Wondering what a career in Water Resources looks like? 🤔 Then this episode is for you! Today, I interview Jared Coleman, a Water Resources engineer and a CFM who’s worked in both the private and public sectors. He dives into what you can expect from each, how to choose one, as well as the CFM credential and the work he does in floodplain management with it. If you ever wondered how to get this credential you’ll want to listen to this one, for sure. 😉
Tune in to Learn:
- What his current work as a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM) look like
- What the CFM Certification is (and how it fills in the 4-year gap between the FE and PE)
- How to become a CFM (plus a resource that helps you breeze through that)
- Common issues with project submittals in flood-prone areas
- Working for private vs public companies: the pros and cons you should consider
- The biggest challenge in sustainable urban development today
- A brand new sustainability measure being implemented in Water Resources right now
- A secret method to pass the FE and PE exams building on the topics you're good at
- Should you take the PE Environmental Exam as a civil engineer in Water Resources?
- His top tip for young civil engineers starting out to “find themselves” in the field
- What organizations can you join as a CFM or a civil engineer in Water Resources?
The Civil PE Startup Guide
Connect With Jared:
Transcript of Show
You can get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: Hey, what's up everybody? Isaac here, civil Engineering Academy. Excited to be with you on another podcast episode. Today I bring on Jared Coleman. He is a Professional Engineer and a Certified Floodplain Manager. If you don't know what that is, we discuss it in this podcast episode. He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in with a master's degree. He works for the City of Aurora, helping with floodplain management, doing all things water resources.
Isaac Oakeson: So I wanted to talk on bring him on, talk about his work experience, some of his favorite things he works on maybe the challenges he encounters, and also these credentials that he has, so you have a better understanding of what a water resource engineer does. And we talk about that also at a public and a private sector. So if you're curious what life is like in the private world or public world as you dive into water resources than maybe this is an episode for you.
Isaac Oakeson: So thank you for being here. We're excited for this episode. Jared is a great guest. Please reach out to him on LinkedIn. We also leave some show notes on where you can reach out to him, give him a thank you. But if you're sharing this with a friend, we appreciate that. Give us a like and a subscribe. And if you need resources to help you on your journey to become a professional engineer, check out at civilengineeringacademy.com. And we are releasing a new course for those that are gonna get their CFM. It's gonna be cfmreviewcourse.com.
Isaac Oakeson: Go find it. It's gonna be released the first part of November, so we're excited to help you out with that. Anyway, without further ado, let's bring Jared back on the show and we'll see you in a minute.
Isaac Oakeson: Hey, I wanted to jump on real quick and let you know about a free resource we developed for you. You can find it at civilengineeringacademy.com/PEguide. And this will help you to jumpstart your studies for your PE exam. So, if you're in the hunt and you're just thinking about the PE exam, this guide will help you get through the process of figuring out everything you need to do from the PE exams, prerequisites that you got to figure out, the must have materials that you're gonna need for the exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Any approved calculators, what groups you should join, exam Secrets, and much more. It's all in this guide that we've got developed for you. It's completely free. You can go check it out at civilengineeringacademy.com/PEguide. Just put in your email. We'll get you that information as soon as the email comes to your inbox. So go check it out, civilengineeringacademy.com/PEguide.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, we are live and running. Jared, thank you for jumping on the Civil Engineering Academy podcast. I appreciate you joining me and doing this.
Jared Coleman: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Isaac Oakeson: I'm excited to chat with you. I wanted to bring you on the show, talk about your work history. I also wanted to get your opinion a little bit more on the CFM Certified Floodplain Manager and just kind of all things water resources, I guess. SoI always love to start these out though, talking about how you found yourself in the position you're in. How did you find yourself in civil engineering doing what you do and, and what do you do for work?
