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Faces of Freese and Nichols: Will Hackett, PE

September 27, 2019

Will Hackett​, PE, gets really excited about the projects he works on.

He loves being able to handle treatment and conveyance solutions for his community in Cobb County and others across Georgia. But he also loves being able to network and learn something every day, passing on that knowledge to others.

Born in Columbus and raised near Albany in Southwest Georgia, he moved to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech in 2006 and has called it home since. He has been active in the Georgia Association of Water Professionals since the beginning of his career, and he coaches youth soccer with one of the local churches in western Cobb County. Will met his wife, Kimmiey, in college, and she currently works for a road-paving company (C.W. Matthews) with a view of Kennesaw Mountain where Will proposed.  They currently live in Powder Springs with their two kids – Liam, 5, and Lorra Grace, 2 – and are members of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Smyrna. They enjoy supporting local sports teams, trying new restaurants, and taking their kids to explore state and local parks.

What kind of projects do you typically work on?

I do a lot of “outside of the fence” work with pipelines and pump stations and work on wastewater treatment facility projects. I enjoy being a technical task lead and mentoring EITs on those types of projects. I strive to have an open-door policy and enjoy sitting down with junior EITs to go through problems and work them out together.

How does Freese and Nichols compare to other firms in Georgia?

Across the board, I’ve had the pleasure of working with several great project teams on projects here in Georgia. Some differentiators I’ve observed here are the transparency I’ve seen from senior leadership and the goal-oriented intent of their communication. Leadership shows they care and are invested when they come to our offices and share how the company is performing. Freese and Nichols is very open, and that’s something I really appreciate.

It has also impressed me how quick the company was to welcome me. Very quickly I felt very connected to other groups and staff both locally and nationally. There’s also been consistency with which tools and processes get changed or implemented/improved, and FNI gets everybody up to speed and on the same page. Here if my supervisor isn’t available, I can call other project managers, and they can help me. This consistency is impressive and helps all of our teams perform better on projects.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I really like working in the water industry – a colleague heard me get really excited about working on a project and remarked to my supervisor that they could probably get me to do it for free. There are a lot of aspects I enjoy, such as meeting and learning from other people in the industry here in Georgia – whether it’s municipal operations staff, utility managers, vendors or other consultants. I’ve also learned and continued to learn much from the staff here at Freese and Nichols. I enjoy engaging with local project teams and working together to handle the treatment and conveyance challenges for our shared metro-Atlanta community. I get to learn something every day about what we do. Once I learn something, I like sitting down to share it with our local EITs to grow together as a team. I have gotten more time to do that over the past year with FNI and also work with EITs in other offices across the company. My hope is they feel they can reach out and ask me questions. I want to be an open resource for them and get them connected with other resources in our industry.

How do you handle adversity?

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. See what the mutual solution is for everyone involved. At times when I’ve handled it best, that’s what I’m doing. Whether it’s projects at the office or at home, it goes back to that concept.

What’s your favorite part about working at Freese and Nichols?

Coke Zero in the break room! On a more serious note, I really like the 125-year history of our company, from the news articles that we do and projects we’ve done to the images of past projects on the walls of our various offices. Our connection to our history in the water industry is something many other companies don’t have. And also getting time to work with other young engineers and connecting with other thought leaders within our organization. Just this morning, I was talking to another group and senior leaders jumped on the phone to help me. That’s been true across the board; it’s really cool to see that. In other firms, sometimes those resources aren’t always available.

What’s your advice for young professionals trying to get into the industry?

With the Great Recession impacting a significant portion of the workforce within the water and wastewater industry, there’s a knowledge gap in 10-20 year range within many public and private entities. I see this as an opportunity for young professionals to step up and grow into roles with greater responsibility and impact, bringing their passion and enthusiasm to the challenges in our industry.

Don’t be afraid to stretch yourself beyond the minimum expectation. Be the person who double checks the assignment and asks questions – because that’s what’s going to set you apart.

Not only find a mentor but also find someone that you can mentor as well. Even if you’re an EIT with two years of experience, be a mentor to an intern or someone in college. Find a mentor and be a mentor.​