15 Feb Owner Profile: Blake Ball
Civil design veteran and newly licensed engineer Blake Ball has an uncommon perspective at WithersRavenel. As a long-time AutoCAD and MicroStation Designer/Operator, he has supported the Land Development & Planning Department, the former Transportation and Water Resources Departments, and now the Stormwater Department. He has been with the firm for more than a decade, and this tenure means he’s witnessed the firm’s evolution from a small regional business to a thriving engineering consultancy serving North Carolina from the mountains to the sea. He is also one of the rare individuals who has chosen to take (and pass!) the Professional Engineering exam based on years of experience rather than university coursework and internships.
Blake’s supervisor describes him as conscientious and knowledgeable, but his fellow employee-owners know he also has a great sense of humor. Here’s a glimpse into Blake and his work here at WithersRavenel.
What drew you to WithersRavenel originally?
I had worked for another local firm for many years, and I needed a change. I saw an ad for an opening with Withers & Ravenel. I applied and met Sam [Ravenel], and some of the others, and accepted the offer when it was made. That was in 2005. The economic downturn in 2008 forced many of us to go elsewhere, but when the opportunity to come back was offered, I took it without reservation.
How has WithersRavenel changed since?
The most obvious is that the company has grown. A lot. And it seems like the average age of the employees is getting younger and younger—or is it just me getting older?
What does a typical day look like for you?
One of the things I like about my job is that I don’t really have “typical” days. I may have plans to work on a particular task or tasks, and sometimes that works out. Some days deadlines, emergencies, or other “fires” pop up, and I end up working on something completely different. That might drive some people crazy, but I think it keeps things interesting. Or maybe I’m already crazy?
What would people never guess you do in your role?
Maybe that I keep information on my workstation about many of the pieces and parts that go into the projects we design. From pipe and fitting catalogs to old, scanned Corps of Engineers manuals. All that stuff used to be on bookshelves in my office, or in the hallway, but someone threw away all the books. Doing this goes back to something I was told early in my career: “Being a good engineer is not knowing the answer to everything, it’s knowing where to find it.”
What has been your favorite project at WithersRavenel?
There have been a few. Probably the Morrisville Town Core Stormwater Control Measure. Construction has just been completed. It will be a very visible example of how necessary infrastructure can be designed to provide aesthetic value and incorporate recreational facilities for a community. I cannot wait to see how it looks when the landscaping matures.
How has WithersRavenel helped you in your career development?
I have been a part of the Land Development Department (twice), the Transportation Department, and now the Stormwater Department. That means that I have had the opportunity to work on many different types of projects. And, I have worked with many extremely talented people, including engineers, surveyors, drafters and CAD operators, and administrative specialists. A wide array of experience, and a diverse pool of people to learn from, have all added to my knowledge and skill set.
What is your proudest moment at WithersRavenel?
So far, getting that email from NCEES on December 15, 2020, with a little green box that said “PASS.” But then, I am not done yet…
Do you have any career lessons or pieces of advice you’d like to share?
Given my somewhat non-traditional route to becoming a Professional Engineer, I would have a couple of things to share. First, to take every opportunity to learn. Realize that you can learn from all your experiences, and from anyone you meet. Second, take chances. Force yourself to do different things, stuff outside of your comfort zone. You will never realize what you can accomplish if you don’t stretch.
If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
It used to be to play in Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show Band (showing my age). Now, maybe to have a small restaurant. But just for a day because I know how much hard work that can be.
Where is the best place you’ve traveled to and why?
Probably the Florida Keys in 1993. It was our honeymoon, and the weather, food, and diving were all spectacular. And I was starting a new life with an amazing partner.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Some folks know I play saxophone, some know that I am a woodworker, and some know I like to cook. But hidden talents? If I told you, they wouldn’t be hidden any more, would they?
What would you title your autobiography?
“I Did My Best”