Keeping It Real with Joseph Klapheke

The Keeping it Real series is your chance to hear from Allen & Shariff staff on life, lessons, and leadership, straight from the trenches. Sometimes literally.

Name and Title: Joe Klapheke, Senior Mechanical Engineer
Office location: Pittsburgh North
Years at Allen & Shariff: 4 years

What’s the one skill that you would say is essential to being a great designer?
Being able to think in 3-D over time.  After all, there’s only so much room in the plenum.

What is the most innovative advancement you’ve seen in mechanical design since you first started your career? How has it affected the industry?
For better or worse, high speed internet.  The remarkable amount of information that can be sent and received instantaneously has transformed this and, I would imagine, most industries in ways that have accelerated the design and coordination of buildings and for that matter, entire campuses.

Describe something from your past (school, work experience, a mentor) that most influenced you to become a designer.
I’m a 3rd generation engineer.  I can safely say that my lineage is a tremendous part of why I am a mechanical engineer.  Even when I was little I liked to draw buildings and put things together.

Favorite sports team?
Hands down, Penn State Football.  WE ARE!!!!

If someone asked you to describe your unique approach to problem solving, what would you say?
I like to make a list of tasks that need to be achieved, put them in order, and then finish them as thoroughly as possible.  Then, fill in the holes that inevitably show up as the problem evolves until it’s solved.

What’s the #1 “rookie mistake” you see in those just starting out their career in your field? Explain.
At the beginning of my career, I would often be responsible for giving presentations to clients.  Typically, we would perform PowerPoint presentations using the client’s own computers from a CD that we would make prior to the presentation.  I made the unfortunate mistake of forgetting to make sure that the disk that was supposed to have the presentation on it was, in fact, ready to go.  It was blank.  I didn’t live that one down for a while.  With that in mind, I would say that not back checking your work, even when it is a simple thing, is a very common “rookie mistake”.

What’s the single most important ingredient when it comes to a successful client relationship?
Trust.  It takes a long time to be earned and is even more difficult to get once lost.

How would you describe the company culture at Allen & Shariff?
It is a culture where a lot of different personalities can come together to make something bigger than any one individual could do.

If Allen & Shariff were a car, what kind of car would it be and why?
A well-used truck.  It might have some dents and scratches, but it gets everyone where they need to go carrying whatever needs to be taken.

What book(s) are on your nightstand right now?
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I can’t help myself.

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