National Engineers Week Spotlight: Larry Barfield, PE, FNSPE, FTEF

When I started my career, we were using punch cards to input data into big computers to solve engineering problems. The plain old desk or wall phone was the normal method of communication, which meant you did not have the ability to instantly communicate with whomever you might be trying to reach. If you called someone and they didn’t answer their phone, you would have to continually redial and call again until you were finally able to speak to someone.

Calculations were done on a handheld calculator. Designs were marked up with a red pencil on sketch pads and turned over to a manual draftsman to put into a plan set. Different layers of engineering type drawings were done with a Leroy Set and a pin bar system. Blue Line Drawings were produced from a massive Blue Line copier where you had to hand feed drawing size sheets of paper into the machine and hope the machine did not eat them up. Along with that you almost had to wear a gas mask in the print room because the ammonia smell was so strong.

So yes, fast forward to today and see the differences. Everyone has cell phones with cameras and many useful apps, laptop computers, and instant access to just about anything you can imagine. Technology has changed the engineering business in so many ways. As I progressed through my career, I had to learn on the fly, be flexible in knowing that the world moves really fast, and adapt to all the new innovative and progressive ways of producing an engineering product or I would not have been able to compete or survive in this industry.

What do you get out of engineering that you couldn’t get from any other kind of work?

The satisfaction of actually seeing your design progress to construction and then seeing a finished project come to life that you had put your heart and soul into. Then knowing that it satisfied a client and met their needs and the needs of the public.

As I progressed in my career, I was given the opportunity to work on more and more challenging projects. I was given the chance to stretch my mind and design systems and facilities that no one else had ever done before. I did all this knowing that as a Professional Engineer I first and foremost was always working to insure the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

This is the 10th Anniversary of your Engineer of the Year accolade as well as Larry Barfield Day. Looking back on your impressive career, what project have you been involved with that had the greatest impact on your career?

I have had the opportunity to work on many challenging and unique projects in my engineering career. It is hard for me to just single out one in particular. Several that immediately come to mind are the design of all the electrical systems in the 69th Street Sludge Disposal Plant and the Conversion of an Overhead 138kV Transmission System to an Underground System when the IH 10 expansion took place approximately 20 years ago.

Both projects were very high profile in the Houston area, and I gained much personal satisfaction from successfully accomplishing all the many design and construction aspects of each project along with public recognition from my peers and engineering colleagues. My selection as Engineer of the Year for the State of Texas has been one of the highlights of my career.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As I was growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to be and specifically what an engineer was. No one in my immediate family had ever gone to college. My high school counselors suggested that if I went to college that I pursue something in engineering as I had a high aptitude for math. My parents gave me the opportunity and sacrificed for me to be able to obtain my engineering education. It was a really good choice. As I look back, I have never questioned my decision to be an engineer. Engineers design the world and I feel I have contributed in some small way in doing that. I am happy with my decision. I have never wanted to do anything different.

For more information about DiscoverE and Engineers Week, click on the logo above.

For more information about DiscoverE and Engineers Week, click on the logo above.

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