A Day in The Life of a McGill Professional Engineer

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) has declared August 3rd Professional Engineers (PE) Day — an occasion to celebrate licensure and the profession with PEs around the world. Our engineers at McGill along with engineers from all across the United States have vowed to safeguard the public’s health, safety, and welfare.


To become licensed, engineers must complete a four-year college degree, work for at least four years under the supervision of a professional engineer, pass two rigorous competency exams, and obtain a license from their state’s licensing board. Then, PEs must consistently maintain and enhance their skills throughout their careers in order to retain their licenses.

The path to becoming a PE is not an easy one, and here at McGill, we are extremely proud of our 43 PEs for their unwavering dedication to shaping communities and improving lives throughout the Southeast.


Joel whitford 2019
Joel Whitford, PE

Joel Whitford, McGill Senior Project Manager, is a licensed PE in both North Carolina and Virginia, and he has over 24 years of experience for both public and private clients. He has been with McGill for 17 years, where he specializes in water and sewer infrastructure improvements, treatment plants, pump stations, tanks, line replacements, and expansions. We sat down with Joel to learn more about what his typical day as a PE at McGill looks like.

How do you start your day?

“Most days I come directly into the office and start off by responding to important emails and then I will go through my list of critical tasks for the day. Then, I will walk around the office and check in with the folks on the water / wastewater team. I like to see how they are doing and talk with them about the status of their projects and see if they want to spend time in a ‘brain storming’ session.”

What keeps you energized throughout the day?

“Aside from my desire to start taking more walks in the morning and throughout the day, what I am currently doing to stay energized each day is drinking a lot of water all day long as well as black coffee. I will snack on a protein bar in the middle of the day and save any large meals for when the workday is over. For me personally, that helps me to stay sharp and not get sluggish in the afternoon.”

What is the typical breakdown of your daily workload?

“I would say that direct project work is about 40%, client communication whether by phone, in meetings, or following up on emails would be 20%, working with staff on project work or mentoring would be about 30%, and then managing projects is about 10%. But all of these tasks fall under the category of project management.”

How do you prioritize your daily workload?

“Workload priorities are something that change day-to-day. There is no exact recipe for it, but it comes down to what is most important for that specific day. Besides the daily tasks, there may be a client that needs immediate assistance, quickly needed tasks, or the need to assist other people in the water / wastewater practice area with a project. So, as we like to say, it depends.”

What motivates you in your work?

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“I enjoy project challenges and helping clients with big picture solutions. I also enjoy working with project staff to provide guidance and direction.”

What makes McGill’s Hickory office a fun environment to work in every day?

“I have been at McGill for 17 years and it’s a great mix of people. Half of us have been here long term and the other half are newer people who have fit right in, so it’s just the best combination. Everybody brings their own unique interests and backgrounds, and we work really well together as teams, and we have fun together when we have time — we don’t just go into our offices and close our doors.”

What tips do you have for putting your work down after hours?

“I try really hard to keep my work at the office. If I have something going on, I will work late and that way I won’t have to deal with it in the evenings. I don’t like to mix work and home life, so unless something urgent comes up, I like to spend my time out of the office dedicated to family time, working on home projects, and if possible, getting out to play some disc golf.”

When did you know you wanted to get your PE?

“Ever since I was in college, I knew I wanted to get my PE. My professors always spoke very highly of getting a PE while I was in the civil / environmental program. Plus, I shadowed at a few engineering firms during college where I worked directly with PEs.”

How did you get your passion for water / wastewater?

“I took a hydraulics class in civil engineering and doing the lab was very cool and sparked my interest in water / wastewater.”

What would you tell people who are considering getting their PE?

“Get your PE — you definitely need to prioritize getting your PE if you are going to be in consulting engineering.”

What is your favorite part about being a PE at McGill?

“I previously worked for a large national firm where it was all about the bottom line. There is a very different culture at McGill. Here, we focus on clients and relationships, and our employees are truly treated like they matter and are valuable members of the team. It makes coming into work every day and working as a professional engineer a pleasure.”


Happy Professional Engineers Day from all of us at McGill!

To learn more about what our exceptionally skilled PEs are up to and how we can be of service to you and your community, click here.

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