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Warren Rosenbrook has 30 years in the plumbing industry under his belt. He is a certified plumbing engineer, plumbing designer and green plumbing designer. And, he is the director of the plumbing department at Henderson Engineers.
Rosenbrook’s professional accomplishments speak loudly, but his personality speaks louder. Describing himself as a “big guy with a deep, booming voice [who is] outgoing [and] always cheerful,” it seems his colleagues agree.
Plumbing Engineer received multiple nominations to name Rosenbrook the 2019 Engineer of the Year.
“He is a giant of a man, not only in stature but also in the plumbing industry. In my interactions with Warren, he is always positive and good-hearted, no matter what. He has a way of making sure a mentee learns the content, without making them feel unknowledgeable, which is a rare trait. And with this talent he has developed pretty much the entire 60+ plumbing department of Henderson. That number does not include any of the HVAC/mechanical engineers that also do plumbing, which is around another 30-50 designers and engineers,” said Christoph Lohr, Associate and Plumbing Technical Leader, at Henderson Engineers.
Henderson Engineers Associate and Senior Mechanical Engineer Scott Murray said, “Warren has an incredible technical mind for plumbing, as well as on many other subjects. His knowledge of plumbing design, concepts, theory and even the history of plumbing issues and solutions seems boundless. And besides the vast plumbing knowledge he already has, his desire to learn more about what’s new and the current technical challenges of the industry is as strong as its always been.”
“With all that expertise and knowledge, he is as nice a person as anyone,” Murray added. “He loves to learn from the experienced engineer as well as the brand new engineer. Like so many others who have had the pleasure of working with and spending time with Warren, I’m proud to call him my colleague and friend.”
Michael Monthey, Associate and Plumbing Quality Manager at Henderson Engineers, noted, “Warren is a patient and thorough mentor who always takes time out of his busy day to teach plumbing design concepts to anyone who needs it. He has worked diligently behind the scenes in the ASPE Kansas City Chapter to find volunteers and to further the entirety of the plumbing industry. Warren is particularly dedicated to new designers and engineers, and frequently talks about the importance of maintaining the pipeline of young talent into the plumbing discipline.”
Meet Rosenbrook for yourself in the exclusive interview with Plumbing Engineer that follows!
PE: How did you get started in your career?
WR: I’m from Kansas City originally. I went to drafting school in high school. I got a drafting certificate from a vocational technical school, and then worked as a shop drafter for two and a half years for piece part and sheet metal layout. Then, I was able to go to community college, and then went to Georgia Tech and got a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering with an emphasis on fluid mechanics and fluid handling equipment. I finished in the winter of 1987. It was straight into the industry from there. I had been a summer help as a civil drafter with a company, WL Thompson, and they gave me a job offer to be a plumbing engineer. It allowed me to stay in Atlanta, so I took it.
PE: What have been some of your career highlights?
WR: I started with WL Thompson as a plumbing designer. Then, I went to Newcomb & Boyd and was a plumbing engineer, got my P.E. there. Since then, I’ve been at Henderson Engineers for the last 22 years. I was named director of plumbing engineering at Henderson in 2002. Over my career, I’ve also become a CPD and a GPD. I got my CPD in 1990. Back in the day! A highlight from my career was doing the athletes’ apartments for the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta. That was great! You could see them from the convention hotel in Atlanta last year. It was a lot of work. There was 1,000 units, 500 showers and four separate towers covering two city blocks. It was a good project, project went well, contractors did a good job and it consumed a large portion of my life.
PE: The majority of your career has been spent at Henderson Engineers. What has that been like?
WR: Well, it’s been a real great ride for me. Positivity is a strength I have. The work environment is extremely positive. We are a very nurturing firm that understands the importance of growing your people and treating your people right so they want to stay and grow with you. Our turnover rate is below the national average because of that. We do a real good job promoting from within in my opinion, and allowing people to be all they can be — including a guy like myself. They did that for me, so now I do that for others.
PE: Do you have anything at work that excites you or you consider your specialty?
WR: I did my last design in 2007. So I’ve been doing essentially pure quality control since then — reviewing drawings, solving problems on projects, making sure equipment is sized, specified, and scheduled properly. We have an entire department dedicated to quality control and review, which is where I can be found, providing guidance and oversight on anything plumbing-related. I do a lot of problem solving, dealing with issues in the field, dealing with issues created by code officials. One of the skillsets I have is problem solving. Another thing that I do, that I think is probably the most important and really the thing I like doing more than anything else, is mentoring and coaching the junior designers and engineers that start with the firm or have been working with us for awhile. Just dealing with issues that need to be dealt with as they come up in design or construction or code review. That allows me to get some one-on-one time to teach them Henderson’s quality standards, processes, the quality standards that Henderson expects on our projects and learn the fundamentals of plumbing engineering, know the codes. “Henderson Thinking” is being responsive, listening, and making sure people get what they need in a timely manner. That’s probably the most rewarding thing I do, and then watching people process what I’ve taught them — grow and tackle more difficult projects on their own. It’s extremely rewarding to see that happen. That’s probably the most important thing I do at this company at this time.
PE: Mentorship is an important topic for the plumbing industry right now. Can you elaborate on what you have learned as a mentor?
WR: Well, I’ve found that the new generation likes one-on-one time. At Henderson, every new employee goes through a 6-month fundamentals training program where we teach weekly classes on topics in the engineering discipline that matches their focus. The fundamentals of plumbing engineering is also taught in mind with how things get done at Henderson, We’ve learned this gets people up to speed much quicker. I find the new generation is always open to speaking and talking to get direction. It takes a little while sometimes to get them to open up, so that when they have a problem, they will call in a timely manner and ask for help. But, you’ve just got to figure out how to make yourself available to them. Being a guiding figure that understands where they’re coming from, we find that works real, real well. Figure out what people need and find a way to deliver that to them so that they grow faster, better, quicker, smarter.
PE: Has someone served as a mentor to you?
WR: I learned a lot by working with Henderson’s COO Dave Haake. He taught me a lot about how to manage and lead a team as a department head early in my career when I was first promoted. Notably, by using a consensus style of leadership – explaining how and why decisions are made, getting everyone on one page, then getting everyone to buy in.
PE: Are there professional organizations that have shaped your experience in the plumbing industry?
WR: I’ve been involved with the Atlanta and Kansas City chapters of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE). I served three years on the board in Atlanta and 15 years in Kansas City. I was chapter president of Kansas City twice. I owe a lot of my professional success to what I’ve learned by serving in ASPE. The skills I’ve learned and gained by being a board member just made my career all the better.
PE: Outside of your profession, can you give our readers a peek into your personal life?
WR: I’ve got a son and a daughter. I’ve been with my wife since the summer of ’83. We met in Fort Lauderdale at the beach. And I’ve got two grandchildren. I love them all and want to make sure they grow to be all they can be.
PE: Is there anything you did with your family in 2019 that was a highlight for you?
WR: The high point of 2019 was our family taking our off-road camping trailer all the way up to Victoria on Vancouver Island in Canada and back. We also camped with our friends from Seattle at Larrabee State park in Washington State. That took two weeks. We drove 4,000 miles and stopped along the way in this great, beautiful country of ours.
PE: To close, what does it mean to be the 2019 Engineer of the Year?
WR: It’s extremely flattering to get the recognition from my colleagues, mentees, and leadership. You know, plumbing engineers are not normally recognized in our society. We’re kind of always in the background. But, good plumbing systems are what made our country great, and plumbing engineering is extremely important. We protect the health of our nation with clean water and proper sanitation.