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Introducing Barr’s ugly holiday sweater contest winner

Introducing Barr’s ugly holiday sweater contest winner

This holiday season, Barr staff participated in an ugly holiday sweater contest and invited clients to vote for their favorite. With 850+ total votes submitted, we’re excited to introduce the winner—Mandar Nangare!

Mandar’s passion for engineering has taken him around the world. Born and raised in India, he took a leap of faith and moved to the U.S. to attend graduate school. Now a water resources engineer in Barr’s Bismarck office, Mandar seeks out projects that have a meaningful impact on communities. Here, he shares the story behind his ugly holiday sweater, how he spends the holidays, the obstacles he’s overcome while pursuing his career path, and the many reasons he loves working at Barr.

Your ugly holiday sweater was quite the hit! Is there a story behind it?

You can probably tell that we’re Star Wars fans in my family. When my wife and kids saw the Darth Vader sweater at a store, it was a no-brainer—they had to buy it for me!

How do you and your family celebrate the holidays? Any fun traditions?

We celebrate the holidays pretty traditionally. On Christmas Eve, we go to mass, followed by dinner at the grandparents’ house, where the kids open presents from their grandparents. On Christmas morning, the kids open gifts from Santa and Mom and Dad, and we host dinner with the grandparents. During the holiday season, we participate in several community programs, including The Giving Tree, Adopt a Family, and various toy drives.

How old were you when you decided to become an engineer, and what made you reach that decision?

I don’t remember when exactly I decided to become an engineer. I grew up in India during a time when the country’s economy was closed to the outside world, meaning fewer career options in the private sector. Jobs in government, medicine, and engineering were viewed as the prime vehicles to success—but they required connections and excellent academic performance. In a country of a billion people, if you were below even the 90th percentile in school, your prospects were bleak—unless you came from a wealthy family. Fortunately, things have changed in India over the last 25 years or so; kids now have opportunities to follow other passions.

I grew up in India . . . jobs in government, medicine, and engineering were viewed as the prime vehicles to success—but they required connections and excellent academic performance.

At the time, though, I was expected to choose medicine or engineering after high school. That said, I was always curious about how things worked. I remember opening small transistors and cassette recorders as a kid to see how the circuits worked. I also enjoyed theoretical concepts in physics and how they apply to day-to-day life. That fascinates me to this day. Eighth- and ninth-grade physics sparked my interest in mechanics, eventually leading me to choose engineering as a career.

After completing my undergraduate degree in civil engineering in India, I decided to pursue graduate school in the U.S. I was accepted into the civil and environmental engineering program at Texas Tech University (go Red Raiders!). I graduated with a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in water resources engineering.

What barriers did you have to overcome to pursue your career, and how did you overcome them?

Like most people, I encountered obstacles along the way. My experiences are unique to me, but they are not uncommon. I viewed and continue to view these barriers as opportunities to learn and to help others. I came to the U.S. with two suitcases and enough money to support first-semester tuition at graduate school. Moving to a new country with no additional support was overwhelming, but it taught me a lot about friendship, empathy, kindness, effective communication, and time management.

Language was one of my first barriers. I completed my education in English (starting in middle school), but English is not my first language. Early on, it was challenging to pretend to understand everything in my graduate courses. I read a lot of books, watched the news, and hung out with native speakers to adapt and learn.

How did you come to work at Barr, and what do you like about working here?

An HR generalist from Barr approached me on LinkedIn when I was not actively looking for new opportunities. I decided to take a leap of faith based on a positive interview experience. Fast forward seven years, and here I am!

There are many things I love (not just like) about working at Barr, but first and foremost are the people. Our staff is our greatest investment and asset, and it shows! As coordinator of Barr’s Bismarck office, I often interact with company leadership and witness their genuine care and concern for the well-being of our staff. I also value the clients I serve and the projects I work on; Barr undertakes complex problems and solves them as if they are our own, on behalf of our clients. Barr’s unique free-market system enables employees to choose projects and opportunities laterally across our offices and business units. We also earn comp time, showing that our efforts are valued and appreciated. In addition, we’re 100-percent employee owned and an ESOP organization, putting shareholders in the driver’s seat in terms of Barr’s future.

What is it like to work as a water resources engineer?

Water is life and water is livelihood, making water resources projects fun, exciting, and humbling. I find it rewarding to be a part of projects that have a meaningful impact on communities and clients—such as minimizing safety risks associated with a low-head dam, managing stormwater at a refinery, and working with stakeholders on an integrated groundwater/surface-water issue affecting a rural community.

What has surprised you about your career path?

I’m surprised that after taking a break from engineering consulting for a few years, I’m back at it and loving it so much. Much of that credit goes to Barr: our culture, our people, and our values.

What are non-negotiables for you when it comes to a workplace?

Equitability and fairness.

What has been the most interesting project you’ve worked on?

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of many exciting projects at Barr. They’re all special to me. One that stands out is for a watershed client in North Dakota. The client recognized the problem but didn’t have a strategy or funding to address it. What began as a tentative discussion six years ago has turned into a substantial and important regional watershed project with extensive stakeholder engagement, funding, and support from local, state, and federal agencies.

Are there any notable contributions you’ve made in your field?

I’ve authored two peer-reviewed publications in the ASCE Journal of Hydrologic Engineering:

Che, D., Nangare, M2, Mays, L.W., “Determination of Optimal Unit Hydrographs and Green-Ampt Parameters for Watersheds,” Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 19, No.2, February 2014.

Che, D., Nangare, M2, Mays, L.W., “Determination of Clark’s Unit Hydrograph Parameters for Watersheds,” Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 19, No.2, February 2014.

What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about a career in engineering?

It’s an exciting time to be an engineer. The world needs more and better engineers to solve the complex global challenges we face. Engineers get to design and analyze elements of systems, and we get to see them built. There are so many disciplines to choose from, and they all ultimately contribute to making the world a better place for future generations. You’ll never get bored in this field; there’s so much to explore and learn.

Do you enjoy what you do so much that it carries over into your free time?

I do. Last summer, I designed and built a trapezoidal drainage channel to improve drainage around my property.

How do you unwind and relax from the stress of work?

My family (including my wife, two kids ages nine and 11, and a seven-month-old puppy) makes everything better! I work out at the local gym. I also meditate as I’m able. Cooking with my favorite music makes me feel “at home.” I enjoy listening to Indian classical and semi-classical music.

Anything else that you want people to know about you or your work?

With projects across the spectrum and numerous opportunities to dip your toes into, Barr is a great place to work and grow into your career. The work we do and problems we solve have a real impact on making the world a better place.

Interested in joining the Barr team? Check out our open positions.

About Mandar Nangare

Mandar Nangare, senior water resources engineer,  has more than a decade of experience in water resources engineering, specifically on projects involving surface water and stormwater. His areas of interest and expertise are water resources systems and the integration of surface-water and groundwater systems for sustainable solutions, specifically the application of optimization, risk, reliability, and uncertainty analysis to a water resources problem using the systems approach.
 

Image gallery (below):

1. Mandar, his wife, and two kids explore the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

2. Barr staff enjoy their third annual Bismarck Halloween office party.

3. Mandar and his Barr colleagues attend a Minnesota Twins playoff game.

4. Mandar shows off his very first harvest of potatoes and watermelon.

5. Mandar and Barr colleagues attend the University of Mary Career Fair near Bismarck.

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