Los Angeles / 8 years with HDR

Tesse Rasmussen

What is it that keeps you here?

The coffee. And the people. But mostly coffee. More seriously, I have a deep passion for working on projects that make a difference in peoples’ lives. And transit truly makes a difference – allowing people choices for how they commute, where they live and how they spend their time. While I’m usually on the very early end of projects, helping to draw the route lines or clearing the environmental documents, I live for the day “my” project opens to the public. I’ve been lucky enough to have two of my projects open, and another three are under construction in L.A., San Diego and Honolulu.

We’re embarking on a very significant moment in our company’s history. What makes our 100-year anniversary important to you?

A century is a long time to be helping communities grow while providing stable jobs to a lot of people around the globe. My town is actually also turning 100 this year, and it’s interesting to think of the parallels – as my street was being surveyed by someone a century ago, HDR was opening their first office and taking on their first client. But a company – and a town – are only as good as the people who comprise them. It always comes back to the people. I’m lucky to have found good people in both my company and my town.

We take pride in helping our local communities. What is your favorite way that HDR is helping this community, whether it is your favorite project, community service or something else?

The community service event that is making me giggle right now is the PB&J Challenge. Our office is making 250 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to donate to the homeless and hungry. I was unable to attend so I ordered six massive jars of jam.

In terms of projects, my work on the Mid-Coast corridor in San Diego is near and dear to my heart. This LRT line will extend the current system up to my former high school! It’s so neat to work on a project in your ‘hood, and to know that the kids in your school will have the entire city at their doorstep.

We have held many of the same principles from our company’s inception until now. How does our culture appeal to you, and what values have you seen our company carry throughout time?

I love the helpfulness of our culture. I think the first time I had to deal with Human Resources at our headquarters in Omaha (when I was pregnant), I was shocked at how warm and friendly everyone was. They went out of their way to help me figure out the California maternity leave policies. This extends from Omaha out to all of our offices.

We have always had a client-first approach. In what ways have you seen that exemplified?

It’s hard to pick one way this exemplified. This is a core function, like breathing, and we just do it. For me, I like to send interesting articles relevant to our industry or a shared interest to my clients, which is a nice way to have an off-project dialogue yet remain project-focused. One of my clients has a deep interest in dog agility training, and one of our project coordinators has family in that arena, so it was fun to get them together to share that relatively obscure interest.

With our 100-year anniversary we have seen our company grow and achieve great things. Where do you see our company going in the future?

When our founders started with power poles in the Midwest, I don’t think they ever envisioned that we’d be pursuing autonomous vehicles, smart buildings, high speed rail, or green roofs – so who knows where we’ll be in another 100 years. Maybe personal rapid transit will finally get its shining moment (that’s a long-running transit joke), or we’ll build launch facilities for interplanetary transit. There are few limits as to what we can do when we work together with our clients and our communities, while remaining true to our core values.