GHA Connections: Shawn Hurtig

 

Shawn Hurtig standing in front of engineering drawings and a sports field - examples of QA/QC work.

During a complex engineering project, a seemingly minor detail, if overlooked, has the potential to greatly impact project success. Thankfully, Shawn Hurtig, the Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) Manager at Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. (GHA), possesses a keen eye for detail honed through years of diverse experience. With his comprehensive understanding of quality management system practices, Shawn is instrumental in ensuring GHA’s projects are successful, lasting, and meaningful.

A Self-Starter’s Path to QA/QC

Shawn’s educational background in building and construction management laid a solid foundation for his multifaceted career.  As a project manager for the Village of Algonquin, IL, Shawn’s responsibilities were extensive, ranging from leading an ambitious five-year, $80 million Capital Improvement Plan to playing a key role in developing a comprehensive Geospatial Information System (GIS) program for the Village. His ability to adapt and excel in diverse areas, from large-scale construction projects to technology implementation, exemplifies his well-rounded skillset. Such a wide range of expertise made him an ideal fit for GHA.

Initially starting in GHA’s Municipal Services Division, Shawn made contributions to improving project workflows, efficiency, and overall organization through the development of innovative programs. This introduced a new level of quality, seamlessly aligning with the division’s goals. Always eager to expand his skillset and tackle new challenges, Shawn sought an opportunity to broaden his experience within GHA and jumped at the opportunity to work with the Construction and Survey Division.  Shawn’s time in Construction and Survey sharpened his focus on proactive problem-solving. He shared, “I’ve always believed in anticipating challenges and devising solutions that elevate our standards.” This philosophy positioned him perfectly to be GHA’s QA/QC Manager.

This move was not just a step in a new direction but a leap toward fulfilling his ambition to drive substantial change within the industry. “Choosing the QA/QC Manager role was a natural progression for me,” Shawn says, reflecting on his decision. “It’s here that I saw an opportunity to create real change, to improve processes and outcomes for all stakeholders.” In this capacity, Shawn aims to harness his diverse experience and innovative mindset to devise and enhance quality assurance and control practices at GHA, ensuring that the firm not only meets but exceeds the highest standards of excellence within the civil engineering ecosystem.

An Agent of Change

Shawn’s vision is clear: to develop and implement quality management practices, policies, and procedures to elevate the craftsmanship of his fellow employee-owners not only to their benefit but more importantly to the benefit of GHA’s clients. He achieves this through actionable strategies like thorough plan review, strategic and creative thinking, careful planning and adopting innovative software and project management solutions aimed at enhancing operational efficiency and effectiveness.

Translating his vision into action, Shawn prioritizes two key qualities for the QA/QC Manager: accessibility and exceptional organizational skills. “These aren’t just desirable traits,” he says, “they’re critical for ensuring we maintain the highest quality standards.” Having an open-door policy and strong organizational skills position the QA/QC Manager as a transformative resource for the firm, one that actively promotes a culture of continuous improvement within GHA and the industry.

Shawn’s meticulous approach to notetaking is legendary within GHA, a practice he embraces with both seriousness and a touch of humor. “I’m a fastidious note-taker, and yes, it’s partly because my memory insists on playing tricks on me,” Shawn admits with a laugh. “But more importantly, it’s about capturing details accurately, making sure nothing is overlooked. It’s these details that often make the difference between good and outstanding outcomes in our line of work.” This careful attention to detail is not just a personal quirk but a professional tool that shows the importance of thoroughness and precision throughout the QA/QC process.

Work with GHA’s Transportation Services Division

A standout example of his ingenuity is his collaboration with the Transportation Division where Shawn played a pivotal role in devising a form that simplifies and advances the traffic engineering proposal creation and project tracking process. This innovative approach intelligently populates essential information into corresponding files, initiates folder creation, and updates various planner boards and cards, all while capturing and warehousing essential project data. Dan Brinkman, P.E., PTOE, Senior Transportation Engineer notes, “This system can effectively gather up to 80% of the necessary forms and data and organize them accordingly. This greatly streamlines the proposal creation process.”

Reflecting on the utility of this innovation, David Westergreen, Civil Engineer, commented, “I’ve found it to be extremely helpful.” This feedback reflects the tangible benefits of Shawn’s initiatives, highlighting his dedication to enhancing operational efficiency.

 

Highway access to a Metra railroad station. An example of QA/QC work.
US Rt. 14 Metra Access

Sustainability and the Next Generation

As QA/QC Manager, Shawn’s vision for the position goes beyond simply adhering to best management practices. He seeks to build the groundwork for sustainable and impactful projects and practices, ensuring the firm’s long-term success. In his view, quality assurance and control are not just procedural necessities, but pivotal tools in constructing the foundations of successful projects.

“Quality might seem like a behind-the-scenes aspect of what we do, and its results may not always be immediately visible. However, this ‘invisible’ work is what guarantees our projects stand the test of time and meet the high standards our clients have come to expect from GHA,” Shawn articulates. This philosophy is central to his strategy for enhancing the business’s sustainability. By integrating detailed QA/QC processes, Shawn ensures that GHA continues to deliver projects of unmatched quality and adopts practices that are adaptable, valuable, and in line with GHA’s overall vision.

Beyond the core responsibilities of the position, Shawn is deeply committed to the mentorship and development of the next generation of engineers, recognizing that their growth is integral to the industry’s future and the company’s legacy. “Investing in our young engineers is crucial. They are the future of GHA and the engineering field at large. By instilling a strong foundation of quality control and assurance in their work from the outset, we’re not just preparing them for their careers; we’re preparing them to be leaders who will continue to drive our industry forward,” he explains.

Beyond the Office: A Life Full of Passions

When Shawn steps away from the office, he throws himself into a world of diverse and engaging pursuits. From his time in college at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville providing security at the Chicago Bears training camp to his lifelong passion for sports ignited during a childhood March Madness spent with his father, sports have been a constant source of joy.

Unplanned and last-minute, attending game seven of the 2016 World Series became a reality for die-hard Cubs fan Shawn. “I honestly don’t even know how much that ended up costing me, and I don’t even care. That experience is something that I will never forget.”

A self-described ‘hobby disaster,’ Shawn’s array of interests and hobbies paints the picture of a man with a keen curiosity and a zest for exploration. His recent resurgence in collecting sports cards is managed with the same attention to detail that marks his professional endeavors, complete with a carefully maintained database to track his collection.

The wail of a locomotive whistle isn’t just a sound for Shawn, it’s a shared language between him and his son.  His fascination with trains goes beyond a love of machinery; it’s a deep appreciation for American history and the transformative power of the railroads. This shared passion has become a family tradition, as they explore the rich tapestry of the railroad industry and contemplate how two parallel pieces of steel can connect cities and spark the economic growth of a nation.

Shawn Hurtig: GHA’s Catalyst for Change

Shawn Hurtig’s story is a compelling narrative of ambition, improvement, and personal passion. At GHA, he is not just the QA/QC Manager but a visionary, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and fostering an environment where innovation, sustainability, and most importantly, quality thrive. His journey is a reminder that at the heart of every successful project and initiative lies a commitment to excellence and quality – values Shawn embodies every day.