By Wayne Chargualaf
“I think most engineers would agree that the part we really like about our job is solving the problems,” Aaron Sutton, project manager and civil site engineer for GHD Inc. says.
Born and raised in Oregon, Sutton earned a 1995 engineering degree from Pacific Lutheran University and a 1997 bachelor’s in civil engineering from Oregon State University. After working 12 years at Salem, Oregon-based Boatwright Engineering, Sutton eventually moved to Guam with his wife in 2009 for both work and faith-related reasons.
“My wife and I are Jehovah’s Witnesses and we moved to Guam to assist with the congregation a bit, but it was work that enabled us to come,” Sutton says.
He joined the Guam office of GHD Inc. — a Melbourne, Australia-based engineering firm which has more than 200 offices spread across five continents — acting as office manager on top of his standard engineering duties.
“One reason I enjoy working on Guam is our office,” Sutton says. “We have a great team of engineers and staff and we all get along. So that’s one thing that has kept us on Guam.”
Another aspect of working on Guam that he enjoys is the unique character of assignments on the island.
“The projects are interesting,” Sutton says. “They’re probably more varied and even larger than what a lot of people get to work on in the states.”
Sutton says he was enticed by engineering out of a love of math and problem-solving. He was drawn to civil engineering in particular because of the variety of possibilities it presented.
“I guess I chose civil engineering because of the general nature of work involved,” he says. “It’s not very specific. There are lots of different routes you can go.”
Over time, he found himself specializing in water and drainage systems. Some projects Sutton has designed or managed include storm water drainage and sanitary sewer system improvements for the A.B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam, water and sewer line improvements at Andersen Air Force Base and reservoir designs for the Guam Waterworks Authority.
Drainage and water are especially important on an island like Guam, due simply to the sheer volume of water that passes through it on a regular basis.
“With the big storms we have, that keeps projects interesting — the typhoon rains we get and how we have to design for them,” he says. “Standards have changed over the years. Before, people would just pave and collect the stormwater and just run it right into the river, and Guam was similar. But with that pavement and the hard surfaces comes a lot of pollution. Then the stormwater systems deteriorate over time, the water runs off faster and causes more flooding — just a slew of problems that evolved over time and that we need to fix and bring up to standard.”
It’s not just the storm drainage systems — Guam’s infrastructure overall is aged and increasingly inadequate. Built by the military in the 60s and 70s, it has not kept pace with the island’s population growth or with current technological standards.
“It’s led to a lot of work on our side, which is enjoyable,” Sutton said.
As an office manager and frequent project manager, Sutton says the management principles he uses are simple and few.
“I try to focus on communication,” he says. “That, and just showing respect and kindness to the people I work with. That’s how I manage projects and as the Guam office manager, I manage the people on my team the same way; keep the communication open and show kindness and respect.”
When he’s not solving engineering problems, Sutton enjoys water activities with his wife such as kayaking, paddleboarding and diving. They also enjoy hiking.
“We like finding new spots, but one of our favorites is San Carlos falls,” he says.
As to the future of GHD Inc.’s Guam office, Sutton says he’s simply putting one foot in front of the other and getting down to the work of engineering.
“Project wise, we’re always looking forward,” he says. “We have a few that we’ve put proposals in for and are planning to put proposals in for. That’s the thing with Guam — there are always interesting projects coming up, so we’re always just looking forward to the next one.”
|Favorite book: East of Eden. I like the story and the symbolism in it.
Favorite movie: I don’t know that I have a favorite movie, but I like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” I liked the adventure.
Favorite Guam restaurant: I have a few. Kai in the Blue Lagoon Plaza. But I also really enjoy Primo Pizzakaya and Kitchen Lingo.
Favorite music: That’s a tough one. I enjoy just about all types of music. It depends on what mood I’m in.