Eco-Alpha Inspires: Scott Robertson
Eco-Alpha Engineer, K-12
Historian, Firefighter, Santa Claus
"We take pride in our work. We talk to each other about growing and doing our jobs right. Sharing that value is rewarding."
Who Is Scott?
For Scott, engineering isn’t just a profession; it’s in his blood. He’s a 5th generation Stationary Engineer who feels drawn to the tradition of the work. Scott describes the tradition that has been a part of his family: “As long as we have produced heat, engineering has been what we do. From the time we began moving ships, engineering has been necessary. He finds inspiration in his ability to learn and grow every day.”
Scott had been on the waitlist to become a firefighter in Chicago and was working in a building that did not have a licensed engineer for two years. Although his responsibilities grew over time, he was still receiving his custodial pay. Scott shares the moment he decided to take the next step to formally learn the engineering trade:
“That was when my dad gave me my great grandfather’s diary. As time passed by, I found myself working on items that were out of my area of expertise and was getting overwhelmed with the prospect of not having all of the tools I needed to get the job done. I’d always wanted to be an engineer, but I didn’t understand a lot of what I was reading. I knew it was information I needed to learn.”
A Desire to Learn More
Because Scott cared about the people inside the building, he always gave his best. Everyone had his cell phone number, and he’d told them they could call anytime if there was an issue. To meet his aspiration to become better at his job as well as to provide for his family, Scott needed more education. At the time, the course Scott would need to complete was $650. Financially, this would be a burden, and he didn’t know how he would make it work… especially right before Christmas.
“A few days before the tuition deadline, I got called down to the auditorium in my building. They told me there was a spill that needed my attention. When I got to the room, I couldn’t find the spill anywhere. That was when I was called to the stage. After walking on stage, they handed me a check for $650 – exactly what I needed for the class. The care I gave to them made a difference to them, and they cared about me, too. They gave me such an amazing gift, and I won’t ever forget it. That human connection – that’s really what all of this is about.”
Scott signed up for the class the same day.
As he continued his journey to become a building engineer, Scott maintained an active schedule. In addition to dedicating time to his wife and daughter, he continued working as a custodian, delivering pizza at night, and volunteering for the 5-11 Club for the Chicago Fire Department which puts out some of the worst fires in city.
Becoming An Engineer
Scott continued to read his great grandfather’s diary as he worked toward his licensure. In his classes, he heard many of the things that he read on the pages of his great grandfather’s diary. His investment in his own education continued to grow. He continued to attend classes and receive certifications until he received his licensure.
One hundred ten years to the day that his great grandfather was licensed with the City of Chicago, Scott was licensed as an Engineer.
Creating His Own Legacy
Since gaining his Stationary Engineer licensure, Scott has worked in some of the largest and highest rated hospitals in the city. He has also worked at some of the most well-known hotels in Chicago. In 2019, Scott received the opportunity to work as an engineer in the same type of building where he had worked as a custodian in.
Scott describes how he uses his expertise as a Stationary Engineer to help in emergency situations:
“Nobody really knows what engineers do. When the fire department shows up, they’re not asking for the CEO or the president of the company. They’re asking for the engineer. When there is an emergency in the building, the people tending to the emergency want to talk to the person who can assist them in the building: the engineer. And I love it. I get to learn something new every single day!”
Always Staying Busy
When Scott isn’t engineering and studying, he enjoys researching his family’s history as engineers. Not only did his great grandfather (photographed above) who wrote the diary work as a Chief Engineer at the Wrigley Gum Factory in Chicago, his great-great grandfather also served as a Stationary Engineer at the Rosenbaum Grain Elevator.
His historical research doesn’t stop with his family. When he first started working at his current location, Scott noticed there were coal feeding boilers in the building. As the replacement process for those units began, Scott was determined to ensure that the history of those boilers was not forgotten. He painted one of the grates and hung it on the wall in the boiler room with the names of all those who worked on the boiler system.
In addition to his passion for engineering, Scott takes pride and joy in dressing up as Santa for the kids – an activity he has done for 17 years. As he visits the hospitals and brings joy to others, Scott remembers the gift that was given to him that Christmas season so long ago.
Scott’s aspiration to grow and improve as an engineer has only continued to grow over the years. He is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Facilities Management. He hopes to be a Chief Engineer one day so he can support and inspire others.
Eco-Alpha is a minority and women-owned family company and is proud to be comprised of a diverse group of engineers, scientists, and consultants.
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SOURCE: Eco-Alpha Environmental and Engineering Services, © Copyright 2022 Eco-Alpha Environmental and Engineering Services, Inc. All rights reserved.
Photos provided courtesy of Scott Robertson