Neel-Schaffer Career Day helped this young engineer set a course for his future

JACKSON, Miss. (September 6, 2022) – How many times did you ask yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Some may have always known what they wanted to be, and others may have needed a little guiding light.

Career Days are an excellent way for schools to shine a light on the various career fields available to students. Neel-Schaffer is proud to have partnered with many schools to highlight careers in engineering and help spark interest in students.

One of those students was John Martin Paczak. His Neel-Schaffer story began in 2015, when John Martin and several of his 9th-grade classmates at Rosa Scott School in Madison, MS, boarded a school bus for a trip to downtown Jackson. That day, they spent “Career Day” learning what civil engineers do while visiting Neel-Schaffer’s headquarters. John Martin recalled listening to Neel-Schaffer engineers explain the details of a repaving project, including traffic rerouting and how they controlled traffic signals to assist with the project.

John Martin had multiple Career Day choices. He chose civil engineering because “it was the closest thing to construction. I was always into building things with Legos, and I was the biggest Bob the Builder fan when I was a kid.”

After that day at Neel-Schaffer, he didn’t leave thinking he had found a future employer but was intrigued enough that he chose civil engineering (with a structural emphasis) for his career path three years later when he enrolled at the University of Mississippi.

Six years after that Career Day trip to Jackson, Neel-Schaffer had another light shining opportunity with John Martin during his junior year at Ole Miss. John Martin had the opportunity to meet Cindy Rich, PE, the leader of Neel-Schaffer’s Mississippi Structures Department, while on campus.

Cindy serves on the Ole Miss Civil Engineering Advisory Board and, over the years, has talked to many students about the value of engineering and the strengths of Neel-Schaffer. She left an impression on John Martin, and in 2022, weeks after graduating from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, John Martin joined Neel-Schaffer as an Engineer Intern in the Structures Department. Today, he’s ready to make his mark in the field one bridge at a time.

“I like that you can take pride in what you design and create,” said John Martin, explaining the allure of engineering. “You’re doing something not everybody has the ability to do, and that’s special. You’re starting from nothing and bringing something new into the world.”

Neel-Schaffer is grateful to have opportunities to tell students about the benefits of careers in the engineering field, and even more honored when those very students return to start their engineering careers within the firm.

Welcome to our Neel-Schaffer team, John Martin!