As a child, Andres Restrepo loved playing with toys that he could build and take apart. At the age of 10, Andres has fond memories of taking a part and putting back together the vacuum. He was especially pleased the vacuum worked after his rebuild!
He also loved exploring the woods and creek in his neighborhood. He noticed how the rocks influenced the flow of the water. Restrepo remembered, “The creek behind in my neighborhood was where I was first able to get up-close to an active construction site. One summer when I was a child, they were doing stream restoration on the creek. I was able to watch the excavators install boulders to restore the banks of the creek and mitigate the water flow. I was amazed by how behemoth the excavators looked to me and size of the boulders which shaped the creek. Even afterwards, I was able to see how that project influenced the creek downstream and surrounding woods.”
Excelling at math and science, he knew by the end of high school he wanted to be an engineer and work for the government. But he was not sure how to make that happen. Growing up in Maryland, he knew many federal employees who felt their contributions and service were worthwhile. Andres also knew government work provided a decent work/life balance.
First, he attended Montgomery College in Maryland. During an engineering club meeting, he learned about the different engineering disciplines. Civil engineering called to him since it provided a benefit to society. Restrepo transferred to Morgan State University where he met with a guidance counselor who told him it was possible to have a career in government as an engineer. Andres, determined to meet his goal took the appropriate classes, and joined a variety of clubs and activities to build his professional path.
In 2019, he landed an internship with the USACE Army District where he lived in Germany. Covid restrictions didn’t allow a second year in Germany, but he had networked with the Transatlantic Middle East District (TAM). By graduation, he interviewed with TAM and was offered the position as an Army Fellow, a two-year rotation through the Army Civilian Career Management Activity (ACCMA). The 2 year Army Fellow program is designed to attract, recruit and hire top civilian talent.
His two-year rotation currently has him rotating through planning, project management, construction, and other divisions. Restrepo said, “I have touched different facets of the USACE business process, and it has been a quality experience.” By September his plan is to gain a permanent position here at TAM.
His favorite part of this experience has been the travel. “I enjoy exploring new places, cultures, and food. I especially love going to the market and seeing how people live. I enjoy the discomfort of a new cultural experience.”
Teaching and mentorship have also played a significant role in his growth and development. Andres has seized opportunities while in school and now at the beginning of his career. In college, he worked at a small private school in Washington, D.C. in an afterschool program and as a substitute teacher. Teaching STEM to students has allowed him, “To teach them about my passion, civil engineering, while drawing upon their curiosity. Part of my professional development was in leadership and emotional intelligence. I find it most rewarding when I can use these skills to make a positive impact on a child.”
Andres recently did a program for 6th grade students for the local Starbase Academy where he explained the history of and the various disciplines of engineering. He also helped the students imagine, design, and build their own popsicle bridges. Once the bridges were built, they were tested to see how much weight the designs could withstand. The students were captivated by his instruction, and all were pleased with how their designs exceeded their own personal expectations.
Andres explains what mentorship means to him, “My experiences with mentorship has been integral to my growth through school and beyond. Mentorship provides me support and knowledge that has helped in accomplishing my goals. I’ve have learned from many others throughout my journey whom have provided great benefit to my professional development. Mentorship can take many shapes, from formal and informal, to group and peer mentorship; I try to utilize all the different forms of mentorship to create consistent growth. Likewise, mentoring others has also taught me more about myself. Plus, it’s always rewarding to help others.”