Keeping It Real with Crystal Hilton

The Keeping it Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. Sometimes literally.

Name: Crystal Hilton, Mechanical Designer
Office: Pittsburgh North
Years at Allen & Shariff: 5 years


What aspect of your personality most contributes to you being good in your specific role?
I would say fast learning with software like revit , drafting, HVAC, plumbing, Fire protection designs with healthcare. It’s a very fast-paced work environment.

You were the first employee of Pittsburgh North. How have you seen the office evolve over time?  
The office has evolved very fast with workload and people. But it’s basically like a family in the office. Everyone gets along.

Describe something from your past (school, work experience, a mentor) that most influenced you to get into this industry.
When I was younger I use to play Sims and build houses and thought I wanted to be an architect. I ended up taking a drafting class in high school and loved the engineering part and learning how to use AutoCad.

We hear you are fixing up a house you just bought. Can you tell us about that? What’s been the hardest part, and the most exciting part?
Well the whole thing is a learning curve, from learning how to joint compound a wall to refinishing hardwood floors and taking down wallpaper. The house is from 1945 so it needed a lot of work. It’s definitely exciting seeing each of the rooms in the house change. From having wallpaper and wainscot board to being completely torn out, patched, and painted.

What’s the corniest joke that you constantly hear in your field?
Can we make the ceilings higher and still fit ductwork above it?

What’s the #1 “rookie mistake” you see in those just starting out their career in your field? Explain.
Not double checking your work for room names, etc. in walls. Making sure the drawings look clear and easy to read.

What’s the single most important ingredient when it comes to a successful client relationship?
I would say good communication for deadlines with projects and changing backgrounds.

Do you have a personal hero? Someone that really inspires you in your professional or personal life?
Yes, that would be my mom as a single parent, watching her work two jobs. She’s the hardest working person I know. She doesn’t give up until the job is done and doesn’t take crap from anyone.

If Allen & Shariff were a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
It would be a Volkswagen Golf R because it’s ready to perform at a split- second notice. That’s what we do here – we receive problems and we solve them.

What book(s) are on your nightstand right now?
With going to work, school, and the gym I don’t have time to read books besides my school books.

Keeping It Real with Patrick Giordano

The Keeping it Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. Sometimes literally.


Name: Patrick (Pat) Giordano, Senior Plumbing Designer
Office: Salisbury, MD
Years at Allen & Shariff: 17


You’ve been with Allen & Shariff for fifteen years. How has the company changed for the better since you started?
I feel we’ve become more refined, more sleek in regards to personnel and the company’s project portfolio. We’ve grown to encompass nearly all types of projects of any size and shape.

What is the most stunning way you’ve seen the industry change since you started? How is it most notably different than when you began your career?
I think in a bad way, the in-field contractors/builders are not thinking or working solutions out. They’ve become more and more reliant on computer-aided drafting than the actual field condition of the project. As the old guard slowly retires from the industry, there is a learning gap that is not passed on to the next generation, and that to me is a sad state of affairs and causes more time on the back end of the project than the design side.

Maryland. Eastern shore or mainland? Why or why not?
Eastern Shore fershure!  I do not have to go far to find a beautiful beach or secluded wooded area to do my daily walk/cycle routine. And parking is a lot easier.

What’s the corniest joke that you constantly hear in your field?
In regard to the plumbing discipline: “Hot on the left, cold on the right, stuff flows downhill…”

Allen & Shariff is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. What do you think has given this organization its staying power?
In my humble opinion, it is our unique diversity of experience that we bring to the table on every project. Whether is a single-story metal pole building or an 18-story hotel, we have the resources to do it all.

Was there ever a project where you felt monumentally stuck? Where you didn’t know how you were going to get it done? Tell us the story and how you got through it.
Turkish American Community Center (TACC): Five different occupancy structures that, while separate, had systems that intertwined with each other. While my part of the project was not overly complex, the difficulty was meeting all the shared deadlines for all five buildings. I took the slow and steady design approach of dissecting the overall project by system type importance and focusing on a single system before going on to the next. This ensured a smooth overall completed view of the project versus the disjointed feel of a system being partially completed, and work resuming on it again a week or month later.

