Working through the ranks
Harland Mims’s start as an intern grooms him for career success as a project engineer
Internships can be vital to starting successful careers in the construction and engineering industry, enabling students to gain hands-on experience in the field. At least, that’s the case for Harland Mims, construction engineer on the I-35 Lowest Stemmons project.
The Texas Tech University alumnus began his journey at Balfour Beatty as a quality control intern on the $798 million Dallas Horseshoe project in 2014, when a mentor and mutual friend recommended the opportunity. As a student who at the time was more interested in mechanical engineering, Harland was unaware that he would soon find his calling in civils construction and engineering.
“Originally, I thought I wanted to become a mechanical engineer in the machinery industry,” Harland states. “But when my mentor/friend opened up my mind about construction engineering during my internship and the various disciplines involved in highway construction, I knew I wanted to explore the civils route.”
As a quality control (QC) intern the Dallas Horseshoe project, Harland assisted with examining the strength of concrete for mass placement to ensure it met heavy highway specification requirements.
With this change to his professional discipline, Harland had much to learn about highway construction. While he drove around the jobsite to ensure construction activities met project quality standards, he obtained an up-close and personal experience learning the steps to design, plan, construct and manage a heavy highway project.
Initially, Harland struggled with common industry challenges such as navigating project schedule changes, adjusting to long hours and managing unexpected tasks, but he quickly adapted by mastering time management skills that enabled him to better balance jobsite responsibilities and expectations.
“There was a lot to learn, but after seeing the process and results of bridges being built and roads being paved, I fell in love with my job and civils construction overall.”
After graduating with a degree in construction engineering management in 2016, Harland relocated to Austin to officially begin his career at Balfour Beatty working on the US 183 South project as a surveyor. In this role, he was responsible for measuring the spatial relationships and boundaries of land to prepare for construction. A little over a year later, Harland returned to his native city of Dallas to work on the $666 million Southern Gateway project as a drainage field engineer.
For Harland, every project came with new and greater experiences that would continue to mold his career, including the team-oriented culture at Balfour Beatty that pushes him to excel every day.
Harland credits many of his lessons learned at Balfour Beatty to previous managers and unofficial mentors like Terry Oliver, QC manager on the US 183 project, and Dan Young, director of construction on the Southern Gateway project. Through their leadership and guidance, Harland was afforded rewarding opportunities to step outside of his comfort zone and learn how to handle challenging project priorities.
Flash forward about four and half years later, and Harland is currently the lead project engineer for all disciplines on the $75 million Lowest Stemmons project in Dallas. In this integral role, he monitors the cost, budget and schedule for all project disciplines, including wall structures, drainage and utilities. He is also responsible for communicating daily activities, schedule changes, roadblocks and solutions with the project team, trade partners and clients.
Harland describes his experience working with Balfour Beatty as working with family, stating that “although there are going to be challenges, everyone is pushing each other to be great.”
Much like the mentors and former managers who influenced his career, Harland would enjoy the opportunity to inspire someone who is considering a career in civils construction.
A former member of the National Society of Black Engineers, Harland is an advocate for diversity, equality and inclusion in the construction industry, encouraging more minorities, including African Americans and women, to pursue careers in engineering.
“I am proud to work for a company that pushes to diversify the industry,” Harland states. “It would be nice to see more minorities in leadership roles like forepersons, supervisors or lead engineers like myself, and I hope Balfour Beatty continues to work towards these efforts.”
Harland identifies the keys to successfully navigating his career path as hard work, time management and commitment to excellence on the job. His goal is to eventually become a project/construction manager, and with his work ethic and the valuable experience he continues to gain, there is no doubt he is well on his way!