Young Professional 2021: Robert J. Fyfe

Robert Fyfe

Robert J. Fyfe

Field Procurement Supervisor
Bechtel

Favorite music?
Dance pop.
Currently Dua Lipa.

What thing would people be most
surprised to learn about you?
I was a competitive
ballroom dancer at the
University of Michigan.

Favorite pandemic purchase?
Grill (outdoor kitchen)

Favorite book? Movie?
Book: “Words of Radiance”
by Brandon Sanderson.
Movie: “Sister Act.”

Age: 36

Current city of residence: Pasco

How long have you worked at Bechtel? 7 years

Describe your company:
Bechtel is a global engineering, construction, and project management firm with divisions that span most industry & government sectors.

Education and certifications:
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor): Bachelor of Science in Engineering, nuclear engineering; Master of Science in Engineering, nuclear engineering.

University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA): Master of Science: Mechanical engineering.

Professional Engineer: Washington State #54410: Mechanical engineering.

Bechtel: Black belt, Lean Six Sigma program.

Washington State University Extension: Certificate in enology, certificate in viticulture (expected September 2021).

Briefly describe your job and how you got into it: I oversee a team of six to eight people and nearly $20 million in purchases for the Waste Treatment Plant site out at Hanford. It was a long circuitous route to get here, but I was educated as a nuclear engineer and worked as a professional mechanical engineer.

Most recently I spent two years in Bechtel’s Lean Six Sigma program and earned my black belt on procurement improvement efforts. I re-integrated into procurement, instead of back to engineering, because of an opportunity there that I was suddenly knowledgeable in.

How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? 8 years

How did you earn your first dollar?
Pushing carts at Walmart in Monroe, Michigan.

Did the pandemic affect your daily work life? If so, how?
I was sent home to figure out how to telework, and I have not returned to the site.

So, my life changed dramatically. Instead of breakroom conversations over doughnuts, chats with my coworkers are all virtual through webcams.

Instead of filling up my car every three to four days, I think I’ve filled up my tank only five to six times in the past year.

Plus, I work weekends at Kiona Vineyards & Winery, in their tasting room, so I got to experience the pandemic’s impact on the service sector, too. We went to seated tastings, then closed. Though we’ve reopened, we still haven’t returned to the tastings like we’d done for decades before Covid-19.

What was your dream job as a child?
The moment I learned (and could pronounce) what an aeronautical engineer was, I was convinced it was the job for me!

Tell us about your community involvement/community service.
I’m obsessed with the mission of Second Harvest food bank. I volunteer and donate money there whenever I can.

Pre-Covid I was very active in FIRST (robotics), mentoring a team a Kamiakin High School and I refereed at local competitions.

Pre-Covid I was a high school instructor for Junior Achievement, where I’ve taught a personal finance module at Pasco High for several years.

Luckily, during Covid, I was able to continue judging the local and state science fairs for middle and high schools, albeit virtually.

Pre-Covid, I’ve been an Engineering Week High School Friendly Competition judge and planner, but we were unable to pull anything together with all the schools this year. Cannot wait for that to resume.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
It’s been tougher since teleworking, but making commitments in the weekday evenings is the only way to save me from myself.

I’m not one to get up really early and work, but I’ll stay connected all night if I don’t have something pulling me away.

Mondays is virtual trivia with family in California and Texas. Tuesdays I set aside for “wine school,” since I’m enrolled in the viticulture certificate program at WSU. Wednesdays and Fridays are for CrossFit. Thursdays are for pickleball.

They all force me to power down from work and go do something active.

Do you have family? Pets?
It’s just my wife and I locally, with our two dogs, Reya & Benny.

Benny was a Covid puppy since I was spending so much time at home.

We both have very small families in Michigan and California that we try to see at least once a year when we are allowed to travel.

What brought you to the Tri-Cities? Did you grow up here?
Neither of us are from here, or even from the Pacific Northwest.

My wife has worked for Bechtel for 13 years, and they brought us here. We had options, but the local wine scene broke all ties.

We came thinking it would only be one to two years, but the Tri-Cities just can’t get rid of us.