Earnie Eng

Relentless Ally

Your IT Guide

If you’re having technology problems in Portland, Oregon, there is only one person to call: Earnie Eng, developer and IT regional specialist. Earnie is an expert in technology, but he also prides himself on being an expert in people. In everything he does, Earnie looks to put people first – prioritizing the people behind the machines, rather than the machines themselves.

Throughout his more than 22-year career with Balfour Beatty, Earnie has worked tirelessly to improve efficiency, leverage technology to its full potential and ensure that he is doing all he can to help his teammates achieve success.

From Intern to Integral

IT was always a natural fit for Earnie; after his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong in the 1970s, his mother became a software developer who owned her own company. Earnie grew up surrounded by technology, experiencing the latest and greatest new tech throughout the 1980s.

As he grew up though, Earnie found himself less interested in the mechanics of technology and more interested in the people who were using it. He went on to study business with an IT focus and began his career as an intern with Howard S. Wright, a Balfour Beatty company (HSW), during his last year of college.

During his internship, Earnie was tasked with developing software for HSW. Project teams were struggling to provide the manpower needed to hold in-person trainings on jobsites, so Earnie worked with an external developer to create a platform to host online trainings.

“From day one, I came in with ideas and suggestions on how to improve and redesign what the team had started on,” Earnie says. “Anyone could have found the errors in the code, but my education in business helped me understand the user’s perspective. I recognized that it was primarily a business problem and needed a business technology solution.”

That people-first mentality carried him through his internship. Earnie often went above and beyond his job responsibilities, regularly helping others in the office with everything from fixing printers to improving marketing databases.

Breaking Through Burnout

When HSW was acquired by Balfour Beatty, Earnie transitioned from a software developer into his current role of IT regional specialist. When he stepped into this role, Earnie knew he wanted to do things differently; with that thought in mind, he developed a catch phrase: “I’m not just any IT guy—I’m your IT guide.”

“I don’t simply want to fix things that are broken, I want to show people how to use our technology to serve their needs,” Earnie explains. “That has become my mission and the question I ask anyone who comes to me for help— ‘how can I help you succeed?’”

Earnie is the first to say that he is a people-pleaser by nature; this tendency to put others before himself early in his career grew him into the helpful, accommodating professional he is today – but it also led him down a path toward burnout.

“I always bent over backwards to make sure everyone around me was happy,” Earnie says. “That would burn anyone out after a while.”

As he has progressed in his career, Earnie has learned the importance of setting boundaries and communicating what he can handle. While his people-pleasing nature was once a negative that ultimately overwhelmed him, Earnie has turned people-pleasing into a positive – allowing him to be an empathetic leader and partner to his teammates.

“While exclusively people-pleasing was ultimately detrimental, the skills I learned during that time were invaluable,” Earnie says. “Over time, I’ve learned to be a better listener, I’m a better team player and I’ve learned how to prioritize. Now, rather than sacrificing quality in trying to improve everything, I’m more focused on making what I’m working on successful.”

Thinking Inside the Box

A major aspect of success for Earnie is anticipating needs and alleviating headaches for those in the field. Several years ago, Earnie recognized frustration between his technology teammates and those in the field when setting up jobsite trailers. The process of getting internet set up on a jobsite was complicated; superintendents were often not equipped to set up the network, but sending an IT teammate to every jobsite was costly and time-consuming.

Earnie, along with Steve VanHuss, senior regional technology specialist in Seattle, developed an idea: what if they could provide project teams with everything they needed, pre-wired, so all they had to do was plug it in?

The first “IT Job in a Box,” as they call it, was a simple file box and a piece of plywood with all the elements screwed in, and a hole cut on the side to plug in an AC adapter. Since the first prototype, Earnie and Steve have continued to improve upon the design. As new technology emerges and wireless connectivity improves, so does the IT Job in a Box; the duo have evolved the design of the box itself to ensure that it can withstand rugged jobsite conditions as well as added features such as an external strip of ports to connect a computer to the device directly and LED lights that indicate the box’s status.

“We’ve iterated quite a bit since the first box, based on feedback we’ve received from the field and our own experience with troubleshooting and maintenance,” Earnie says. “Ultimately, we’re very proud to have created something that makes life for those in the field a bit easier.”

Our use of the current version of the IT Job in a Box has expanded since Earnie and Steve created it, now being used on several jobsites in the Northwest and at select jobsites in Florida. 

The Ultimate Team Player

Construction is truly a team sport – it takes every member of our team to ensure a project is successful. In his time with the business, Earnie has proved that he is the ultimate team player, solidifying himself not just as a subject matter expert on technology but also as an ally to every one of his teammates. He is a true servant leader; even without being asked, Earnie takes the initiative to lead his teammates and the company behind the scenes.

Though his role has evolved over the years, Earnie has been unwavering in his priority of putting people first every step of the way. His work has led to increased efficiency for his teammates while his dedication to the people behind the machines has built a culture of trust and collaboration.