Troy Carmann, a 1997 graduate of the College of Engineering, has worked with ICON Engineering Inc. since he graduated, starting as an intern and holding positions from technical and administrative roles to resident engineer on two large projects.
“I really hope at 80 years old I can climb to the top of Mt. Evans, look down over the front range of Colorado and point out to my grandkids all of the cool projects I had an opportunity to be involved in,” says Carmann.
“If I can look down over Denver and see something I’ve worked on still standing, then I’ve done the right thing as an engineer.”
Carmann, originally from Colorado, remembers his college visit to Ames was in February when it was too foggy to see the top of the Marston Water Tower. But he had a good feeling about the university despite the gloomy weather, and his family and friends encouraged him to attend.
He says engineering seemed like a default, as he was always playing outside and exploring the creek behind his house. Originally hoping to go into transportation, he found the vast opportunities of civil engineering and stayed with it.
Engineering students face a rigorous curriculum, but Carmann still managed to join a fraternity, the Student Alumni Association and walk on the football team his first year. He says he’s happy there wasn’t much idle time because it gave him many great experiences.
“The College of Engineering is the railroad tracks that put you on a path toward a career—but I don’t know too many people who ride a train without enjoying the view. Sometimes it’s what you see outside the windows along the way that helps you the most. And that’s how Iowa State worked for me,” says Carmann.
Working with ICON for so many years has given Carmann a broad experience, and he says it’s exposed him to the full breadth of civil engineering. He began in a technical role, with a few administrative responsibilities.
After spending time drafting, he moved on to estimating and designing for small development projects, which he liked. Then he started designing for bigger projects in a management role.
“That’s where I get into some of the public meetings and interaction with the people who are affected by the products we design,” says Carmann, adding that there are times when people are pretty upset about future projects. But he likes being able to explain the complex benefits that result from a well-designed project despite the temporary pains of construction.
Two stints as a resident engineer gave Carmann full insight into his chosen field. “It was really important in understanding the design-to-construction process and probably informed how I view what engineering is.
“It’s more than just lines on paper, and it’s more than just an excavator bucket tearing across the earth,” explains Carmann. “There’s a methodic process that makes for a good product.”
Carmann says for him, onsite work is preferable to being in the office, but he does believe there’s more satisfaction in following through with a project from the very beginning to the end.
“You can start with a project at conception and move that through preliminary design, final design—beat up all the details and then get it built,” he explains. Being part of the full process means working a bit harder, but Carmann finds that makes it more gratifying to see a project finally constructed.
Over the years, Carmann has learned that engineering is more than a full-time job, and it’s possible to overwork yourself—a lesson made even clearer when his two sons were born.
“Engineers put a lot of our own heart into our projects, and sometimes that makes it difficult for us to log out at the end of the day,” he says. “Keeping a balance is essential to keeping a happy life.
“Hopefully our families understand, and for the next 100 years, they’ll know a bridge we built won’t fall down anytime soon because we put our heart and soul in it.”
Though he’s done many projects and has years of construction work to come, his goal of showing his family the work he did when he’s retired will be his real accomplishment.
“I’m proud of that goal and proud of the decisions I’ve made so far in my career.”