ECS Employees Have GRIT: Meet Marc

As a Principal Engineer and recently recognized with two ACEC/NC Engineering Excellence Awards, Marc Plotkin, PE, D.GE sat down with us to share more about how he got into engineering.

How did you decide to become an engineer?

Growing up, I always enjoyed math, science and physics. There are multiple engineers in my family, so I knew I would be an engineer from a very young age. I initially planned to become a structural engineer, but I took a co-op during my junior year at a consulting firm that provided geotechnical and materials testing services. I loved the idea of being outside and the complexity that soil is never the same. The challenge that every site is different made me switch focus to geotechnical engineering.


What does D.GE mean to you?

It means a commitment to the practice of geotechnical engineering above and beyond licensure. I’ve dedicated my career to studying geotechnical engineering, but I believe I have a responsibility to the profession. That responsibility includes training, mentoring and coaching young staff, as well as a desire to educate and assist other engineers through difficult situations. I believe the D.GE designation shows our dedication to geotechnical engineering as a practice, that we have achieved an understanding of soil behavior that is above average, and demonstrates our willingness or desire to pass that knowledge along.  


What would you say has been the largest contributor to the growth of your career within ECS?

The entrepreneurial spirit of ECS. I have been given the opportunity to grow the type of consulting practice I want to grow, with complex engineering and specialty design work.


What’s the coolest thing you’re working on right now? 

We get to work on a lot of cool projects and have multiple high rises under construction. The coolest one we are designing is “floating” a 30-foot tall mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining wall over deep soft alluvial soil deposit. As easily developed land becomes increasingly scarce, our ability as geotechnical engineers to find buildable solutions becomes increasingly challenging.


What’s the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you? 

There are two pieces of advice I keep in mind. On a personal level, my grandfather taught me to never go to bed angry with someone you love. On a professional side, my first mentor taught me we are nothing without our reputation: not only our reputation with regard to technical ability, but also how we work and treat others. We might work for competing firms, but we are a community. I’ve been able to reach out to old mentors, and I’ve had colleagues reach out to me for a second opinion or support for help with a tough problem or situation.


What is your proudest accomplishment so far in your career?

One of my favorite projects was The Science Drive Parking Deck at Duke University (a 2017 ACEC/NC Honor Award project). We were able to support a nine-story concrete parking deck with 3,500 kip isolated column loads on spread footing foundations by using Pressuremeter testing and a very detailed analysis. The part of the project I am proud of is how we got involved. One of my old bosses at a mid-sized consulting firm in Michigan called to get some help on the project. They had been asked to Value Engineer the deep foundations. Since the firm wasn’t licensed in NC, they asked us to team with them on the project. It was an honor to get the request from a former employer, but when we had the idea to try to use spread footings on such high loads we met with a little hesitancy. However, we were able to prove that with the right in-situ testing and detailed analysis, it was possible. The analysis itself was special, and it gave me the opportunity to work with an idol from my years as an EI and demonstrate that I had listened and learned from him and other mentors over the years.


What do you in your spare time outside of engineering?

I’m a dad to two small boys, and that is how I spend most of my time outside of engineering.  Both boys are active in baseball, and I have fun helping coach their team. We also love going to amusement parks, live sporting events and hanging out.


Where’s your favorite place in the world? 

One of my favorite places is Great Sands Bay on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan. It is very peaceful and secluded place and you can see the Northern Lights. It’s also right down the road from the Jam Pot, one of the best muffin and jam shops in the world.