Q: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: An architect. That’s actually what I originally went to school for at UWM (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), but after my first year of architecture school, I realized that I wasn’t really applying myself in my architecture classes- they just didn’t hold my interest. The classes that were more engineering-focused were more interesting to me, so I had a sit-down moment with myself and decided to change my major to engineering.
Q: Did you stay at UWM?
A: Yes, I loved it there! I met my wife there, that’s obviously my favorite memory from college. I really enjoyed UWM. It’s a great school and I had a lot of fun.
Q: And obviously got a great education!
A: Yes. It wasn’t all fun! It’s a really wonderful engineering school.
Q: Where is your hometown?
A: Baraboo, Wisconsin.
Q: What was it like growing up there?
Baraboo is a really close-knit, farming community. We were in the country, so I always enjoyed being outdoors, fishing, hunting, hanging out with my family. My school was small, and I knew a lot of my teachers on a personal level. I would love to raise my kids in that kind of environment, just running around outside all the time, in a place where everyone knows each other. I had a lot of good friends, and you know we had so much fun hanging out around bonfires in cornfields, that kind of thing. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for anything.
Q: Did you have a big family?
A: I have two sisters, one older, one younger than me. So not too big. But I was always really social in high school and spent a lot of time with my friends.
Q: Did you play any sports?
A: Baseball was my primary sport. We ended up going to State my junior year, but we lost in the first round to the eventual state champions. It was a great team – a lot of great talent.
Q: What are you up to when you aren’t at work?
A: Anything outdoors! Well, actually right now we are in the middle of a kitchen remodel so that takes up a lot of my time. But otherwise I’m outside. camping, fishing, and hunting up north. And spending time with my wife and two daughters.
Q: Where’s “up-north” for you?
A: Shawano County. My in-laws have a cabin out there, and we like to fish in the Wolf River.
Q: Do you clean and eat your fish?
A: Yes! And the main event I save my fish for is our R/M camp outings. I always bring bags of fish along and spend all night making fish over the fire for our potlucks. It’s a lot of fun… and really my driving force to catch as many fish as I can.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at R/M?
A: The people. I’ve met some of my best friends working here. People I take vacations with, and our families are really close. I think the people you work with make every difference. The people we have here really drive me to succeed.
Q: Did you have a mentor growing up?
A: Yes. My high school tech-ed teacher really influenced my decision to pursue architecture and eventually engineering. I took CAD and drawing classes in high school and really enjoyed them. I actually called him a few years ago to thank him for how much he did for me as a kid and to let him know that he really helped me in my career.
Q: If you could do any other job, just for a day, what would you do?
A: If I wasn’t in engineering, I’d probably be flipping houses.
Q: Really? Have you guys flipped houses before?
A: Well not exactly, but I helped my mom totally remodel her house before she sold it and helped her make some extra money on the sale.
Q: And you did all the work?
A: Yeah! I took a few shop classes in high school and I worked for a construction company for a little while after college, so I have some experience. But a lot of what I know I taught myself.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring engineers?
Get out and network and get to know people in your field and vendors and potential clients. Try to get to know them and connect with them. That’s so important and makes your work so much more fulfilling. Most of my clients call me on my personal cell phone from their personal cell phones. We spend time together and those relationships mean a lot to me. They know I’m invested in them and the people in their community on a real level, so they trust me, they know I have their best interest in mind.
Jerad has been with Ruekert & Mielke, Inc. since 2004. He obtained his bachelor’s in civil engineering from University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and is involved in numerous organizations including American Council of Engineering (ACEC), American Public Works Association (APWA), and Wastewater Operators Association (WWOA). He is a past chairman of the Collection System Committee for WWOA and was inducted into the Golden Manhole Society in 2017 for the Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA)