Posted: July 15, 2016
Last modified: December 26, 2018

Quality Assurance Supervisor, Project Areas 1 & 2
Resident of Haines City and Hollywood, Florida

After 41 years as a civil engineer, Carl Callahan has watched his field change from slide rules and hand-drawn plans, to hand-held computer tablets containing all the electronic tools an engineer needs.

But he has noticed that one aspect remains unchanged. Throughout the decades, engineers have required more than impeccable technical skills to succeed. They need people skills as well.

“It’s people that build these projects not machines,” said Callahan, who is a quality assurance supervisor for Volkert – part of the I-4 Ultimate team.

“To advance in this field usually means taking on managerial tasks,” he said. “That means learning how to deal with people – not just by texting – but by talking face to face. Communication is not simply an information transfer. It’s also team building and mentoring.”

Although he loves the sciences, Callahan’s background might have prepared him to see life as less predictable than the math formulas upon which engineers rely. Born in Topeka, Kansas, he never knew his dad, who was serving in the Korean War and died in in a North Korean prison camp before he was born. Yet Callahan grew to find his own path to adulthood through a civil engineering degree from the University of Kansas.

His varied career has taken him from Missouri to the the bitter cold of Minnesota, where he reviewed Minnesota Department of Transportation’s bridge inspection program for the governor, and then down to the muggy swamps of New Orleans, where he spent many evenings working on barges in the bayou. He was the nightshift quality control manager on a project to build storm-surge walls in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Today, as a member of the I-4 Ultimate team, Callahan and his team check on the quality and safety of bridges in Areas 1 and 2 (from west of Kirkman Road to just past Colonial Drive). In total, more than 140 bridges will be widened, added or replaced along the 21-mile reconstruction project.

The Sunshine State is a good stop for Callahan and his family, who live in Hollywood, Florida. However, while working on the I-4 Ultimate project, he lives in a trailer in Haines City, traveling back forth when he can.

At this stage in his career, Callahan enjoys being a mentor. “I want to pass on what I know. I think that’s part of your obligations – to help make the transportation system and society better. This is an exciting time. The field is in good hands with the young people entering the profession.”

Callahan also has a message: Don’t neglect the other side of your brain – the creative arts and the art of managing a diverse workforce. It’s not all about the numbers. “You also have to know how to relate and communicate.”