“When I was a kid I wanted to be a Lego designer…I see that essentially I wanted to be a problem solver.” – Get to know more about Harwood team member Mary Piontkowski
Hamilton High School
Bachelor of Science Biomedical Engineering
Milwaukee, WI, 1996
Master of Science Civil Engineering
with emphasis in Structural
Milwaukee, WI, 2005
Employee at Harwood since 2010
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
“This is a crazy question because there was never one distinct, long-term answer. I’m still not sure I know what I want to do when I grow up. It varied by age for sure. Over the course of my youth, I wanted to be a LEGO designer, board game developer, game show contestant, professional organizer, the person who figured out the routes of the UPS drivers, a statistician, and an athletic shoe designer. When I look at what all of these roles have in common, I see that I essentially wanted to be a problem solver.”
Have you had any mentors in your personal or professional life?
“I’ve certainly had people who have influenced me to think differently and to hone my skills. I think fondly of a middle school foreign language teacher whose mantra was “we always go from what is known to what is not known.” I hear this voice in my head often. It reminds me that every problem is solvable if we start with the fundamentals and then build on what we know. We can only discover a new or different approach after we understand the basics.”
What discoveries have you made about yourself during your exploring and hiking?
“I’ve learned that I can do more and achieve more than I sometimes believe—and that peer pressure (or perhaps vanity) is often the best motivator to face fears and take on new challenges.”
How would your friends describe you?
“A quiet observer. Pragmatic. Insightful. Loyal.”
What’s something you find challenging about your work and how do you find success?
“There’s a huge responsibility that is shouldered by structural engineers for public safety and human welfare, more so than with other engineering disciplines within the A/E field. Mistakes can be costly. We strive to make sure that training and mentorship is provided at all levels. We go through an extensive checklist on each project to make sure we haven’t overlooked anything critical. Plus, each project is technically reviewed by a peer so that we ensure we produce quality buildings for our clients that are safe for their occupants.”
How have you defined your role as Director of Structural at Harwood?
“I had the huge benefit of starting in this industry under two smart, well-respected and well-experienced engineers who were so accommodating to help me grow. I think it’s important to always continue to learn, to ask questions and to build confidence. It helps us to go from what is known to what is not known. I want to provide the tools to staff and colleagues to make sure they continue to learn and become better in their careers, so we can all continue to provide our clients amazing buildings.”
When Mary is not directing her team on structural strategy, she is demonstrating her own skills on the Pickleball court. Her dream is to one day be a level 5.0 player.
As part of a complete interiors upgrade to the Fireside Theater dining spaces, which transition from underwater themes to Far East forests and outer space, this chandelier hangs within the original dining room creating a one-of-kind dining experience. This custom moon and star fixture consists of more than (20) painted globes ranging in diameter from 18” to 4’ which are suspended more than 20’ from the tip of the pyramid. The HEC lighting design team worked to create and model this one of kind design piece along with our partners at Visa Lighting & Spolar Studio.