Getting to Know Harrington Group Part 3: How Did You Know You Wanted to be a Fire Protection Engineer / Consultant?
It’s been so much fun sharing the stories of how our fire protection engineers and consultants ended up choosing their career paths. I hope you enjoyed reading Part 1 and Part 2. The journey continues on:
Nolan McCarthy, Fire Protection Engineer, with Harrington Group for over four months: My path wasn’t one always directed at fire protection. I grew up in California to a firefighter father and high school teacher mother – so I’ve been around the fire service my entire life.
I went to Oklahoma State University largely to get out of California and to see something new. I also knew they had an excellent fire protection and safety technology program, although I didn’t immediately declare that as my major. During my college summers, I would return home to work as a seasonal firefighter on a helicopter initial attack crew. The experience was awesome – it gave me firsthand experience into the fire service world – but it was also a lot of fun. While back at school over the years, I seemed to gravitate towards a particular professor – Pat Brock. Something about his teaching style, knowledge base, experience, and exposure within the industry struck a chord with me. Towards the end of my college career, and due to Professor Brock’s influence, I had decided I wanted to get into the sprinkler industry, and conversely not pursue the fire service route.
My last season as a wildland firefighter was in 2007. Upon completion, I headed to my first post-college job with a sprinkler contractor in Indianapolis. My time there was brief, but very beneficial in terms of forming the foundation of my young career. I greatly valued my time spent there and only wish life’s circumstances would have allowed a little bit more time with them. However, once I realized I wanted to get into the broader world of fire protection engineering, my search began to find the right fit, one that would also return me to my second home: Oklahoma.
It was in that second job that my interest really piqued with fire protection engineering. The type of projects I was exposed to, the people with whom I worked, and the broad work experience I was gaining cemented me in my decision to pursue a career in fire protection engineering.
Les Ingles, Senior Fire Protection Engineer and Manager of the Charlotte Office, with Harrington Group for over seven years: In the winter of 1979 and in home stretch of my senior year in college, I began sending out cover letters/resumes and making a daily visit to the Virginia Tech placement office to check the job board for interview sign-ups. I was looking for an entry level Environmental Engineering position. Pressure was on because the one thing I did know was that the week following my June 9 graduation, I was marrying Miss Martha Ellen Peake and I needed to find a job!
In February, I saw an interview sign up open for all engineering graduates for Industrial Risk Insurers (IRI) looking to fill fire protection engineering positions. I signed up for it because I thought it would be a good practice interview, as I had no intention of going to work for an insurance company. Little did I know, this one action set the course for my entire career path.
I went to the interview with a recruiter out of IRI’s Hartford, CT headquarters and was introduced to the concept of a “fire protection engineer”. I thought it sounded very interesting and was intrigued by the notion of spending time in all types of manufacturing facilities performing inspections, doing fire hazards analysis (whatever that was), doing water supply testing, testing fire suppression and fire alarm systems, and writing reports. And, I would be issued a COMPANY CAR!!
The recruiter said they would be putting together a short list for 2nd interviews within two weeks. Three weeks later, I had my second interview and two weeks after that I received a formal offer of employment. During that intervening time, I had several interviews for environmental related jobs, but none sounded as interesting as the one described for IRI. I did get one additional job offer, but they did not match the salary offer of IRI nor did they offer a company car.
I accepted the job in early May and on July 1, 1979 I started my fire protection career with the Charlotte Office of IRI as a located field engineer in training in Hickory, NC under the tutelage of a very bright and demanding engineer named Jim Rucci. And the rest is history.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about how our engineers and consultants stumbled, or in some cases, skillfully navigated, into fire protection engineering. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a fire protection engineer, check out the Careers in Fire Protection Engineering website. It has tons of helpful resources.
Do you have a career journey story you’d like to share? Tell us about it in the comment section below!