John Vandergiff had a personal and professional dilemma.
A close relative had passed away, and John needed a few days to focus on his wife, children and an elderly family member. Unfortunately, he also had a long to-do list at work.
“I didn’t know how I was going to get it all done,” said John.
Before John could even vocalize his situation, Mark McElwain, now the Richmond office leader, asked what he could take off John’s to-do list.
“Probably the best way to term the depth of our friendship is we rarely have to ask each other for help,” said John, who serves as the Virginia office leader. “Usually the situation – whether personal or professional – is sensed by the other, and the offer is extended before the request is made.”
That has been the case in many instances over the years, including in this 2018 example.
“There was no discussion about what else was on Mark’s plate or whether he had time,” said John. “He just said, ‘Tell me what’s on your plate, and I’ll take care of it.’ That’s just who he is.”
Mark leads through service – that’s clear in special circumstances like John’s dilemma last year. It’s further exemplified in Mark’s mentorship of associates, dedication to clients and significant community involvement work.
Mentor to Associates
When transportation engineer Tyler Gill started working with Mark 10 years ago, he was fresh out of school and eager to learn more.
“Mark lets younger associates tag along and learn the ropes,” said Tyler. “So, there’s always lots of opportunity to learn and see things.”
That mentality is part of a larger culture in the Richmond office and more broadly within RS&H.
“We focus on giving people the next steps in their career and try to include the younger staff in decisions, so they see what’s happening and why,” Mark said.
Ultimately, that’s led to growth within individual associates, the Virginia office and RS&H as a whole.
Dedicated to Clients
Mark goes above and beyond with clients – always. His team has taken note of that.
A couple of years ago, Mark was managing a project with little wiggle room in the budget. Stakeholders had a lot of opinions on how to divvy up the funds, and they struggled to come up with a consensus.
“Mark dove in and came out with the best concept to better the roadway and interchange but not go over budget,” said John. “He is unwavering in his desire to optimize solutions.”
Mark approaches work with an incredibly detailed outlook and a characteristic calm nature, both of which lend themselves to successful project outcomes. He combines those qualities with a tenacity that weathers even the most difficult circumstances.
“I remember there was a project that had some controversy surrounding it,” Tyler said. “The community was kind of far away, but he commuted there often to attend meetings in-person.
“It was a lot of effort on his part, but everybody was happy at the end of the project, in no small part because of Mark.”
‘It’s the People You Work With’
Outside of work, Mark stays involved in his kids’ activities and volunteers as a coach for football, basketball and baseball teams in the community. He also serves on various volunteer boards.
“He embodies that servant leadership model personally and professionally and shows it through his work in the community,” said John.
The Richmond office is in many ways its own tight-knit community, added Tyler.
The group goes to associates’ kids’ baseball games, high school graduations and other events, and they enjoy seeing each other outside of the office.
At the office, “it doesn’t always feel like work,” said Tyler. “We all enjoy what we’re doing, and I get to spend my day with friends – and I get paid.”
“It’s always about the people you work with – it’s what makes the difference in the workplace,” said Mark. “We have great people here at RS&H, and we get to work with great clients. That’s about all you can ask for.”
About the author
- In her role as a communications professional, Eliza gets to tell the stories of RS&H associates and the amazing work they do for clients, colleagues and their communities.
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