What’s the #1 “rookie mistake” you see in those just starting out their career in your field? Explain.
Not checking or thoroughly researching the codes to which we must adhere. Far too often we assume what is acceptable in one jurisdiction is acceptable in all.

Do you have a personal hero? Someone that really inspires you in your professional or personal life?
My father, an old-world Italian armed with only a 6th grade education who went on to own his own company. He taught me that your quality of work will speak volumes for your character, to work smarter not harder, do it right, do it once, and do it to the best of your capabilities. Oh, and never play pool against someone who is nicknamed after a state.

If Allen & Shariff were a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
Chevrolet Corvette: we’re a classic and we’re the best. Plus, I’m still hoping to wake up one morning and find one in my driveway as a thank-you gift from Zack and Dave V.

What book(s) are on your nightstand right now?
In the absence of the next George R. R. Martin chapter of The Song of Ice and Fire, it’s been a random mix of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, Terry Brooks’ The Shannara series, and Golf magazine.

Keeping it Real with James Hunt

The Keeping it Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. Sometimes literally.

James Hunt

Name: James Hunt, Senior Mechanical Designer
Office: Columbia, MD
Years at Allen & Shariff: 3 years, 6 months


What’s the one skill that you would say is essential to being a great mechanical engineer?
An essential skill is being able to work under pressure.

What is the most innovative advancement you’ve seen in mechanical engineering since you first started your career? How has it affected the industry?
Variable Refrigerant Flow systems, the widespread use of inverter technology, and combining geothermal with water-cooled VRF to maximize energy efficiency. This technology is fairly new to the United States and is really taking off as energy codes require increasingly more energy-efficient systems.

Describe something from your past (school, work experience, a mentor) that most influenced you to become a mechanical engineer.
The thing that I would say influenced me to work in the mechanical engineering industry was my first job as a CAD operator. I was exposed to mechanical and plumbing design early, and I loved how logical and practical the design and function of these systems was. Having a direct effect on how buildings impact human comfort was very attractive to me.

Maryland weather: Love it or hate it?
Love it. I love season change.

What’s the corniest joke that you constantly hear in your field?
To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

If someone asked you to describe your unique approach to problem solving, what would you say?
I would describe my approach to problem solving as systematic. First I identify the problem. Then I analyze the problem to try to pinpoint aspects that are contributing to the problem. Next, I create a plan to solve the problem, taking into account possible conflicts and issues with the solution. Finally, I implement the solution and check to make sure that the system is functioning as expected.

Allen & Shariff is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. What do you think has given this organization its staying power?
Communicating with our clients to ensure they are receiving the level of professionalism they expect and making sure we deliver a quality product.

Was there ever a project where you felt monumentally stuck? Where you didn’t know how you were going to get it done? Tell us the story and how you got through it.
I think this happens to everyone in their career at one time or another. The situation had to do with limited resources and a very aggressive schedule. I was able to manage my responsibilities by creating a task list for my design, prioritizing the most critical items and working diligently to complete them. Sometimes things feel much more daunting until you have the full account of what needs to be done.

What’s the coolest Allen & Shariff project you’ve been part of?
I’ve been involved with many projects since joining A&S. I would say working on the Busboys and Poets Restaurant, located in Washington D.C., was the coolest. This project featured a full commercial kitchen, dining space, and bar. I designed both the mechanical and plumbing systems, so there was a variety of system types to coordinate with each other.

What’s the #1 “rookie mistake” you see in those just starting out their career in your field? Explain.
Thinking you know it all. School is great to get you started and teach you the fundamentals of our discipline, but there is a lot to learn once you get out in the field. Being humble and learning as much as you can from people with experience will benefit your career most.

