As plumbing department head with our Houston office, Emigdio Hinojosa is involved in key projects across the region and supporting the growth of young plumbing professionals. In this Q&A, he discusses finding fulfillment on a top-tier team, his love for projects close to home, and his excitement for teaching and mentoring others.

When did your passion for plumbing engineering develop?

Early in my career I was a general draftsman with MEP engineering experience. It wasn’t until I connected with Jerry Harris, the plumbing department head at the firm then known as R.H. George & Associates, that my professional journey took a turn toward this discipline. Jerry offered to mentor me and teach me the ins and outs of plumbing, and as a young engineer I jumped at the opportunity to learn from an expert. From then on, my enthusiasm and passion for the field only grew. Remember that knowledge can be found in anyone, so truly listen and appreciate the connections you make in your career.

What career advice can you offer a budding plumbing engineer?

From a professional standpoint, work hard, build your experience, listen to your experienced mentors, and shift your mindset away from the notion that one engineering strategy fits all situations. Each plumbing project presents unique challenges and to succeed as a plumbing engineer a flexible and problem-solving mindset is essential.

From a personal standpoint, take advantage of your PTO. Your company gives it to you for a reason—it’s good for your well-being!

How do you continue to grow as a professional engineer?

Aside from the monthly American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE) meetings I attend, I seek out online webinars. Attending these gatherings allows me to stay up to date on the latest plumbing regulations and advancements and create lasting connections with peers in my field.

Join ASPE if you are interested in plumbing engineering. The organization has countless opportunities for professional growth and networking.

Share a project that left an impact on you.

Throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working on numerous challenging and exciting projects. One current project that stands out is the construction of a replacement football stadium for La Porte High School. This project is special to me as it marks my first high school stadium and was the last large project that I worked on as a plumbing designer before shifting to my current role.

This intricate and complex new stadium is a major milestone for this school in East Texas, where high school football is king. It features a brand-new field, press boxes, stands, and visitor areas. I know the stadium will be packed on opening night, and I am excited about the high-quality plumbing solutions our team has provided to serve the passionate community of La Porte.

How does your work help our clients overcome major challenges?

Every client wants to save water to be cost-effective and environmentally friendly, and the solutions we provide are naturally achieving this through evolutions in plumbing design and new federal regulations. These advancements, combined with having a great team helps solve our clients’ challenges. My team has the ability and skill set to view projects as they are—unique environments that require solutions that are induvial to them. Paired with our mutual respect and honest communication, we effectively serve our clients.

What is the best aspect of being on the Salas O’Brien team?

The camaraderie across disciplines and office locations! Every day, I strengthen my relationships with the people on my team and make new meaningful connections, whether on-site on a project, over Teams calls, or attending non-work events and sports leagues. People often get caught up in business-only relationships and clock in and leave, but it’s more than that at Salas O’Brien. There is a sense of community and friendship outside of work.

Can you share insight into your career progression?

I started as a plumbing design engineer crunching numbers and calculations with Revit and CAD to accomplish client goals. As I grew my design skills, I started to realize a new passion was forming—teaching young engineers what was taught to me.

After years of designing, I’m now the department head of plumbing design in the Houston office. While I sometimes miss the hands-on act of designing pumps, flows, mechanical rooms, it is fulfilling to see the progression of young professionals.

What can we find you doing outside of work?

I find joy in the simple things in life, like watching football on Sundays, having barbeques in my backyard, gardening with my wife, taking care of my home, and most importantly, taking a vacation whenever possible. I also enjoy getting out on the golf course when I have extra free time! Having a healthy work-life balance is key.