Cultivating a Powerful Compassion for Humanity
If you were to ask Brendan McGrath what overarching theme resonates with how he lives and builds, the word “humility” would immediately come to mind. The gratitude that comes from grounding oneself to motivate others has given him the powerful opportunity to serve as a dedicated coach and leader to teammates who not only build bridges in the U.S., but also across the world.
At Balfour Beatty, Brendan works as a bridge general superintendent and engineer on some of Austin’s most complex infrastructure projects. He was recently a part of the joint venture team that successfully constructed 38 new bridges on the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority’s US 183 South project, and now he’s working to deliver another 30 bridges on the design-build Oak Hill Parkway project on behalf of the Texas Department of Transportation.
You can say Brendan’s forte is constructing dynamic bridge and highway solutions for one of the most congested states in the nation, but by nature, he feels it’s as equally important to lend his expertise to build bridges in countries where access to basic goods and services such as markets, schools, healthcare and education are limited. It’s through Balfour Beatty’s partnership with Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) where Brendan can leverage his construction capabilities and humble personality to motivate and lead teams in delivering life-changing bridge access in communities such as Rwanda.
Each year, Balfour Beatty selects a diverse and highly skilled team from across the company’s Buildings, Civils and Investments business lines to participate in the B2P program. These individuals travel thousands of miles to plan, coordinate and execute footbridge builds in challenging terrains and climates to provide safe access for local members of the community to travel across what was once impassable waterways.
“It’s something that we take for granted in America, because we have great access,” Brendan states. “There are people in areas who lack vital infrastructure like clean drinking water and safe access. That’s one reason I like to give back and pay it forward.”
Prior to joining Balfour Beatty, Brendan worked on project teams that delivered bridges, airports and mining refineries all over the world. He credits his experience building across 15 U.S. states and in areas aboard such as Mexico, Canada, Australia and Europe for preparing him to mentor teammates regarding best practices in building footbridges in foreign countries.
In 2019, Balfour Beatty sent 20 team members who traveled 9,000 miles to deliver suspended and suspension footbridges in two Rwandan villages. This was Brendan’s first B2P stint which seemed all too familiar from his previous career experiences that required extended travel and 15-to-18-hour workdays away from the comforts of home as well as family and friends.
“Your work team becomes your family, and you experience the highs and lows together,” Brendan recalls. “When building in new geographies, you learn to plan for the unknown and navigate unexpected variables. I enjoy sharing my experiences and equipping others with the training and support they need to achieve their mission.”
Often, that achievement is far more meaningful than B2P team members could ever have envisioned. As part of the 2019 B2P team, Brendan had the opportunity to train a Balfour Beatty teammate on safe and proper power tool operation for the first time during the delivery of a suspended cable pedestrian bridge. In four days, the teammate was executing prefabrication activities like an experienced foreperson.
In 2022, Brendan serves in an advisory role for the B2P Balfour Beatty team that is headed to Rwanda to build the Matyazo Suspended Bridge, which will provide safe, year-round access to its more than 3,800 residents. As a coach he openly shares his experiences and prepares the team through team building exercises that review safety, quality and logistics.
As a Balfour Beatty teammate, Brendan strives to engrain the company’s people-first culture in everything he does. Collaborating relentlessly, talking positively and encouraging constantly are all behaviors that align with his life’s mantra of practicing humility.
In his eyes, it’s important to encourage others to participate in ongoing collaboration—especially when delivering construction projects with multiple entities and in different countries. In conjunction, his positivity motivates teammates to deliver their best work.
“It’s always my goal to encourage teammates to participate in constant, open and transparent conversations so we can efficiently mitigate safety risks, work seamlessly with our team and partners and reach production milestones entrusted in us. To me, it just continuous communication and positive support that sets all of us up for success,” Brendan states.
Grounded in the value of humility, Brendan’s servant leadership inspires his teammates to build vital infrastructure across the world. A Relentless Ally to his teammates, partners and the communities in which he lives and builds, Brendan is a testament to the power of compassion bringing humanity together for the greater good.