Jared Coleman: Yeah, so I've had quite an interesting career path, as far as I think. So I've really had a love for water systems ever since I was a small child. I grew up in Florida and we're surrounded by lakes and ponds and of course the ocean and rivers and canals. So it's always been something that's been physically near to me and dear to me. But I really never thought of it as a career until I got to my very last semester in my undergraduate degree. And I had the opportunity to get onto a
Jared Coleman: And in the course of interviewing him and then taking his classes, I really got into environmental engineering and kind of touched on the water resources, but the water resources side of things really came to me when I started to pursue my master's degree at Colorado School of Mines. And I had an advisor who was very keen on getting me into a specific focus, because you know, as civil engineers, there's a lot of different branches that we can go out into. But everything that I ever did was always focused around water.
Jared Coleman: So he kind of steered me to that direction. And through that kind of was able to marry my stem academia, kind of aptitude as well as my passion for water and turn that into a career. And I have since worked for a lot of small a few small firms and large firms on the private sector, as well as some small firms and large firms on the public sector. So I've changed between those career fields quite a bit throughout my relatively short career. And I kind of find myself in my current position as we sit here talking about it.
Isaac Oakeson: And what do you do in your current position?
Jared Coleman: Yeah, so currently I'm a Professional Engineer and a Certified Floodplain Manager who works for the city of Aurora near Denver, Colorado. I work in the water department, and I work as a civil plan and report reviewerfocusing around development conformance to criteria and floodplains. And what that really translates to is essentially any development building plot of land that comes into the city.
Jared Coleman: I'm one of the people who goes in and actually takes a look at it and makes sure it's up to snuff and acceptable to come into the city as a piece of permanent infrastructure.
Isaac Oakeson: What problems do you typically see when people submit plans and let's say it's in a flood floodplain or potential floodplain. What kind of, what are the steps to either help something be built or are you just rejecting it? What kind of goes into that?
Jared Coleman: We try not to reject too many things. But we try to walk our applicants through the process and not only what they need, but kind of why they need it. There's it's one of the common threads that I've seen is that water specific things tend to take a backseat to the overall site layout. So they're kind of the one of the last items to be addressed in civil plan documents when they come and hit my desk.
Jared Coleman: And by the end of the design space is always at a premium. So we always have to work through the not the importance of why the infrastructure is needed, but also why it's beneficial to the site and adjacent odors. And there's economic reasons and recreational reasons and safety reasons why we would have all these different things required. And there is quite a benefit to thinking of these things ahead of time, which isn't always something that our applicants see. So I'm one of the folks that's responsible for working through that with the applicants.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, I have heard of real horror stories where you get some sort of home development made and some rain event happens and you've got huge water problems. And if it's an afterthought, it's kind of too late to do anything there. Water can be, I mean it's a love hate you got you love water because you have to have it, but man, when it's a problem, it is a huge problem.
Jared Coleman: Right. And you know, one of the really interesting things about this career field that I find myself in is that, most people don't really think about the importance of water, especially surface water until something goes wrong. It just really takes one bad storm or one hurricane to really see devastating effects. In Colorado in 2013, we had very large flood event that cost $4 billion worth of damage so far. And it's by far the largest cost of damage to infrastructure and homes and interrupting people's lives even more so than wildfires.
Jared Coleman: But by the opposite token of that, it people and love going to lakes and rivers and people have a great time. So there's great beauty and tranquility and a lot of economic benefit is driven by these kind of water systems. So it is this almost double-edged sword. It's beautiful, but also dangerous if it's mismanaged.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, very true. Well, I wanted to touch a little upon what you said earlier that you've worked for a lot of private and public companies. If there was someone out there debating between joining one or the other, what would you say are some of the benefits or drawbacks to either or?
Jared Coleman: So I would say that it's very individualized, but on the private sector, you're gonna do a lot of design. You're gonna be very hands-on, on narrow focuses. At least that's been my experience. You're gonna work on one aspect of a design and it may or may not be local to you. So I worked on designs in California and Washington and Texas and Florida, and I may or may not ever see the fruits of my labor, so to speak.
