Reflections on R&M’s evolution over a 25-year career
With the clock ticking on my pending retirement*, I am reflecting back on how fulfilling the last 25 years has been with R&M.
When I started at R&M in 1989, the company was still recovering from the Alaska recession and with 50 employees, was outgrowing the Cordova Street office space. At the end of 2014, with 120 full-time employees, R&M is nearing capacity in our two Vanguard Drive office buildings and have moved our materials laboratory and Construction Administration Department into other nearby facilities on Vanguard. Over the past 25 years, R&M’s staff and management has transitioned from the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, to a mix of Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials. With a few seminars under my belt, I believe I can now communicate with the Gen Xers and Millennials, although I still get a quizzical look from time-to-time from younger staff.
It is personally satisfying to me that I was part of the successful transition to a second generation firm and putting a third generation succession plan in place. Through all this inevitable transition, what has remained constant is that R&M continues to attract top quality professionals who embrace the R&M culture of producing high quality work products and embracing the Alaska lifestyle. This combination has allowed R&M to remain independent, expand our service lines, establish a branch office in Fairbanks, and remain competitive with global firms in our market.
I can’t count the number of times R&M was passed over by the mega-firms when assembling their teams, only to win the work outright on our own. Like Alaska, R&M is unique and diverse. Our expertise has always matched well with our Alaskan clients and the challenging environment of our state, something R&M is committed to maintaining in the future.
R&M has always promoted diversity within our firm, long before it was fashionable to do so. This diversity has helped R&M remain relevant with our clients and the public we serve, and has made R&M much greater than the sum of our parts.
Over my career, I was fortunate in that my mentors involved me in large and challenging projects in Anchorage, as well as projects that allowed me to visit remote corners of Alaska such as Shemya, Kaktovik, Ketchikan, Kotzebue and a multitude of places in between. What always amazed me, is that no matter how small the community, local residents invariably knew of R&M from a previous project.
What has been the most satisfying to me in the twilight of my career is the opportunity to mentor younger staff and pass on the knowledge gained over my lengthy career. In the future, instead of seeing my projects get built, I will now get to observe projects under construction that were designed by the younger R&M staff I was able to mentor, and hopefully influence with my knowledge.
I plan on keeping my hard hat and safety vest in my truck, so please don’t throw me off the job site should I stop by.
*Frank Rast, PE joined R&M in 1989 as a Project Engineer. Over the past 25 years, Frank worked on a variety of civil engineering projects, with a focus on site design, airports and utilities. Key projects in his time with R&M include the Chester Creek Trunk Repair and Anchorage Transmission Main Loop II Repair, both for the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility; the multi-phase Fairbanks International Airport Improvements project and multiple projects at the Nome and Kotzebue Airports for the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities; and South Anchorage High School for the Anchorage School District. Frank was involved in the employee purchase of R&M from its founding partner in 2002. He assumed management of the firm’s Engineering Department in 2005, and served as the firm’s Principal Civil Engineer until his retirement on December 31, 2014. Frank also served on the firm’s Board of Directors for 12 years. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 1978, which led to a 35-year career in civil engineering, planning, design and construction administration. Frank lives in Anchorage with his wife Pauline, cheering on his beloved Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers at every opportunity.