Engineering Loyalty

A New York state architecture and engineering firm returns each year to Clarkson’s Career Fair to recruit the talent they need: well-rounded individuals with a high degree of technical competence and strong communication skills.

By Claire Sykes

“A well-rounded education, technical competence, problem-solving and client relationship skills cut across all Clarkson grads.”
— Jim Roberts, P.E., Director of Strategic Growth and Development, H2M

Steve Hearl ’80 ’83 always had an interest in science and math, and a thing for construction sites. As the son of an engineer and Clarkson grad (Charles Hearl ’51), it was only natural for him to go for a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering. After a public works stint in San Diego, in 1982 Hearl returned to Clarkson for his master’s degree. A year later H2M Architects + Engineers snapped him up.

From his first job there as project engineer for wastewater treatment plants to, now, vice president and practice leader for wastewater collection and conveyance systems, Hearl has built a sturdy career at the Melville, New York-based company.

In its 85 years, H2M has grown from a small, one-office water- and wastewater-treatment engineering firm to one with nine regional offices and about 400 employees, specializing in nearly every area of architecture and engineering.

It’s also one of more than 100 companies that come each year to Clarkson’s fall and spring Career Fairs to recruit.

Many Clarkson students have served as H2M interns, and today a number of alumni are on its payroll. Some, like Hearl, have worked their way into positions of leadership. “As H2M has grown, so have employees’ careers here,” he says. “We encourage engineering employees to get their engineering license, reimbursing them for review classes and the test. Then they move up in responsibility. We work closely with all of our staff, especially young people, through our mentoring and opportunities for promotion, to help them achieve their goals.”

H2M and Clarkson make a great pair. Both the company and the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering stress a team-based and interdisciplinary approach. Says Jim Roberts, P.E., Director of Strategic Growth and Development at H2M, “A well-rounded education, technical competence, problem-solving and client-relationship skills cut across all Clarkson grads.”

Six months after getting her B.S. in Civil Engineering, Anne Davis ’98 started at H2M, assisting Hearl. “But after a couple of years, I didn’t feel enough passion for engineering on a day-to-day basis. In soul searching, I found that human resources spoke more to my personality and skill set.” Now H2M’s Human Resources Manager, “I’m able to be analytical, yet still interact with people. And having worked in engineering, I understand what staff deals with.” That includes interns.

H2M’s rigorous summer internship program thrives not just in the areas of engineering and architecture, but also human resources, marketing and corporate service. Clarkson senior Derek Nochisaki ’18 was one of these interns. Over the past three summers, he’s done everything from scanning and organizing engineering plans to helping map out sewage lines to shadowing an employee in overseeing the construction of wastewater treatment plants.

“It’s been interesting to see engineering at work not only on paper, but also in the real world,” says Nochisaki. “But the biggest thing for me has been learning from the interactions between H2M staff and the many different contractors.”

Staff appreciate H2M’s close-knit community and commitment beyond the job site. “We help build communities not just through our work but also in our outside activities,” says Hearl, who serves on the board of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce. H2M’s corporate generosity extends to staff when they donate money to a tree-planting organization, run in a charity’s marathon, prepare food bank lunches or pound nails in a Habitat for Humanity home.

“I will tell you unequivocally H2M’s culture is among the reasons I came here,” says Roberts. “Everyone pulls the ropes in the same direction. And employees who are aligned with the values that are important to H2M have the opportunity to become partners in the firm, when the timing is right. This gives everyone the incentive to take ownership of their work. We want employees to be ‘H2Mers’ for life.”