Jared Coleman: Whereas on the public sector since I worked for a local municipality, I get to see everything that I do, and I can go out and I can physically touch what I'm working on and see it go literally from a piece of paper or on the computer nowadays, but go from this abstract concept to a physical thing that I can go out and see. And I'm working on a lot of different projects all at the same time. I have my breadth has increasedcompared to the public, the private sector.
Jared Coleman: But what I don't have is like the opportunity to travel that you would find in the private sector. You don't necessarily get to work with too many different types of engineers like you do with the private sector. But I am much more rooted within my community working in the public sector because I have that sense of ownership and being able to go and see the things that I've designed or helped design.
Isaac Oakeson: Good. And that's a great answer. I think there's real value in that answer. So if anybody's debating that, I know it's very individualized on the circumstances and kind of the things you're looking for, but I really love how you broke that down for us. So thanks for doing that.
Jared Coleman: Yeah,
Isaac Oakeson: Is there a favorite project that you've worked on for the city of Aurora?
Jared Coleman: There's been a lot of different projects. I would say generally the projects that I enjoy the most are the problems with, or the projects with problems still to solve. And we don't always get a 100% completely flawless project that comes and hits our desks. There's usually something that can be improved upon or some little nuance that I get to see.
Jared Coleman: And that's one of the things that keeps this job really interesting, is that even though I'm all still dealing with surface water conveyance and floodplains, there's always that little something that makes it different and gives me a reason to come in the morning. And not to sugarcoat it, there are a lot of contentious issues that can crop up with these things, but again, it's that novelty in these different types of projects that really keeps me coming in and really makes me enjoy the work that I do.
Isaac Oakeson: That's fantastic. Has there been, I guess what are you seeing at your level that is maybe the most pressing challenges that you see, or maybe frequent challenges that you see in the environmental or water resources world?
Jared Coleman: Sure. So I touched on the idea that water, especially surface water is usually one of the last things that gets considered. And frankly, any kind of design. But the other, one of the other things that I think is starting to come into the public light a little bit more is just how we physically structure cities. We have more people than ever in, we're looking for safety and affordability and ownable living spaces access to amenities and infrastructure in green space.
Jared Coleman: There's a lot of different moving parts that we have to consider. And we haven't really taken a hard look at how we've laid out cities in many decades. We still have huge suburban sprawl, and it's these just swaths of neighborhoods with interspersed commercial hubs. And one of the things that makes life and transport difficult is just people have to get somewhere and it's the term food deserts comes to mind.
Jared Coleman: And one of the things that I would really like to see, and one of the things that as a public figure, I can come and maybe tweak a little bit, not so much as I would like to, but I can help tweak a little bit, is just having mixed zoning, higher density, residential access to reliable transit and just to use the buzz term, walkable neighborhoods, things like that.
Jared Coleman: I think like, again, having that public space to be able to bring these ideas open is a newer concept that we're just starting to see the fruits of the labor for, but it's still very much slow changing process even from the inside. And we're still seeing hundreds of homes and a supermarket that's five miles away. And how do you get people access to that? Or how do you encourage business development.
Jared Coleman: And local business owners to come to an area that's just more or less isolated from where they live and where they want to work.
Isaac Oakeson: That definitely sounds like a challenge. I think that's for a lot of places they're always looking at urban development and how they can figure out how to best utilize that. I think that ties a little bit into sustainability. Is there anything that you're seeing that's coming across your desk that gets you excited about sustainability, whether a new technology or something that's implemented that way?
Jared Coleman: Yeah, one of the things that I think the Denver area is starting to get take a look into is more of a microscale water treatment systems. Instead of having a large pond for a development or forcing everything into underground tanks, start looking at these small individualized scale treatment systems that can integrate into pavements and walking surfaces or rain gardens. And they turn into this amenity where people can sit underneath trees and watch the bees fly around flowers and things like that.
Jared Coleman: We're starting to see a shift towards that, and that gets me really excited. And one of the things that we're pushing here at the city of Aurora is to move towards infrastructure like that instead of having lots of concrete and lots of holes in the ground to treat the systems like we've done historically in the past.
