Q&A With Halff Director of Public Works Lamberto “Bobby” Ballí
Happy Engineers Week 2022!
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Lamberto “Bobby” Ballí, PE, PWLF
Title: Vice President and Director of Public Works, South Texas
Practice: Public Works
Office: San Antonio
Engineering has been in Lamberto “Bobby” Ballí’s blood since he was a toddler. The son of Macedonio Ballí Jr., who was the first in his family to earn a college degree, Bobby wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a civil engineer. Bobby now has more than 35 years of multidiscipline experience in developing, designing and constructing infrastructure for the public and private sectors.
Bobby has served in multiple professional and civic organizations’ leadership roles. He most recently rolled off on the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (TBPELS) in January and was appointed TBPELS Board Emeritus/Advisor earlier this month. In 2021, he was honored with the Southern Zone Distinguished Service Award by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCCES).
Give an example of how you have seen Halff turn ideas into reality?
That’s an easy one. Halff completed a project that I started back in 2002-2003, when I was the city engineer for the City of McAllen. I had come up with this hair-brained idea to take vacant school properties to build stormwater detention facilities and include parks in them as well. We completed one at Jackson Elementary called Jackson Park and RDF. [Vice President and Director of Land Development/Public Works] Robert Saenz and [Water Resources Practice Leader] Mike Moya did a tremendous job on the project. It was showcased left and right. That was the first designed and built, and there were multiple projects that followed. That’s a perfect example of how the McAllen Halff office turned an idea into reality. Halff stepped outside of the box and said it can be done.
You have been extremely involved in professional and civic organizations. Why do you feel that is important?
There are three main reasons. First, if we really care about a community and solving problems within a community, problems aren’t only resolved or solved by just building stuff. You’ve got to be out there making decisions by volunteering in those organizations. Second, a poll ranked engineers up there with clergymen as a trusted and respected profession. People expect the best out of us. They only know us because we are supposed to be smart. We are supposed to know how to build things. But the community needs to know you as a person also. The community needs to know we are good people, too, and not just engineering nerds. Lastly, it builds a better person. Volunteering and being involved in professional organizations helps you deal with people. Down the line, that’ll help you be a better project manager.
What advice would you give to young engineers just joining the profession?
Find a mentor and be a good follower. There are all kinds of folks out there in senior levels or maybe just a bit higher than junior levels that will be good mentors. Push yourself to find a mentor, be a good follower, ask questions and provide ideas. I think that’s the most important part of the first four years of experience in our profession.
For those aspiring to pursue an engineering career, what should they do now to be fully prepared?
They should keep their options open in engineering or disciplines of civil engineering. There’s plenty of time to specialize in a certain career later. Study everything you can. I took solid waste courses. I love my dad, but he said, “Why do you want to take a solid waste course?” I ended up managing a landfill for four years as one of my roles. I knew the science and engineering part of it.
How important is it for engineers to be involved within their local community?
I have volunteered in various capacities as a board member of various city leadership groups, Rotarian and even with the local American Red Cross. Being a volunteer even means going and helping out in a city role. I am on the planning and zoning commission for the City of Fair Oaks Ranch. Even volunteer for your homeowners association. I have done so in other communities as well. Be proactive and help make a positive impact within your community. You’d be surprised to know how much these organizations need your help!
About the Firm
Halff is an award-winning, employee-owned, diverse and multidiscipline professional engineering and architecture firm. For more than 70 years, Halff has provided innovative solutions for clients throughout the United States. Halff is committed to the purpose of improving lives and communities by turning ideas into reality by continuously investing in its employees and fostering a culture of collaboration.
Halff has 28 offices in Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas. The firm is ranked No. 97 by Engineering News-Record. Halff is the No. 10 Top Workplace nationally in 2022 as ranked by Energage for businesses with 1,000 to 2,499 employees.