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A Closer Look: Shannon Baird


Your position is so new that you’re not even here right now.

I’m commuting right now. I’ve been told it’s the craziest time to pick up and move your family to Des Moines – in the middle of January. I grew up in a rural area of northeast Kansas, so we had brutal winters. I’ve been watching the temperature differential between Kansas City and Des Moines, and it’s about 10 degrees.

How did you get into engineering? Did you play with Legos?

My dad was an engineer, and he kind of led me in that direction. We worked on the cars together, I grew up on horseback, I grew up on a farm. We had hay and cattle and horses. I think we tried pigs once and Mom got rid of them. They didn’t last long. … My mom’s in accounting; my sister went that direction, and I went this direction. It’s kind of funny how we each mirrored a parent.

So there wasn’t any question that you would go into engineering?

I knew I wanted to go to K-State, and I got a scholarship in engineering. They had seven different programs in engineering, and when I went to the program, a dual program called construction science and management and architectural engineering, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I knew that I wasn’t going to be sitting at a desk and drawing and clicking with a mouse for the rest of my life – that I was going to get to go build cool things.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve built?

That’s hard to say, because they’re all really cool. When you’re done and you get to see what you’ve just walked away from, I’m not sure I could pick one. I’ve built a lot of high-tech health care facilities. They’ve all been very interesting.

What are the challenges and opportunities in construction?

The biggest challenge is the spending of the owners. Until owners decide to spend the dollars for their projects, we don’t have the backlog. We work every day to go out and market those clients and find that work.

What is your task in the Des Moines office?

We will oversee all of the projects in Iowa, and we have several projects that we are involved in. We have University of Iowa hospitals and clinics, the ambulatory care. That is a $30 million project. … Mary Greeley (Medical Center in Ames) is in preconstruction; it is around $100 million in additions and renovations. That is a five-year program. We are building a new hospital (in Webster City). We do a lot of replacement hospitals. Those are fun projects to complete and assist them with the move. Logistically, not only are you talking about moving patients and staff, but you are moving major pieces of radiology equipment and other pieces of equipment that they want to relocate and have very little down time for their major equipment.

Is problem solving the greatest attraction to engineering?

What I think is neat is that every day is different. We’re never doing the same thing from day to day. Every project is different, every issue is different, every solution is different. But at the end of the day you get these incredible buildings that you are able to drive by and say that you had a part in that. … The challenges are great. You either love it or you don’t.

What do you do to relax?

We love to go boating. We’re looking forward to heading up to Saylorville and plopping the boat in the lake.

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