carissa traill

Carissa Traill: On the Traill to Certification

Bringing 15 years of construction experience with her, Carissa Traill excitedly joined Hill International, Inc. (Hill) in April of 2018. This new position entailed a big career move from public-sector work to private consulting for Carissa, but it also involved a geographical move. Carissa, who had most of her professional experience in New Hampshire, moved south to Pittsburgh, PA. Since the construction industry has regionally defined standards, Carissa needed to acquire several new certifications for her work with Hill.

“There are a lot of differences in the construction specifications and standards between New Hampshire and Pennsylvania,” Carissa points out. “Road construction is a big one. Pennsylvanian roads are typically rigid pavement, reinforced or plain cement concrete. New Hampshire roads are paved with more flexible bituminous pavement. Pennsylvanian bridges have exposed concrete deck finishes, whereas New Hampshire bridges have membrane and bituminous pavement placed over the concrete deck. So there was a learning curve in the transition between the two state’s construction techniques.”

Fortunately, Hill was able to facilitate the transition. Carissa could start working with PennDOT on the Liberty Tunnel as a construction inspector while pursuing all of her PA certifications. “I would not have been able to make such a great career move otherwise,” Carissa reports.

But despite her satisfaction with the career move, Carissa says of the certification process: “It was definitely overwhelming at times, working full time on the PennDOT project and preparing for the certification exams. The NICET [National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies] certification was tough. That certification involved four levels of progressively difficult material on highway construction. The process required a letter of recommendation attesting to my relevant experience, supervisory approval, work history, and the passing of difficult exams.”

But Carissa attests to the support of Hill throughout. She says, “The whole Hill Pittsburgh office supported me in my journey. I can’t stress how helpful and encouraging everyone was.”

Carissa’s clients have benefitted the most from her diligence and Hill’s support. “I’m absolutely a better engineer now than before the [certification] process. On the Liberty Tunnel job, for instance, an understanding of Pennsylvanian concrete specs and familiarity with the region’s construction standards made a difference. The project included concrete repairs at the fan house and adjacent culvert, so I felt like what I was learning while studying for my exams was directly applicable to my work.”

Joseph Onesi, Project Manager on the Liberty Tunnel job, says of Carissa: “She had just started working with Hill and, on her own time,obtained several certifications for concrete and highway construction field technicians. It was such a great testament to Carissa’s impressive work ethic and aspirations.”

Carissa’s impressive work ethic and flexibility translated usefully when, in the summer of 2019, Carissa moved out of the roads and highways sector into the world of aviation to work on the Pittsburgh International Airport. Carissa reports: “I was so excited for a new challenge with a new client. Since transitioning to the airport, I’ve been involved in the preconstruction of a site development job, which has been such a great opportunity.”

On the airport too, Carissa puts her newly earned credentials to good use. She says that the NICET Highway Construction Inspector Level IV certification has been the most valuable. And she forecasts that it will remain so for future projects at the airport.

Dave Briskey, PE, Senior Project Manager for Hill at PIT, makes explicit some of Carissa’s success: “Carissa has done a great job in developing comments, as well as capturing comments from other Hill reviewers, and transmitting them to the designer as they develop the bid documents. These comments will go a long way in minimizing or eliminating problems that could add to the cost or duration once the project enters the construction phase.”

“Hill has really made a big difference for me,” says Carissa. “In addition to helping me achieve these certifications and exposing me to a different market, Hill has also positioned me well to achieve my own professional goals.” Having served in a construction inspection role for many years, Carissa would like to move into a project management role. She took a step closer to that goal when she became a project engineer at the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Now bolstered with professional certifications and wide-ranging experiences and supported by Hill and Hill professionals, Carissa will surely continue to enable great success for her clients, for Hill, and for herself as she carves her path into the future.