Thomas E. Gessner
Never one to pass up opportunities
College Station, Texas
Promoting engineers as logical problem solvers rather than isolated mathematicians, Thomas Gessner aims to draw imaginative young people to the industry. "[Our firm] looks for creativity; we foster it and value it," Gessner says. "That's where American engineering has its advantage over international counterparts." Offering internships to engineering students from Texas A&M University is a key company strategy. "We tell them upfront that it's a trade: We get cheap labor out of them, and we try to teach them and prepare them for the work force," Gessner says. "If they shine, we try to keep them in our work force." Gessner holds weekly quizzes to push the interns to learn from their office experiences. Staff engineers submit practical questions, and the entire team participates in the light-hearted effort of trying to stump the interns. The company will underwrite tuition and other college costs for stellar candidates if they agree to work for Gessner after graduation. "I've tried to work hard and been opportunistic," Gessner says. "Doors open up from time to time, and you can't be afraid to walk through them."
Long days and hard work pay off
Spire Consulting Group
Anthony Gonzales established a forensic consulting firm that develops, monitors and analyzes effective construction processes and project control systems for owners, contractors and subcontractors in numerous construction and engineering sectors. "Integrity, a strong work ethic and passion for the industry has guided me throughout my career," says Gonzales, who grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Gonzales credits much of his career's direction to supportive mentors—professors at the University of Texas and colleagues in the work force—coupled with a thirst for knowledge and a desire to be on a team of equally passionate and dedicated employees. Active involvement in professional associations and in the Entrepreneurs' Organization helps Gonzales understand how to more effectively operate a business. He participated in a home building project with Habit for Humanity and taught youngsters at the Austin Children's Shelter about engineering concepts, which he says was one of his most rewarding experiences in 2011.
Richard J. Harris
Never afraid of hard work
38, Vice President
McInnis Brothers Construction
Richard Harris helped McInnis Brothers improve its profitability by diversifying and positioning the firm to work smarter and leaner. He says young professionals play an important role in that effort. "We have young people and seasoned people, and we blend the two together to get the best of both worlds," he says. While at McInnis, Harris has managed more than 50 building projects in sectors such as refining, manufacturing, corrections, religious, retail, hospitality, entertainment, commercial office and government. He also played a critical role in expanding the firm into the Arizona and California markets, tackling profitable projects such as prisons. Harris also has been instrumental in implementing a company management-training program that ensures that employees receive the education they need for professional success. Harris served on the board of the Associated General Contractors of America's Shreveport chapter for the past five years, most recently as president. He also is an ambassador of Ark La Tex, a nonprofit organization dedicated to good works; a graduate of the Greater Shreveport Leadership program; and a supporter of Highland Haven, a charitable program of Volunteers of America and the United Way.