The original Southwest Engineers office was essentially just a tiny room. Multiple people were working on different parts of the engineering process alongside a light table and blue line machine. Back then all drafting was done by hand and all surveying was done in-house.
One vital drafter was Mary McNabb, who came to work with us in October of 1980. Soon after we purchased an old 1919 warehouse building and remodeled it to fit our staff and workload increase. A few months later on New Year's Eve, we moved into the new space and Mary recalls that she provided the celebratory champagne on that special day.
Since the industry was still operating in a pre-computer phase, Mary explains that the daily process started with Clarence marking off the topography map so that it could then be xeroxed, blown up to a larger size and finally traced on the light table. Those were the beginning steps every time, always requiring teamwork from highly skilled drafters. For Mary, this was a craft she thoroughly enjoyed and says that she was often attached to her maps due to the amount of time and care she devoted to them.
When 1983 came around Southwest Engineers was still doing surveying work that amounted to one foot stacks of documents reporting on well locations for oil companies.
Mary recalls that eventually the engineering aspects of the firm outgrew the surveying work and something had to give. Southwest Engineers let go of surveying and focused on infrastructure projects.
After technological advances revolutionized daily operations, Mary had to adapt all she knew in accordance with the new standard that computers brought. She laughs when she says that initially she resisted change and held onto to her hand drawn maps calling them "her labors of love" that she "had tended to over the years." Eventually she accepted the permanence of computing software and admits she now truly enjoys having results "at the push of a button."
It's been almost forty years since we opened our doors for business and there's not much that Mary hasn't been around to witness. Similar to Martha, she agrees that the company culture has always felt like a family because Clarence had a natural ability to be welcoming.
Mary explains that Clarence sincerely wanted to give everyone a chance and would make room on his staff for those willing to work. She also shares that she has "never in her life met anyone so consistently hyper and energetic about work," as Clarence was known to always be the first one in the office and to have strict expectations on everyone else's punctuality. He has always been generous too, as Mary says "if things were good around the company, he wanted to share that and we were all winning together."
Mary McNabb will soon reach 38 years of work with Southwest Engineers. Today we celebrate not only her hard work and devotion but also her bright personality, deep love of dogs and friendly attitude.The appreciation we feel for the people that make up our company is as strong as our passion for what we do. Stay tuned for our next #40for40 feature!