Launch Slideshow

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View from the top

View from the top

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Road runner

Nabi Fakroddin can easily be considered a veteran of the profession.

The Pakistan native's first job after earning his civil engineering degree in 1957 was designing and building highways and bridges for the Illinois DOT. Later, he spent 19 years as engineer and transportation director for Kane County. Employed by engineering consulting firm HNTB since retiring from the public sector in 2007, he's now senior project manager for the Illinois Tollway Project where he is part of the team that reviews and approves bridge design plans for the $6.3 billion Congested Relief Program initiative.

Though he has few regrets in his career, Fakroddin wishes he'd worked harder to persuade Kane County officials to implement tax-free bonds as a fundraising measure.Still, he's happy with the progress he made, spearheading such initiatives as expanding the county's major arterials from two to four lanes.

"My chosen profession gives me satisfaction, knowing I am playing a small but important role in making sure that public safety is not compromised," he says.

Experience has taught him to refrain from political rhetoric, operate efficiently, and attend professional meetings to keep up with trends, all of which he recommends to those just beginning their careers.

Team player

Oakland (Calif.) Director of Public Works Raul Godinez didn't enter the profession until 1990, making him one of the youngest public works officials, career-wise, chosen this year by the American Public Works Association (APWA).

When he began his career, California was undertaking cutting-edge projects, including Los Angeles' first microtunneling initiative in 1994 — a trenchless, underground method of fully automated smalldiameter (42-inch) tunneling done via remote control from the surface. At the time, only two mechanized tunneling machines existed in the world. He was also involved in the city's first rigid pipe slip-lining project, completed in 1993, which used rigid fiberglass motor reinforced pipe to slip into the wet sewer and repair the lining pipe.

Godinez was, to say the least, enthralled by the challenges.

Under his management Oakland became the third California city to be accredited by the APWA, in 2006. However, Godinez credits his achievements — like implementing seven strategic management initiatives including customer service and satisfaction and safety-first, now the foundation of the department's focus — to his 700 employees. He describes them as "people who feel empowered to take risks and achieve things not done before," and says that his accomplishments are usually team efforts.

A man of consistency, Godinez wouldn't change anything if given the opportunity. "I'd do the same thing again," he says. "This has been a very rewarding career."

To younger generations he offers several pieces of advice. "Get as well-rounded a set of skills that you can," he says. "That'll help you in the later years. Move around within an organization, because it's your experience that sets you apart."