Trouble Choosing the Right Consultant? Take a Look at their Desk…

Forrest Gump’s’ mama always said you could tell a lot about a person by their shoes; where they have gone, where they are going. In the consulting world, you can tell a lot about a consultant and how to choose a consultant by looking at their desk; what they have done and who they are.

For all of us desk-jockeys, our desk becomes an expression of ourselves and the company we work for. We personalize it, we organize it, we wash it (or don’t wash it), and we decorate it.  But very few people have stopped to think about what it says about them and how this information could be a valuable tool for choosing the right consultant or business partner on a project.

Speaking Volumes

For instance, one of the most obvious things people keep on their desks, pictures, can speak volumes about what that person values. For some, it’s family, friends or that one crazy night in Mexico.  Others keep pictures of past projects, awards or certificates about their accomplishments. Many keep both. Some desks are heaping mountains of paper and others are so organized they fall just short of placing tick marks around the corners of their mouse pad to make sure it stays in exactly the same place.  For some, their desk is a treasure trove of artifacts, conversation pieces and toys, while only a monitor and a calendar occupy others.


But why does this matter and how can this help you determine the type of consultant you want to use on your next project?

In business, success always comes down to the people who are involved in a project and the personalities they bring with them.  That’s it. Experience, knowledge, credentials are all important pieces of the puzzle, but if the personalities of the people working on a team together fail, the project will fail regardless of their experience or expertise.  If personalities are so important then, taking a close look at their desk can be an effective tool to use to help you evaluate how that person might be to work with.

What Does My Desk say About Me?

First, I have a few pictures of my kids because no matter what designs are produced on my desk, nothing can ever match the sense of accomplishment I have from being a part of their lives. Next, I have a few pictures of past projects.  I pour myself into the projects I do.  For me, my projects become a personal statement of who I am.  I want my projects to be excellent because I demand excellence from myself.

On the edge of my desk, I keep some notes from the projects I am working on.  I call this “the pile”.  Admittedly, this isn’t the most organized space on my desk, but I like to keep every scrap of paper and hastily scratched note close at hand throughout the design of a project.  It always seems like it’s the one thing I write down in a quick inspiration of thought that ends up meaning something down the road, and I want to make sure I can quickly find it.

I also keep a baseball with the names of all the kids I coached in t-ball on my desk. First, it reminds me to not take things too seriously.  I tell the kids when I coach to just have fun and do their best.  I often find I need to remind myself of the same thing when it comes to work, too!  Second, since I design a lot of sports /recreation projects, it’s a good reminder for me to always remember that someday someone actually has to use the facility I am working on to compete, entertain and make a living.  Every decision I make on a project needs to reflect the responsibility that this carries.


My desk…with necessary comments

Allegheny Design Services

Like so many, my desk is a reflection of me. And if you are looking for the right consultant for your next project, consider what their desk is telling you about them.  Personalities define business success and something as simple as what a person’s desk looks like can tell you a great deal about how that person can work with you to meet your needs.

Structural Engineering is a field of engineering dealing with the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads. Structural engineers create complex structural systems through the use of simple components. Allegheny Design Services (ADS) works closely with architects and contractors to provide the engineering support that turn their vision into reality.

So, if you ever find yourself in need of a structural engineer who strives to make each project excellent and keeps a baseball on his desk just as a reminder, you know where to find one!  Learn more about us here or below!

Thanks for reading,


Written by Michael Howell, PE, SE, MBA, Senior Structural Engineer, Director Sports & Recreation

mike-howellMike works as the Senior Structural Engineer for ADS. His responsibilities include project management and structural design. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and graduated with a master’s of business administration from West Virginia University in December of 2014. He has extensive engineering experience as a field engineer, a civil engineer and a structural engineer. He has served as a past branch president for the American Society of Civil Engineers and chairman of the Richmond Joint Engineers’ Council. He is a current member of the ASCE 7-16 Seismic Committee and is active in many other professional committees and civic organizations.

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