Q&A: Building a career in architecture & engineering

Three LHB staffers talk about inspiration, education, and professional advice.

Experience is crucial in establishing yourself in any career—and especially so in architecture and engineering. Wonder what it’s like to navigate those first few years in the industry? Or what it’s like to work at LHB? Three current staffers offer insights in this Q&A.

Woman at river's edge

Anna McMurtry

Senior Structural Designer, Industrial

Where did you grow up?

​Westfield, New Jersey. It’s a small town just west of New York City.

What sparked your interest in engineering/design?

I was always interested in math and science in school and was looking to apply those interests in my career. ​

Where did you go to college/university?

I went to UW-Madison and earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering.​

When did you start at LHB?

I started at LHB in March 2021 fully remotely. I was impressed by how LHB was able to onboard me and made me feel like a part of the team right away even in a remote setting.

What is your job title and, more generally, the associated duties?

My official title is senior structural designer but currently I am a contract project manager for Minnesota Power. I work on transmission and distribution projects.

What part of the job do you most like?

I enjoy the variety of projects and seeing the design through construction. It’s very rewarding to see your project completed in the field.

Is there a project you’ve worked on recently that was particularly interesting?

I’ve worked on a few industrial facilities, where it is often challenging to find solutions that fit within existing conditions, but I enjoy the challenge.

Why is design work valuable?

Civil engineering designs impact people’s daily lives, whether it is a road, building, bridge, or utility. Design work provides the opportunity to make a positive impact within the community.

What the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Always put yourself in the shoes of those building and executing the project when putting a design together.

Woman smiling

Gabby Hanssen

Architectural Designer, Architecture

Where did you grow up?

Rochester, Minnesota

What sparked your interest in architectural design?

I’ve always loved to draw, sketch, and paint and consider myself to be very detail-oriented. Architectural design is a way for me to combine my interests in art, nature, and creative problem-solving.

What is your position at LHB and the associated duties?

As an architectural designer, I work a lot with SketchUp and Revit, helping to model existing conditions in buildings slated for redesign.

Have you lived some place outside of Minnesota?

I attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for my first year of undergraduate studies before transferring to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. I studied abroad for graduate school this summer, so I was living out of my suitcase in Paris, Rotterdam, and London.

On your trip, were there any structures/places that particularly impressed you?

I was fortunate enough to tour the Olympic Village in Paris for the 2024 Olympics. The project teams are currently studying prototypes for the athlete and attendant villages, testing materials, colors, and form. Experiencing the behind the scenes of a major cultural event like the Olympics was really special!

If you weren’t in architecture, what would you be doing?

Although still design-based, I’d have my own dog-toy design and production company. It would focus on finding a material my dog can’t shred to pieces and leave scattered around my apartment.

What the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?

Always ask questions, whether out of curiosity or confusion.

Man in green suitcoat

Tyler Pilon

Civil Designer I, Public Works

What is your position at LHB and what are the associated duties?

I focus on roadways and highways, assisting with creating proposals and preliminary layouts, as well as creating sheets for engineering plans throughout roadway projects. I am often responsible for updating drawings, spreadsheets, and plans when changes are necessary.

What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?

I enjoy working on projects where the impacted communities benefit from our team’s designs. More than enjoyment, knowing our work is serving the communities and clients. It gives the difficult processes more of a purpose. Being able to come up with beneficial designs to solve complex problems is the driving factor in our team’s work.

What made you interested in engineering?

Growing up, I loved numbers and figuring out how to solve problems. Engineering is one of the main professions where problem-solving is a daily challenge. When looking for internships my first two years of college, transportation engineering stuck out since I could spend time outside on the job site while helping the community. This belief really hit home during my second internship when the project I was helping inspect ended up being my neighborhood!

Name a project you’ve been working on and explain what interests you about it.

My team and I have been working on a future London Road project. It is partially a preservation job while also making a few big-time upgrades, especially when it comes to pedestrian safety. There are many intersection improvements being proposed which are all designed to aid in pedestrian crossing of the busy roadway. Being a new homeowner in Duluth’s Lakeside neighborhood, I know how many families will benefit from these upgrades.

What the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?

If you are going to do something new or work towards something, try your hardest.

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