-person attendees. With the executive board, we are in the process of evaluating the necessary VR equipment to make it happen. Stay tuned.
Second, I mentioned soft skills in response to your previous question. I would like for our Branch to host a couple of workshops on emotional intelligence, crisis management, or career advancement. If you know of any speakers…
ASHLYN: I have 3 primary goals for my presidency as I have been involved for about 4 years now and have observed many things that are great and areas that need improvement. My first goal is to be as safe and inclusive as possible as we navigate through the pandemic. We will have a variety of virtual events, hybrid events and in-person events safely to ensure that we are doing our best to cater to different situations that have stemmed from these times. With that, OC YMF has a reputation of having a lot going on so another goal would be for us to focus on “Quality over Quantity” which would entail us to spread our events throughout the year and prevent as much overlapping of events as possible and not overwhelm our committees, members, and communities with our events. Lastly, I would like our Board to focus on YMF membership retention and reclamation as we typically have the same people come to events, but our roster is technically over 300+ members. We can all be a part of getting more people involved.
- When you have free time, what do you like to do with it?
REMI: Spend time with my family. My wife Jessica and I have two young children, who keep us quite entertained. Luckily, we are well supported by wonderful grandparents and siblings. If I can wake up before the kids do, I will hop on my mountain bike and ride the many local trails of the Santa Ana Mountains. Will I see you out there?
ASHLYN: When it comes to free time, I would consider myself to be a balanced person as in I am down for whatever to get out of the house on the weekends with my roommates and friends; from going to the beach, serving at church, conferences, concerts, nails, movies, museums, trying new restaurants or visiting our families to literally being in my room all day watching my tv shows. Got any suggestions?
QUESTIONS FROM OUR INCOMING PRESIDENTS TO OUR OUTGOING PRESIDENTS
- What was your biggest accomplishment during your presidency?
CLINT: Honestly, just surviving. With that being said, I am proud of having been able to get involved with committees with which my involvement had previously been fairly minimal. It has been inspiring to see the contributions that Kayla Kilgo, Joseph Huynh, and others have continued to put forth through our Community Service Committee, and to see Steven Anderson carry the Government Relations Committee torch onward. Frankly, virtual meetings have made it much easier for me to be more involved than I realistically would have been pre-pandemic (#silverlinings).
MELISSA: The biggest accomplishment this year was our ability to be resilient and persevere. Within OC YMF, we host several flagship programs and events. Our board members have created innovative ways for these programs to thrive in a virtual setting. Each new idea has pushed each program to adapt and provide the same, if not better, value to the members involved. As we transition into a new era of hybrid work and returning to in-person events, the strength we have gained throughout this virtual setting will continue to evolve our programs allowing them to excel at a new level.
With that I’d like to recognize the Mentorship Program, the University Outreach Mentorship Program, and the Pathways Academy for continuing to provide exceptional value to our members and students. In addition, I’d like to recognize two new programs that were kicked-off this year: the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam Review Course for the entire LA Section, which was led by our PE Review Course team, and Women in Construction Week 2021, which was led by the ASCE OC Construction Institute.
- A presidency through the COVID-19 era…what adjustments did you have to make?
CLINT: Mainly, my expectations for myself and my views on risk. In the six months leading up to the beginning of my term, it became obvious that my presidency was going to be atypical, to say the least. Adjusting the image of what I envisioned my presidency would be was necessary for my personal mindset and for the betterment of the Branch. That adjustment enabled me to focus on the proverbial bigger picture, most importantly our eventual return to hosting events in person. Going through the exercise of evaluating that return gave me a new perspective on my personal view on risk and insight on how others evaluate risk.
MELISSA: I think everyone has had to adapt at every corner this year. As a completely volunteer-based organization, we made sure that our members knew that health, family and work always come before ASCE. We saw a significant amount of Zoom fatigue, so we reduced our number of events to allow our members to focus on their priorities. Moving forward into the next fiscal year we are focusing on quality over quantity of events as our members regain their momentum.
- On a personal level, what did your presidency teach you?
CLINT: Being the president of the ASCE Orange County Branch is, in a sense, like being the president of a small company. Not surprisingly, my presidency taught me a great deal about management, particularly the people component of management. It taught me the importance of having a strong, competent group of co-leaders; the benefit of having volunteers willing to put forth effort to do things well while leaving a legacy that makes the lives of their successors easier; the relief that comes from allowing yourself to delegate to others; and the perspective on the many different styles of leadership.
MELISSA: Presidency has taught me to be more mindful: mindful in how members view my approachability, mindful in my listening and communication, and mindful of our resources and overall contribution to ASCE and the profession. There are so many moving parts, especially with a large board, so my challenge was to make sure everyone felt like they had a voice which could be expressed freely and one that is valued within a completely virtual setting.
- We understand that you will remain involved to some level. Can you expand on your future roles and objectives?
CLINT: When I started my term as president, I hoped that the pandemic would allow us to return to in-person events well before we actually did. Because some of the plans I had for my presidency (e.g., organizing events through our Community Service Committee that highlight how civil engineering can impact social equity; establishing a framework and plan for public outreach events) are better suited to in-person settings, my goal is simply to see those plans through. I am also looking forward to getting involved in professional mentorship again.
MELISSA: As I enter my past-presidency, one of the main focuses will be on membership and new member engagement. Membership is always a hot topic society-wide and I have been invited to sit on the Student Transition & Younger Member Retention Sub-Committee. My hope is that I can share the efforts made in Orange County while learning new tools to apply locally. I will also be stepping into the Region 9 Younger Member Group Chair position where I will be a liaison for all the California YMFs to the Region 9 Board of Governors. Lastly, I will continue to serve on the OC Branch Professional Development Committee and assist hosting a few continuing education events throughout this next fiscal year.
- Any words of advice that you would like to leave our members with?
CLINT: ASCE is about many things, but it’s mainly about people. The ones that serve and the ones we serve. There are several great professional organizations available to engineers, but I personally think you would be hard-pressed to find one that serves the civil engineering community as well as ASCE. So, if you aren’t involved, I really encourage you to do so and trust that you will find, as I did, that you will get more out of ASCE than you put in.
MELISSA: Dive in. If you have an idea for a new event or program, or thoughts on how we can improve, I encourage you to dive in. If there is a committee that you’re remotely interested in, I encourage you to attend a few meetings and actively share your thoughts. ASCE OC YMF is proud to be diversely represented by our members and the disciplines they represent. This is the core aspect to advancing the status quo and we would like it to include you!
About the Authors
Clint Isaac Isa, P.E., is a Principal Engineer at Diaz Yourman & Associates and the 2021-2022 Past-President of ASCE Orange County Branch. Clint can be contacted at [email protected].
Remi Candaele, P.E., M.S., QSD/QSP, M.ASCE, is a Senior Project Manager at Huitt-Zollars, Inc. and the 2021-2022 President of ASCE Orange County Branch. Remi can be contacted at [email protected].
Melissa Hilsabeck, E.I.T., is a Capital Projects Coordinator-II at Port of Long Beach and the 2021-2022 Past-President of ASCE Orange County Younger Member Forum. Melissa can be contacted at [email protected].
Ashlyn Alexander, E.I.T., is a Road & Highway Engineer at Parsons Corporation Irvine and the 2021-2022 President of ASCE Orange County Younger Member Forum. Ashlyn can be contacted at [email protected].