What’s the single most important ingredient when it comes to a successful client relationship?
Transparent communication is the single most important ingredient for successful client relationships. Clients want to be assured that the team members designing a project are on task and meeting the owner’s requirements. Being responsive and open is key to building trust.

Do you have a personal hero? Someone that really inspires you in your professional or personal life?
Elon Musk is the person that inspires me the most in my professional and personal life. He is a brilliant engineer, scientist, and innovator who is striving to change the world as we know it.

How would you describe the company culture at Allen & Shariff?
I would describe the A&S culture as positive, with friendly employees who are all willing to help you in your time of need.

If Allen & Shariff were a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
A Tesla. This car best represents Allen & Shariff—forward thinking and backed by innovative minds.

What book(s) are on your nightstand right now?
I am a techie, so no books on my nightstand! I do have many science and technical books and publications on my iPad that I regularly peruse. I am not into fiction books. I like facts and real knowledge.

May Birthdays and Anniversaries

MAY ANNIVERSARIES
MichaelWeleskiMay 1, 20172
CrystalHiltonMay 13, 20145
TreytonCherniakMay 21, 20181
TylerDeLanceyMay 21, 20181
SharonMattisMay 23, 200514
DaveVandervossenMay 24, 199326
WilliamPettittMay 29, 20181
JosephKramerMay 30, 20172
MAY BIRTHDAYS
WilliamPettittMay 5
JonathanDarlingMay 7
AliciaRuffinMay 10
RobertLivorioMay 28
JamesMarsiliMay 31

Keeping It Real with Diane Bookwalter

The Keeping it Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. Sometimes literally.

Name: Diane Bookwalter, PE – Vice President
Office: Pittsburgh, PA
Years at Allen & Shariff: 4 years


As Vice President, where do you invest your energies in relation to your team and clients?
My job focuses on being sure that the electrical department is running smoothly and providing a quality product for our clients. I am responsible for overseeing projects and schedules, managing staff needs and questions, controlling the quality of drawings, and maintaining professional knowledge and sharing with my team.

I am also involved in project work and design along with the rest of my team. We are all hands-on in our department.

What is the most stunning way you’ve seen the industry change since you graduated? How is it most notably different than when you first started out in your career?
When I was in college, I actually still did hand drafting and used only AutoCAD. Since then, Revit has greatly replaced AutoCAD. We now draft in 3 dimensions on most projects and contractors are using our models for coordination. The computer drafting systems continue to get better and better. Graduates coming out of school continue to get more tech savy as well, changing with the software.

Have you ever met a Penn State grad that was only mildly enthusiastic about their alma mater? Explain.
Knowing that my family bleeds blue and white, these people can’t possibly exist. WE ARE…..

If someone asked you to describe your unique approach to problem solving, what would you say?
I am all about brainstorming. I throw out a bunch of ideas, good and bad, and then look over them to see what makes the most sense. I find this takes a lot less time in the long run than worrying about the correct solution from moment one.

What’s the #1 “rookie mistake” you see in those just starting out their career in your field? Explain.
Not back-checking your work or realizing that you will make mistakes. No one is perfect and everyone will make mistakes. It’s the people who recognize their mistakes, work to correct them, and do not make them again that become successful.

What’s the single most important ingredient when it comes to a successful client relationship?
Communication. Picking up the phone and talking to someone creates much more of a connection than email.

Do you have a personal hero?
My hero has always been Mr. Rogers. He was such a genuinely nice person in all aspects of life and I strive to be a similarly good person. I had the opportunity via friends at WQED to have lunch with him when I was 18. It was a great experience that I will never forget. He definitely left a lasting impression on how I would like to live my life and what I teach my kids.

If Allen & Shariff were a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
A minivan! We’re not ostentatious but we’re hard working, multi-talented, and always get the job done. Why did I select a minivan? – because I drive a Honda Odyssey!

What book(s) are on your nightstand right now?
People Magazine and Penn Stater Magazine (of course!). I used to love classic novels, but now I’m into quick, light-hearted reads.