Always bet on yourself - Richard Winfrey
One our Re.engineer contributors, Rob Kalwarowsky, defined leadership in a way that fits our most recent Trending Leader, "We are all leaders because there are people in our lives that we can influence to become the best people they can be". Richard Winfrey is the model example of this as he is fearless in breaking down cultural barriers within the mental health space. He not only excels in his profession but he is also a refreshing voice of reason as it relates to ending toxic masculinity. We were very fortunate to capture a few of his perspectives on being an Engineer while also challenging the status quo of the negative stigmas that exist in the world today.
Richard Winfrey is a native of Detroit, Michigan who is currently a Field Engineer in Water and Waste Water systems, focusing on maintaining and improving sewer infrastructure for the City of Detroit. He received his bachelors of science in Mechanical Engineering from Wayne State University in 2014. He also focuses on giving back to the local community through his involvement in his fraternity (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated) and in STEM by ways of the National Society of Black Engineers.
Q: What inspired you to go into a STEM field?
Richard: My mother was one of the main reasons - she was passionate in making sure that I pursued a STEM field. With my genuine interest and knack in problem solving/science and math, however, I did my own research to see if I was genuinely interested in this aside from the fact that I am a complete nerd.
Q: Congratulations on attaining your Green Belt Certification in Lean Six Sigma. I see that the certification had a focus on time reduction between asset repair and final surface restoration across the City of Detroit. What was the project defect and how did you go about eliminating it?
Richard: The biggest defect was the original path that the initial information being sent to my team. It was so much lost paper and unnecessary steps needed to submit the request.
The quick win for this was to developing and training field staff on a simple to use, daily submission form using the online application, Smartsheet, in and a data base was created to track all new restoration requests from inception to completion. This training of field personnel helped in creating a culture where personnel knew immediately after the repair work was done that a simple submission from their mobile devices made a world of difference.
Q: We both have spent some time investing in capital improvements for Water and Waste Water systems, and in my experience, many of these infrastructures across the U.S. are in dire need of rehabilitation. How are you capturing value or driving reliability through your capital improvement projects?
Richard: Our capital improvement projects help to increase the life of our infrastructure by at least 50 years. I am managing the day to day inspections and rehabilitation of sewer assets city-wide to help identify and execute such repair and rehab related work.
Q: Tell us a little about your “Mental Matters Podcast”. What are some of your key objectives?
Richard: The Mental Matters Podcast was created for black men and other men of color to:
Discuss the topics that we as a culture would shy away from to avoid “weak appearances”, to erase the negative stigma of mental health and challenging toxic masculinity in black men to create a safe space or “make it ok” to open up about their experiences/journey into manhood, and To highlight and promote resources for mental wellness assistance.
We also include interviews with specialists, psychiatrists, counselors or other advocates of mental health in our community nationwide who are actively involved in the field/profession.
Q: What advice would you give to other young professionals looking to take their career or education to the next level?
Richard: First thing: Always bet on yourself. You worked hard regardless of the grades you have earned. Never forget your worth.
Second, it’s ok to take a break as well as celebrate the small victories. Make sure you do that for you. Next, surround yourself with people who believe in you and have similar grinds where you want to be. Finally, always earn your A in effort. It will never be enough to please others. So make sure you work hard to your own satisfaction.
Honorable mention - do not be afraid of therapy. Many people think it is beneath them to seek out therapy and even worse - we seek it out when we are staring trauma in the face (as I can admit to) and/or on our last leg. Therapy helps you be at a peak efficiency - it has helped my relationships including my marriage, friends and even my family.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
Richard: I have a “bad habit” of wondering what’s next and am I living enough of my purpose. I’m always thinking of how to be better.
Mental Matters Podcast: http://www.mentalmatterspod.com/