Posted on 2019-02-18

Joe Ross, PE

What drew you to becoming an engineer?
Like many teenagers in the 70’s, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do beyond high school. I had always done well in math and science and aptitude tests pointed me to engineering. After reading the Cal Poly engineering descriptions about Solar Engineering, I thought it sounded very cool and I went for it. It was combined with HVAC studies as a concentration in the Environmental Engineering department. Even though I had no idea what HVAC meant I was sold on solar and applied.

Luckily, I found the HVAC studies to be very interesting because jobs in the solar industry were non-existent when I graduated in 1985. HVAC engineers were in demand and they still are. I’m so excited to see where our industry is headed with a strong focus on Sustainability and Energy conservation. Our expertise will be so important to the future in our design and construction industry.

What’s your favorite project?
I still think about my first Central Plant project. A retrofit of an ASHRAE award winning high efficiency Central Plant for Kaiser San Diego Medical Center. This plant had everything; Cogen, Thermal Energy Storage Chilled Water Tanks, Waste Heat Absorption Chiller, Waste Heat to Energy Recovery Incinerator and a bunch of VFD’s. There was just one problem, none of it worked well and there was a perceived shortage of chilled water. At this time I only had a few years under my belt and was thrown in the deep end to analyze the plant and operations and to provide recommendations. Fortunately, I had a very good mentor to help guide me in putting my report together and presenting it to the hospital leadership. I was so nervous making that presentation but somehow, they bought into our ideas to make some considerable plant modifications. I ended up working on the plant thru more than a decade of modifications, expansions and changes until we got it right. I was the design engineer, commissioning agent and assistant to the plant operators and contractors thru that whole time period. I learned so much through the process and felt such satisfaction with this accomplishment.

What would you tell your younger engineering self to make his life easier today?
Find good mentors! Career advancement in this industry will require good advice; technical and business. Find clients that you enjoy working with. Build long and lasting relationships with them and your co-workers. This business circle we work in is small so it is important to have relationships that will last. Enjoy the journey!

What do you do when you aren’t engineering?
I can’t give away all my secrets but sometimes I do surf a bit. I really enjoy nature and getting away, so anything like backpacking, skiing, cycling, golfing are all hobbies I pursue.

Role: Partner
Discipline: Mechanical
Years of experience: 33 years
Education: Cal Poly SLO - Environmental Engineering - HVAC/Solar Concentration
Office: San Diego