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Washington Bryan ’95 gives back to fellow Aggies through internships, advice | Image: Courtesy of Washington Bryan

Come December 2020, Washington Bryan ’95 will have been with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company, LLC (GLDD) for 25 years, working his way through several positions since he graduated with a degree in ocean engineering from Texas A&M University. Bryan, an operations manager for GLDD’s site engineering department, oversees a team of 12 project engineers who, in turn, supervise 100 engineers in the field.

While he no longer attends Texas A&M, Bryan explained that his maroon roots still run deep. When he took over the operations manager role, he began training alumni to recruit at their own alma maters.

"So, now we have a three-person team that actually does the recruiting at Texas A&M and they have all graduated within in the last three years," said Bryan. "It has been hugely successful because not only do they get to visit Texas A&M again, but they are invested in determining the future engineers that they will be working with on a daily basis."

In addition to getting recent graduates involved in the recruiting process, Bryan said he established a Winter Internship Program in 2005 to help up-and-coming engineers build their resume and gain a hands-on introduction to the company and the dredging industry.

"This has developed into one of our most successful means of finding our next generation of engineers," he said.

With a large portion of the company’s market being beach nourishment, the engineering teams are typically busiest in the winter, when coastal tourism is low and beaches can be shut down for restoration and replenishment operations. The Winter Internship Program is an ideal time for interns to get a feel for real-world dredging engineering and determine if they are interested in joining the industry.

"The program starts about two days after a student is done with their fall finals," said Bryan. "We fly them to a job site, they work right through the winter break, and then, typically a few days before their classes start back up again, we fly them back to school or to their homes. It gives them that two- or three-week glimpse into the work that GLDD performs and what the industry is all about."

"Maybe it's only two or three weeks over the break, but at least they get to see exactly what that industry has to offer," he said. "It gives them a better perspective from which to make career decisions and helps them develop their resume. At the same time, it provides GLDD with an opportunity to see what the engineer has to offer."

Experiences such as this are vital for young engineers looking for full-time jobs.

So what advice would Bryan give to students looking to begin their career after college?

"Figure out what you want to do before you start interviewing," said Bryan. "Even if you find out later in life that it’s not what you want to do, have a direction. Do some preparatory work before you talk to companies. Research the position they are trying to fill. Make sure the objectives on your resume or that you highlight during your actual interview are in line with the position you are applying for."

"Secondly, having some sort of related work experience or research on your resume is critical to get a recruiters’ attention," he said. "Go after engineering internships. Some of our most successful hires are people who have interned with our company. There is nothing better than working for a company to determine if it’s the path you want to take for your career. While it might be fun to be a lifeguard every summer during your college career, the lack of an engineering-related internship won’t support your resume."

Along with advice to current students, Bryan would like to see his fellow former students find ways to extend a helping hand and give back to Texas A&M through offering internship programs.

"If you have any involvement in recruiting for your company, see what you can do about providing internship opportunities for our future Aggie ocean engineers," he said. "Even if the engineers do not end up working for your company, the added experience in a related engineering field might make the difference when they are applying for their first job."

"In 2018, when Dr. (Robert) Randall was retiring, one of our former students found out that GLDD has hired more Texas A&M ocean engineers than any other company. While I was surprised at the news, I couldn’t be happier," said Bryan. "While not all of the engineers we have hired over the years still work with us, I was glad that we were part of getting them started on their careers."