A veteran of the United States Navy, Civil Engineer Evan Del Val now charts his own course as an ISG Employee Owner, and boards a smaller ship (his kayak) to navigate the rivers of Greater Des Moines when the temperature allows. In sub-zero temperatures, you can find him spending time with his family, or braving the outdoors on cross-country skis or a snowboard.
Why did you join the Navy, and how does that experience help you at ISG today?
I was pretty wayward in my early adult years. Too many nights reading Jack Kerouac and listening to Bob Dylan left me uninspired by the notion of college and the larger professional world, so I would say I was searching. My actual enlistment in the Navy was a bit of an impulse decision that came late in the night after listening to Howard Zinn give a speech in St. Paul. The night I called the recruitment office, they were doing their quarterly training and happened to be in the office late. I am not sure I would have joined had I slept on it that night, so fate seemed to intervene. Overall it was an experience I am glad I had. It was where I developed collaboration, accountability, and discipline skills that I bring to ISG and clients today.
When did you know you wanted to be a civil engineer?
When I was in the Navy I went on a port visit to Djibouti. It was my first encounter with debilitating poverty, and a large part of it was due to insufficient infrastructure (workable sanitary systems, potable water delivery, roadways, etc.). After being exposed to those conditions, I researched what profession deals with addressing those issues, and I came to civil engineering.
Who inspires you? Why?
Leaders who can listen. It is the most underrated trait and one that I am constantly trying to get better at.
What’s your favorite part about working at ISG?
The opportunities to chart your own course. There are two options in a career: 1 year of experience 40 times or 40 years of experience. In my opinion, ISG nurtures us all to seek the latter.
In your experience, how is Iowa innovating and positioning itself for the future?
In my opinion, Iowa, and the Des Moines Metro in particular, is doing a great job investing heavily in projects that support quality of life. If you look at national and international lists of the greatest places to live, Des Moines routinely shows up in the top 10 (and consistently in the Top 5). That is the result of an intentional investment and effort to showcase to the world, beyond the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, all that Des Moines has to offer.
How is ISG helping to market Des Moines?
ISG has been an integral part of the team that is changing the relationship between the Metro cities and their natural resources. I was fortunate enough to work on the Engineering Study for The Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenspace Master Plan. Throughout the region, we have these wonderful rivers and streams winding themselves throughout neighborhoods, each one offering a unique opportunity to immerse ourselves in nature, right in our backyards. ISG is helping to improve the regions Quality of Life message by showing the value in accentuating our natural resources.
Other than kayaking, what do you like to do in your free time?
I have three small kids, so free time is a novel concept. But when I get time I enjoy reading, playing guitar, and spending time outdoors in Iowa—whether that’s hiking, cross country skiing, or snowboarding.
What in the A/E field has the largest impact on the world at large?
Responses to climate change and population increases are going to put a major strain on how we manage, transport, and disseminate resources. Our industry will need to be creative and adaptive as we aim at providing sustainable solutions to these issues. At ISG, we’re constantly working across disciplines to stay ahead of the technological and environmental curve.
I hear you were once an owner of an infamous VW Bus?
Yes, while in the Navy, I purchased a 1973 VW Bus. I used to park it down by the ocean and sleep in it at night—it sure beat sleeping on the ship!
I know you’ve done a lot of work for Counties across the Midwest, but what is the “Haven’s County Uprising?”
That would be the acoustic duo I was a member of in high school. We did a combination of cover songs and originals.
Any chance Haven’s County Uprising will be performing at ISG’s ISynerGy conference in La Crosse next week?
Not if you want people to stick around.