My Degenkolb: Robert Pekelnicky
Principal
San Francisco

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Life & Culture at Degenkolb

How would you describe the culture at Degenkolb?

At Degenkolb we have young engineers, at the age of 29 or so, with major project responsibilities…responsibilities that peers with the same years at other firms would never be given. While this isn’t a renegade organization and there is strong mentorship and guidance, it’s exciting and rewarding to be challenged, respected, and trusted with such leadership responsibility. 

Why did you choose Degenkolb?

First and foremost the people are different here than at other firms. It’s so refreshing to work in an office where everyone is at the highest caliber. The people above me I truly respect and admire their knowledge, and I feel the same about the junior engineers. It’s an incredibly open atmosphere and people really like each other. I worked for a company where everyone had their own office, and it was a different experience…monotonous. 

Your Career

Why have you stayed at Degenkolb?

In February 2007 I was awarded the University of Illinois Civil and Environmental Engineering Distinguished Young Alumnus. The reason I was awarded this was because of several committees, projects, and publications I was involved in as a direct result of Degenkolb’s support. All of that relates to being at a firm that allowed me to have these opportunities. From day one I was put on projects and given as much responsibility I was willing to take on. Several different senior principals in the firm opened doors for me to participate on these committees and assume leadership roles on them. 

Your Passions

What’s the best thing about being an engineer or your job?

One of my biggest passions is the state of the practice of structural engineering. I feel strongly promoting the growth of our industry and our profession both in terms of the technical aspects, but also with respect to the perception of us in the design process. At Degenkolb I never felt like I was an ancillary part of the design team. I was shown how to take leadership and collaborate with the other design team members. I participate in a lot of committees inside and outside of structural engineering and work to promote earthquake and structural engineering in the public’s perception. 

On the Job

One of my best memories is being handed a project on my second day on the job and paired up with someone who had been here six months and told to do the job. We had oversight, but it really forced us to learn. Degenkolb is so unique because it gives people responsibility and trusts its younger employees to do a good job. I’ve received unparalleled mentorship from people at all levels of the firm.