Chronicles of an engineer


    As many of you may already know, I’m no fan of management books. I do like fiction, though, especially when it involves engineers and the engineering business – hence my review of Stefan Jaeger’s “The Jackhammer Elegies” in The Zweig Letter a few months back. I also like biographies. I want to share with you this month a short autobiography I recently read because it involves an iconic figure in the engineering business.

    The book, “Achieving Zero, My Life and Love of Consulting Engineering,” was authored by David Evans, P.E., PLS, F.ASCE, founder and chairman emeritus of David Evans Enterprises Inc., the holding company for the Portland, Ore.-based 700-plus-person, 25-office engineering firm, David Evans and Associates (DEA). I have known David since the early 1980s when we were involved in a professional organization together. I liked him from the start because he is down-to-earth and has a real sense of humor, something we need more of in the engineering world. But the first time I visited his Portland headquarters office – and saw a fleet of classic and special interest vehicles in the company parking deck – I knew we were kindred spirits.

    Although he doesn’t mention it in his 147-page, quick-read autobiography, Evans told me that he could either buy a fleet of Tauruses or Honda Accords, but instead opted for something more interesting – old T-Birds and Studebaker Avantis, among others. I assume those are long gone today, however, as the experiment wasn’t turning out too well in terms of providing reliable transportation. I noticed several cars on ramps being worked on during that visit more than 20 years ago!

    Back to the book: Evans chronicles his entire career as an engineer, from his first job right out of school for Pacific Gas and Electric and then several others, up to the point of his starting DEA in 1976 (the year I graduated high school). He then traces the entire development of the multi-discipline engineering and planning firm from its genesis as a land development firm into the highly diversified company it has become today. Along the way, Evans tells some funny stories, shares his secrets for success, and gives the reader insight into how all of his many accomplishments came about.

    Recognition of the importance of great people and how to build and keep a team together are for me the highlights of this little – but significant – book. Anyone in our business now or who is thinking about starting a firm could benefit from the hour or two it takes to read Evan’s story. I know I did! The book is available on Amazon in both print and electronic form. Check it out!

    Meanwhile, we have another great issue of CE News here for you to read. There are all kinds of interesting stuff in the pages that follow. Enjoy our March issue – and pass it around to your friends and colleagues. As always, we welcome your feedback. Email me at at any time.

    Read on!

    Mark C. Zweig