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Building Bridges and Connections: Relationships Bring Experienced Engineer to Ulteig and Building Connections Will Keep Her Here

August 5, 2021

Whether it’s a railroad bridge or a bridge that connects one community with another, there’s just something about bridges that fuels one of the newest additions to Ulteig’s Transportation team, Vanessa Victor. Victor joined Ulteig as a Lead Civil Engineer three months ago as a remote team member out of South Dakota. Prior to joining Ulteig, Victor worked as Project Engineer for South Dakota-based firms for more than ten years and as a Senior Designer at Union Pacific Railroad for just over a year.

“I am excited to be working at Ulteig. The company is at the forefront of the biggest growth sectors, including infrastructure and energy,” explained Victor. “I look forward to applying my engineering expertise in bridges and using out-of-the-box thinking to help Ulteig continue to grow, and to help our clients continue to achieve their goals.”

Victor learned early on that there is always a better way to do things to help to achieve a client’s goals. Her depth of engineering expertise in bridges helps her consistently identify that right solution — time and time again.

For example, a client was looking to restore a beautiful historical bridge. Everyone else said the only option was to tear it down. “It was a rather long and tedious process, but after listening to the client’s needs and long-term goals, I was able to combine engineering ingenuity and applications with creative thinking to identify a solution,” explained Victor. “We were able to save that historical landmark. My experience has taught me that there is always a way. You just need to be patient, apply what you know and then work through the possible solutions.”

A Focus on Bridges

Victor identified her specific engineering passion – designing bridges for vehicles and trains – with the help and support of her mentor while focusing on bridges early on in her career. “I was always a very good generalist, but as an engineer, I believe you need to find what drives you.  How can I leave a lasting impression? My mentor was instrumental in helping me do just that with structures,” added Victor. “After my very first bridge project, I was hooked. I realized that bridges are what make me tick. They have become my engineering driver.”

“Through bridge inspections, I found that I also enjoyed identifying the real-life implications of design and maintenance. This includes the parts that were malfunctioning and how each specific part was impacting everything else,” explained Victor. “Oftentimes, many significant issues could have been prevented and thousands of dollars could have been saved with some earlier minimal fix or maintenance. As an engineer, I can then take that learning and apply it to the next project.”

“I also love the fact that something so functional can also be beautiful,” Victor added.

Although there are not many complex or beautiful bridges in South Dakota – there are only a handful of arch bridges in the entire state — Victor is currently working on two of them and couldn’t be happier to be doing so.

Born to be an Engineer

Coming from a long bloodline of engineers, Victor is a third-generation civil engineer. Her grandfather was a civil engineer focusing on environmental work and her father was a civil engineer who worked on a more diverse range of projects.

“I was the only grandchild who was blessed with that same engineering drive,” noted Victor.

Every aptitude test that Victor took during high school indicated she was destined to follow in her family’s footsteps “The results — every time — told me that I should be an engineer,” said Victor. “The ironic part was that my dad actually told me to not be an engineer due to the nature of the business. Engineering can be demanding and time-consuming if you don’t have the right balance. But if you love what you do and are literally destined to do the work, none of that really matters.”

As an undergraduate at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Victor learned early on how much engineering is regionalized as the primary emphasis for lateral loading was on wind, at the time she attended. At Portland State University, where Victor earned her master’s degree, the primary focus for lateral loads was due to seismic activity due to its proximity to the West Coast and earthquake country.

“When I went to graduate school, I experienced the effects of localized engineering. None of my engineering friends knew anything about wind design,” Victor explained. “All they knew was seismic. I feel fortunate to have a multi-faceted background in multiple engineering disciplines. I also am glad that I waited to obtain my master’s until after I began working in the field. I knew exactly what I could apply to the job and was able to maximize my learning to what would be relevant for my clients and their projects.”

Ulteig in Watertown, South Dakota, is a Perfect Fit

Working remotely from Watertown, South Dakota, Victor collaborates with members of Ulteig’s Bridge and Municipal teams across the US. “The collaboration and team focus are phenomenal at Ulteig,” Victor said.  “Ulteig is employee-owned so we are all working together to build something, and the benefits are incredible.”

“The company is also family-friendly and provides me the work-life balance that I was hoping to achieve since getting married and adopting two children while still getting to do the work that I love,” Victor added.

A fan of music, and an avid vinyl record collector, Paul Simon is one of her favorites of her 800-record collection. “Music compliments everything. Everything is better in life while music is playing. It also makes me more productive,” added Victor.

“Finding new vinyl also is one of my favorite hobbies; it is the ultimate treasure hunt,” Victor explained. “Now I get to share my love of music with my kids. Most of what I currently buy is actually for them.”

Growing up in South Dakota and Southwest Minnesota and now living in Watertown for 11 years, Victor enjoys everything about Watertown. She has experienced Watertown’s immense growth and looks forward to helping Ulteig continue to grow and thrive in this community for years to come.

Interested in working at Ulteig?

If you were inspired by Vanessa Victor’s story, or any of the other Ulteig Employee Spotlight stories on the Ulteig Knowledge Center, visit our Careers page to learn about current employment opportunities at Ulteig.


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