Olsson expert: “It’s hard to see myself doing anything else.”

Celena Shepherd, Communications

October 13, 2023

Dennis Richards has traveled more than once to all 50 states and attends training and workshops throughout the country. The Olsson senior engineer has built relationships with professionals from all over. 

In 2004, he joined the first class of the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers (AAWRE), which board certifies water resources engineers. This month, he was named president of AAWRE after two decades of involvement and leadership. He will serve a one-year term.  

Dennis says being involved in professional organizations and associations for decades is a key part of staying connected with people. 

“My advice to fellow engineers is to get involved in professional organizations. It's rewarding and beneficial for your career,” he said. 

Dennis had more to say about his career journey and the benefits of getting involved. 

Q: Can you tell us about your background and career in engineering? 

After graduating from college, I began my engineering journey with the Federal Highway Administration. It was an exciting phase of my career where I contributed to writing the first edition of several hydraulic design manuals used in highway drainage, particularly focusing on culvert and energy dissipator design. I enjoyed traveling to all 50 states, more than once, conducting highway drainage workshops.  

Before semi-retiring over a decade ago, I managed water resources at several specialty firms in Arizona. However, my passion for engineering led me to return to work, and I've been with Olsson for several years now, supporting water resources engineering. I really enjoy the field of engineering. It’s hard to see myself doing anything else or fully retiring. I don’t know what I’d do with myself. I just love the work we do.  

Q: Can you share your experience with professional organizations, such as AAWRE? 

Through the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), I've been actively involved in AAWRE. AAWRE is an organization dedicated to board-certifying water resources engineers who demonstrate advanced knowledge and expertise. I was among the first class of 90 individuals in 2004 and now I’m excited to take over as president in our twentieth year. Being a board-certified water engineer, or diplomate, focuses on continuous learning and skill development, which has been invaluable in my career. 

Q: What advice would you give to fellow engineers? 

My advice to fellow engineers is to get involved in professional organizations. It's rewarding and beneficial for your career. Being involved has provided opportunities for me to expand my network, both nationally and internationally. Building relationships in the industry is highly beneficial with clients and on projects. It’s also a way to foster leadership skills through workshops and training that associations offer. It’s not just about the technical aspects, but also about staying connected with professionals from all over the country. I've had the privilege of knowing and working with some people for the past two decades who are my friends now.  


For more information on AAWRE, go to https://www.asce.org/career-growth/civil-engineering-certification/water-resources-engineering