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February 21, 2022

Engineer Spotlight: TJ Bates

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Tell me about yourself, your schooling, career path.
I went to college at Michigan Tech and received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in structural engineering. Starting out, I was a construction engineer in the heavy oil and gas industries for another company in Green Bay, Wis. I had an opportunity to move to the structural engineering group in Sheboygan and have been at Donohue since 2014. In 2016, I was looking to move back to Michigan to be closer to family and helped Donohue open a new office in Grand Rapids, where I have been located ever since. Since moving here, I am focused on project management and business development along with structural engineering.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
My dad was an engineer and eventually became a contractor. My great uncle was a structural engineer, so I was very intrigued from a young age. Math and problem solving have always been very interesting to me so this field seemed like the best choice for me.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love the challenges and the unpredictable nature of the day-to-day work. You could be doing something this week and next week it’s completely different, which is very exciting.

Tell me about the most challenging project you were involved with and what you did to fix it.
I was a design engineer doing an evaluation to a drinking water reservoir that needed repair. Partway through the project, the project manager (PM) left the company. We didn’t have anyone with immediate availability who could step up and fill in that PM role, so everyone looked to me to figure out how we were going to proceed. Fortunately, the project was right in my wheelhouse and I just reminded myself to trust instinct and my knowledge base. When I needed help, the network of Donohue employees were always right there to bounce ideas off of and help complete the project.

Where were you in life 5 years ago? 10 years ago? What do you wish you knew back then?
Ten years ago, I was working in Green Bay at a job I didn’t love and no plans to leave Wisconsin. I think you have to accept that you can’t control all aspects of your life. No matter how hard you try to set plans, something will always change, so be adaptable.

What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Seek out ways to engage in both your firm and your professional networks. Also, be open to opportunities that are presented to you.

What do you do for fun?
I coach an AYSO soccer team for five-year-olds. They bring unbridled love of everything and tons of energy. They are in that stage of life where they’re very carefree. It’s a good reminder to not take your 9-5 so seriously.

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