Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Thomas Shay
Education (UR and additional): BS (Geomechanics), University of Rochester, 2006; MBA (Strategic Management), Pace University, 2011
Current city/state of residence: Norwalk, CT
Job Title: Civil Engineer/Project Technical Specialist
Employer: Woodard & Curran
Family: Krista (wife) and Finley (dog)
Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?
I originally learned about the University of Rochester when I was being recruited to play football. I had attended a couple other college visits but when I got to the University of Rochester it just felt like the right place for me. The Campus was beautiful, just the right size, exceptional academics, and the opportunity to play football…a recipe for success.
When and how did you choose your major?
I decided sometime later on in high school that being a doctor was way too much school. I was always competent and interested in math and science so I ultimately decided on engineering. I narrowed that down to mechanical engineering prior to arriving at the University of Rochester and then stumbled upon the geomechanics major once I decided that I was most interested in civil, geotechnical, and environmental engineering (all programs that were not actually offered by the University of Rochester). I had no interest in transferring so I was hopeful that the geomechanics degree program would lead me to a job in civil, geotechnical, or environmental engineering, which it ultimately did.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
I was involved with the football program over the course of my four years at Rochester. This was a very enlightening and rewarding experience for me. A few things that my college football experience taught me were how to manage my time effectively, that I had to have confidence in myself, the importance of sacrifice, and that what you get out of something depends on what you put in.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
I decided that I was ready to take the next step in my life and get a job after graduating. I figured that this is what I had gone to college for and now it was time to get a return on my investment. In January or February of my senior year, I successfully interviewed for and was offered a position as an engineer with an engineering consulting firm in White Plains, NY. I started working in June as an entry level civil/environmental engineer and later specialized in site/civil engineering which is what I currently do today. I am currently involved with the planning, permitting, design, and construction oversight of various private and municipal site development projects.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
Balancing work and my personal life is certainly a challenge, especially when you begin to develop a family, in my case a wife and a dog. I like to think of engineering consulting, or any profession for that matter, as a lifestyle decision. It is important to understand as best as possible the different demands that your profession will put on your life. In my case, I may have to attend public meeting in the evenings, work over the weekend to finish a project to meet a deadline, or travel long distance for projects for an extended period of time. At times this makes it a challenge to keep a routine for things such as recreational activities or to simply get home in time for dinner. It is important to maintain a flexible schedule and to take advantage of free time when it becomes available.
What advice do you have for current students?
Take the decision of choosing a major very seriously. Think about the types of jobs that are available for that specific major, whether those jobs will be around in the future, and if you can see yourself doing that job for the next thirty or fourty years of your life.