Business Q & A

5 questions with Rod Young

Rod Young gets to the office at 6:30 a.m. and leaves around 7 p.m. —a long time in an office for a guy who loves the outdoors.

Young was named the president and CEO of Professional Engineering Consultants a year ago. Since then he's been working with the man he replaced, Dale Maltbie, to learn the job.

Young describes himself as ambitious and hardworking, but he's clear that he has mixed feelings about taking over as president.

Maltbie retired as chairman of the board on Oct. 16. PEC is a partnership, run by a board of directors composed of senior partners.

The firm has 270 employees in 14 different engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical, structural, civil and transportation.

Young, 49, was raised in Rose Hill and received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Kansas State University.

He joined PEC 15 years ago. He and his wife, Terry, have three children.

1. How is the firm doing in the recession?

We're definitely tied to construction. I monitor our backlog, how much work we have under contract as we speak. Our backlog is still pretty good. We've been hurt by the economy, but not as much as most because we are multidisclipline. We work for a variety of clients... Government work has helped. We have a lot of hospital work going on. Commercial, residential and retail has come to a screeching halt. But we're starting to see residential come back, slowly

2. You trained to be a forest ranger. Why did you become an engineer?

We got selected for this (forestry) internship outside Yampa, Colorado. We built ramps, planted trees, but the first day we were there a forest ranger walks in, dressed in green, a smoky bear looking guy. He asks "How many of you guys want to be a forest ranger?" All of our hands went up.

Then he goes, "I'm going to tell you a story. I've got a master's degree in forestry. I've been out of school for so many years, I work X months out of the year, I make $12,000. There are no jobs out there. The competition is incredible. Now, who wants to be a forest ranger?" All of them raised their hand again, except me.

3. How has the transition to becoming CEO gone?

It's been an incredible year. We go to school to be an engineer. All the calculus, all the math, all the science. You're not a business guy. When you become president of PEC, you throw that out the window. You're running a company of 270 people. You throw out your design sense and now focus on the business aspects of the company.... I had run a department with 30 people and done budgeting. But the tax issues, all the corporate side, was totally new to me. That's what's kind of exciting, because it is all new to me. I love challenges like that. I learned a lot in a year and a half.

4. But aren't you getting further away from working outside?

I'll put it this way — and I probably shouldn't say this — but I loved my previous job. It was the best job ever. I managed 30 people and ran the municipal division.... I had direct contact with clients, which I fell in love with, all my staff were great people.... I think I'm going to learn to really like this one. I loved that; I like this.

5. So why did you agree to become president?

I told somebody I've been very fortunate with this company. They treated me very, very well. I've been here 15 years, advanced quicker than I should have, and I told somebody that I'd do whatever the board asked me to do. That's why. I was very fortunate and I would do whatever this company asked me to do. I gave up a lot to do this. I don't dislike it in any way; it's just totally different.