Kerry Henneberger is a highway project manager within LDG’s Transportation Division and is serving as President of the Central Pennsylvania Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
What were the circumstances when you first had an inkling that you might become a leader someday? As a younger person, I don’t think I ever considered or aspired to become a leader. When I was 12 years old my parents bought the grocery store in our hometown on Mentone, Indiana. My dad expected my sister and me to oversee the work of the other employees. If someone was goofing off or did something incorrectly, my dad held us accountable. When I think back to those times, he was instilling leadership skills in us. From there it has been a natural progression in my career.
What inspires you as a leader? What do you enjoy most about the role? Helping others. My desire is to help others create and develop opportunities for their benefit. I enjoy developing meaningful relationships and the camaraderie we have to gain each other’s respect and trust.
Who has been your greatest inspiration and/or mentor? First, I would have to say I have been inspired by my parents. I watched as they overcame the challenges of owning and growing a business they had no experience in and making it successful through hard work and determination. They taught us the value of hard work, the importance of customer service and that no challenge was too great. My parents made me feel like I could do anything. I also was inspired by my uncle to become a civil engineer at a relatively young age. He is a civil engineer, and I recall him taking us to the library at Ball State University while it was under construction. It was nothing more at the time than the concrete floors and steel framework. Seeing how the beams fit together and thinking about how engineers had to design them left a huge impression on me.
My first mentor in engineering was my boss at the firm I worked for right out of college. I had moved nearly 600 miles from home and didn’t know anyone. He took me under his wing and taught me a lot about engineering. He was one of the co-owners of the company and was very hands on. Back in those days we did roadway design with curve boards. I remember him rolling out a piece of paper on a long table and taking the time to show me how to lay a roadway out. He would also take me to meetings so I could learn how to interact with clients.
What are some of the most significant obstacles you’ve overcome in your career? How did you accomplish this? Working in a male dominated field, especially as a young graduate in the mid-1980’s. I wouldn’t say the men I worked with were disrespectful, but it certainly wasn’t something they were used to, so I felt at times they didn’t know how to treat me. There were times I felt they thought they had to do everything for me. I wasn’t used to that because we were taught to be independent and do things ourselves. I knew I had to prove myself and that I knew what I was doing by working harder, being more prepared, being resilient, determined and having a lot of perseverance.
I also recall a time I was doing construction inspection for a bridge. The contractor wanted to add more water to make the concrete easier to work. I performed the slump test and told them they couldn’t add any more water. The contractor didn’t like me telling him no. My boss told me the owner of the company called him about the incident. He knew they were trying to intimidate me and take advantage of my youth and gender but confirmed that my denying their request was the right thing to do. I learned you have to stand up for what is right even when it isn’t always easy.
In your personal life, what values, techniques, or support systems have you used to achieve balance? What are the trade-offs? That’s a difficult one for me because we weren’t taught about work-life balance. I’ve had to learn that I can’t do it all and that I need to be a better delegator. It’s easier to delegate when realizing it can be a benefit to other people by giving them an opportunity to grow. It’s about teamwork. We accomplish more when we work together.
Did I miss out on life events because of poor work-life balance? Yes, as so many others do. Do I feel guilty at times? Of course, but I am fortunate to have a supportive and understanding family. In my opinion, times have changed over the past 30 years, and it’s encouraging that companies are being more proactive to help employees manage a work-life balance. Stephen Covey’s quote, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities,” really helps to put things in perspective.
You volunteer a lot of time as president of the Central Pennsylvania Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. Why is this professional role so important to you? I have been an active member of ASCE since 1984, held leadership positions in the Birmingham Branch, Alabama Section, and Central PA Section, so it’s an organization I am quite passionate about. Why ASCE? As a civil engineer, I look to its vision that civil engineers are global leaders, building a better quality of life. I admire its mission to advance civil engineering and protect public health, safety and welfare. It fits who I am and who I aspire to be. It is so important to get involved in professional organizations. I have reaped so many benefits from being active both personally and professionally. I have made ASCE a priority because I saw how it complemented my career. The networking aspect is invaluable. I have met so many people worldwide and developed many meaningful friendships and have created lifelong personal connections. Throughout my career, I have moved to new areas where I didn’t know anyone, and ASCE meetings were a great place to meet like-minded people, clients and future employers. Also, my involvement in ASCE pushes me outside of my comfort zone. It has helped me build leadership skills that can’t be developed by sitting at your desk all day.
When my term ends in May 2019, my time commitment will be a lot less, so I would like to find other avenues within my community to direct my energies.