Isaac Oakeson: That makes sense. Yeah, I think there's just a lot of new technologies and ideas around sustainability, so it's fun to kind of hear what's going on in your world and what excites you about that.
Isaac Oakeson: I wanted to touch a little bit upon like maybe some credentials that you have for your particular spot and where you're working. I think you mentioned you're a Professional Engineer, so that means you've had to take the PE exam. Do you have any tips for anybody taking that exam? And I'm assuming you did a water resources depth exam?
Jared Coleman: Yeah, I did. Sothere's been quite a bit of changes, specifically in Colorado over the last couple years. So, for those of your listeners who don't have their FE yet, I highly recommend you get your FE if you are with still within your school age range. You haven't graduated yet or you've just graduated the state of Colorado. And many other states has actually changed their laws to where you can take the PE essentially as early as you want.
Jared Coleman: Some of them require the FE, some of them don't. And you can take the actual exam early. And I would recommend that you do that, especially if you're still, close enough to school because you're still gonna have to study for it. And you have that study mentality still within you as opposed to waiting four years and kind of losing that mentality of studying, diligently.
Jared Coleman: But if you can take the test and study for the test earlyI would say go ahead and do that. And the other part that you mentioned is there's still these focuses, so you're correct. I chose my water resources path as my focus, but you also have nuclear engineering and construction engineering and there's lots of different paths that you could choose. But one of the pieces of advice that was given to me that I think helped me a lot is your test is broken up into a focus and into a general test.
Isaac Oakeson: Your focus is half the exam and most passing scores are in the 70 percentile range. So if you just focus on your focus portion of the exam, you already have like 50% of your test in the bag, and some of it's covered in the general exam portion as well. So you can really allocate your time much more efficiently.
Jared Coleman: Instead of trying to cover all your weak spots, you could shore up your strengths and then try to get that extra 10, 15, maybe 20% that you don't fully know without wasting your time on a subject that you may or not, may not use in your career or have lost the aptitude for. So that really helped me in my study efforts.
Isaac Oakeson: That makes sense. I believe there's also a very specific environmental PE exam. I don't know if that's something you looked into or what would be the benefit of for that in your career or others that are looking at to get in that?
Jared Coleman: Yeah,
Jared Coleman: So being able to manage your time,t just made more sense to be, to work on something I was already familiar with instead of trying to brush up,ow to do a roadway alignment and how to calculate air quality things. I'm not as strong with as I was with the water resources side with things. And I still studied for those additional things, but it wasn't, it wasn't as high of a priority because I knew that wasn't going to be the, the main focus of the exam.
Isaac Oakeson: Definitely makes sense. Good tips there. I I know one of your credentials we talked about earlier is the CFM or Certified Floodplain Manager. How has that been a benefit to your career? A lot of people may not even know what that is. Maybe you could touch upon that, what that is and how it's been a benefit for you.
Jared Coleman: Yeah, so Certified Floodplain Manager or CFM is a part of FEMA and part of the National Flood InsuranceI'm gonna mess up the acronym, but National Flood Insurance Policy program, so through the federal government. But it focuses as the name suggests on floodplains. And this is part of a
Jared Coleman: So CFM is essentially the person who helps decide whether or not flood insurance is a requirement for a home. But more importantly, we're the group of people that helps try to get homes and other buildings and other critical infrastructure outside of floodplains ensure that there's enough of a floodplain for the water to travel through it without causing any damage.
Jared Coleman: As you start to build up closer and closer to the river, you take up more space that the river would've had or you know, a creek or in the ocean and for example, would work as well. So we try to protect that critical corridorso that when people come in and do build in these areas, they're not building in places that is gonna cause damage in the future. And I looked at the CFM while I still had my EIT and it essentially bridged that gap between the four years between my EIT and my PE to where it could show that I had advanced knowledge in my field.
