Taurean Blake, PMP
“What do I see for the next generation of engineers? I would say ‘I can only imagine,’ but the truth is, I don’t even think I can imagine. The sky is no longer the limit – it feels like the baseline!”
As we celebrate the positive contributions of engineers, technicians, and technologists this Engineers Week, there couldn’t be a more perfect time to shine the spotlight on our own Taurean Blake, PMP.
With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering technology and management from Drexel University, Taurean has utilized his STEM education to serve the public interest for more than 15 years. And when he’s not working as a construction management professional in the transportation industry, he enjoys mentoring students and preparing them for future infrastructure careers much like his.
We asked Taurean a few questions to get to know him:
What do you see for the next generation of engineers and construction management professionals at Gannett Fleming?
I would say, “I can only imagine,” but the truth is, I don’t even think I can imagine. The sky is no longer the limit – it feels like the baseline! Technology advances increase opportunity exponentially. Judging from how sharp Gannett Fleming’s young engineers are and how inventive some of the students I mentor are, endless innovation is in the future for this firm, just as long as we continue to attract and retain talent.
What Gannett Fleming core value is particularly significant to you and why?
This might be cheating since it encompasses all the core values, but Gannet Fleming’s vision is significant to me. I was fortunate enough to build a custom curriculum of study in undergrad. I drew from interest in science and technology and my passion to implement changes that would improve the communities I am from nationally and internationally.
So, the firm’s vision statement sums up how I want to apply my skills and knowledge. “Improving communities and sustaining our world.” You had me at hello; everything else is ornamental.
What brought you to Gannett Fleming, and why do you continue to work here?
My experience with our client Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) caught a recruiter’s interest, and they reached out to me. I enjoy working in a capacity that serves the public interest, but I left WMATA to gain more field experience. Coming to Gannett Fleming about three and a half years ago has allowed me to return to familiar territory with opportunities to pivot to serve the public in other capacities.
Tell us about your role and responsibilities.
Most of my time here has been on a staff augmentation assignment with WMATA, as one of our transit and rail clients. In my role as project manager for facility renovation and system upgrades at WMATA, I was able to draw from my familiarity of their nuances to expedite critical, emergency projects through completion. I have also served as an auditor in WMATA’s internal compliance office. I believe a firm understanding of project management principles and WMATA-specific operations allows me to provide practical insight for executing projects and programs.
How does Gannett Fleming support your professional development and career growth?
Reimbursement of association fees has pushed me, as an introvert, to participate in different organizations. Regular conversations with my supervisor have been helpful in motivating me to find my fit in the organization and to obtain certifications. The flexibility with my schedule while I am studying for the PE exam has been a tremendous support. But for me, most important is the honest and candid nature in which I receive feedback on my performance.
Why is it important to have diversity around the table when working on construction- and transportation-related projects?
The inclusion of diverse cultural perspectives in the decisions implemented around the table could push the envelope of project delivery as well as quality and usability of the product. The more people that can identify with the product, the more subscribers to our clients’ offerings, the more satisfied the clients.
What can AEC firms do internally to create a stronger sense of belonging across diverse groups?
Learn about the organization’s cultural composition and incorporate the findings into how the company operates, but with sincerity. In technically oriented firms, I think the personal feelings of employees can sometimes be overlooked because the focus is on meeting objectives.
I like to think of it like traveling. Whenever I travel, I prepare by learning about the culture and language. Then when I arrive at my destination, I realize I am a tourist but end up being taken in by the host culture because my interest is seen as genuine even if I mess up while speaking their language.
What’s the most interesting project you’re working on right now?
I’m currently managing a task order for WMATA that entails mobilizing drones for aerial surveys. My experience with surveying started in high school when we were tasked with surveying a park and creating maps by hand before generating them in AutoCAD. It’s fascinating to me to see how geomatics now incorporates so much technology!
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Knowing that the end product will somehow improve someone’s life.
What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute your professional success to and why?
I believe my relatability has played a big part in my success. I’m fortunate to be accepted, respected, and appreciated by people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. Being able to relate has been critical in bringing divergent approaches together to achieve goals.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
Develop your career around a passion and never stop learning.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I enjoy home and car repairs, bike riding, and mentoring.
Tell us about your family.
I am a first generation American with roots hailing from the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. I have four sisters, eight nieces and nephews, and four surrogate brothers. My family is scattered among Trinidad, Tobago, Florida, California, New York, Texas, Philadelphia, and the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area.
What’s the best piece of personal advice you’ve ever received?
Never allow your emotions to overwhelm your decision-making process.
What do you do to turn things around when you’re having a bad day?
Help someone through a hardship or bad experience they might be having.
What’s your favorite way to unwind after a busy day?
I like to watch documentaries or standup comedy.
If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
My love for music makes this a tough question to answer. I would either choose the Marc Anthony version of “Todo Tiene Su Final” by Hector Lavoe, since it reminds me of growing up in the Bronx and is an upbeat reminder to appreciate the beauty of life, or I’d choose “Forever Loving Jah” by Bob Marley, as it’s just another well composed song reminding us to be grateful for what we have.