Jared Coleman: It started opening doors and I started working on project managements or management and taking the lead on projects that my peers who are still EITs or just freshly PEs didn't necessarily have that opportunity. And currently it still allows me to branch out my interest into floodplain, into the FEMA side of things, as well as allowing me to attend different conferences and keep up to date with the profession as well as different social circles that I wouldn't necessarily get if I was focusing on the development side of things.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. So it sounds like it was a real benefit to you, and I like that you inserted it between your effing and your PE to show your still getting credentialed and gaining more knowledge and becoming certified in different things. Could you touch briefly upon like what the exam is? Because some people don't even know what it is. Or even just some of the logistics around it.
Jared Coleman: Yeah. So there, depending on where you're at, it there's a couple of different offerings every year, kind of similar to the PE or the EIT exam. And similar to both those exams, there's a technical aspect of thingsbut specifically for the CFM, there's also an insurance aspect of things. Because this is again, centered around the National Insurance program.
Jared Coleman: And so you do have to break out of your engineering shell a little bit when it comes to testing for the CFM because it is important for you as ACFM to be able to make these kind of insurance decisions that you are, you're not necessarily setting the rates of insurance, but you are deciding and determining whether or not someone has to pay insurance and whether or not government, I'm gonna quote in quote that government forces someone to pay something or not, is a very confrontational kind of position to be in.
Isaac Oakeson: So having this certification and showing that you've understand the impacts and the importance of it. It takes away that edge and gives you the authority to work on these types of projects and make these types of decisions.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. Yeah. I'm trying to ask more questions around the CFM. I know here at Civil Engineering Academy, we're actually developing a course around that to help people out at the website called CFM Review course. And we're excited to share that with people at the time we launch it, which will probably be the first week in November.
Isaac Oakeson: But I know it's a good credential to have and it sounds like a huge benefit to your career if you're even considering that route. Jared, do you have any other advice or tips around people just starting out in this field that you're in or wanting to get into environmental work?
Jared Coleman: Yeah, so one of the things that I really kind of found out in my career is just, find something that's really passionate to you that you find a lot of passionate, and don't be afraid to stray away from your intended path. You know, I did not find my place in civil engineering and civil service until much later in my career.
Jared Coleman: And again, kind of marrying that aptitude for stem and the joy for helping my community and incorporating a desire to work with water all of that really didn't come to fruition until after I had graduated my bachelor's degree and kind of after I had graduated with my master's too. So, don't be afraid to take different pursuits if something interests you. Take chances at new experiences. Anything that sparks your interest. Take the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures and different ways of looking at it.
Jared Coleman: You're never going to, you're never gonna know what interests you until you experience it for the first time, but also be careful without taking too much that you overload yourself and you burn yourself out. Find people and companies that support your ideals and your goals, but stay humble, help others, ask for help yourself. And remember that we as civil engineers, we're out here to make the world a better place for everyone and the planet. So keeping all those things in mind has been really, really helpful for me and my career path.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. Great tips, great tips for anybody jumping into this field of water resources. Jared, this has been a pleasure chatting with you and talking about what you do for a living, some of your favorite projects and really all the tips that you've shared with us today, is there anything else that you would share with our audience?
Jared Coleman: I am available of course I'm in the Denver, I'm in the Denver area. I'm happy to get in touch with anyone who is interested in furthering this conversation. I'm also incredibly involved,with my local organization, so the Colorado Association of Floodplain Managers,which I'm a part of, as well as the American Society of Civil Engineers. I am the outgoing president for this year. So I'm happy to touch base with anyone in those groups as well as anyone who would like to just reach out and discuss a career in civil engineering.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. What's the best way for our audience to reach out to you? Is it LinkedIn or other means?
Jared Coleman: Linkedin is great and people can feel free to give shoot me an email through my aurora gov email. So that's [email protected]. People are welcome to email me there as well.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome. Okay, we'll go ahead and link that all in our show notes. I appreciate you jumping on doing this. I think it's a fascinating career. I loved hearing about it. And if anyone else out there is considering a career in this area, definitely reach out to Jared and see what he is got to offer you with some more information. So thank you for joining me, Jared. We'll talk to you later.
Jared Coleman: Thank you. My pleasure.
Isaac Oakeson: See ya.
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