Are you wondering how you can further your career? Jesse Cokeley came into our firm as an entry-level engineer and is now a principal. At Colliers Engineering & Design, our clients and leadership choose Cokeley again and again. The keys to his success? A strong technical background, building strong relationships, and doing good work reliably.
Know Your Stuff
Cokeley’s reputation often proceeds him. He gets a lot of referrals and clients who insist that he works on their projects, not anybody else. This started early on in his career when he was tasked with learning the recently adopted changes to the New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual. He also became the lead septic design engineer for the office as most of the projects in the office were in regions without public sewer. Becoming an expert in these technical areas started his brand as a trusted technical expert.
From there, Cokeley worked on many different projects, in numerous regions, environments, and disciplines, and for a variety of managers and clients. He has seen from many perspectives what leads to success, common pitfalls, and what improvements can usually be made. This has enabled him to speak with confidence about specifically what we do in all our disciplines.
As a manager now, he often tells his staff, “The better your technical background is on a subject, the more confidently you can speak on the phone to clients or at public meetings in front of town officials. You can’t just know enough to get by. Having a strong technical background may make or break a project. Know what you don’t know and know when to ask others for help.” He has been handed business cards walking out of public hearings on more than one occasion.
Know Your Company
To zoom in to specific initiatives Cokeley has taken advantage of within the company, we asked him what he finds rewarding today.
“The company’s Mentorship Program is a great way to interact with people in other offices and in other departments,” Cokeley explained. In the program, he has had many mentors at many different levels of the company and, in turn, has been a mentor to many people as well. In fact, he has two mentees this year and has a mentor himself. The program may have only been a formal one since 2010, but one of our firms’ best practices has always been to pass knowledge forward.
He also said that he appreciates his time in the Association, which is an initiative related to the company’s path to ownership. It enables him to work face-to-face with a lot of people at all levels, including those very high up in the company. Cokeley emphasized the importance of getting to really know people. He explained, “If you can become more than a name on a spreadsheet, that will help set you apart.” Specifically, he was the Group Leader for the Collections Initiative in 2018, which set him out on a travelling offices tour to roll-out the “Collections Culture” for the firm.
Zooming back out to see how he got where he is, it’s evident that Cokeley has built strong relationships with staff members and clients all over the region since he started here. After graduating from Manhattan College in 2005, Cokeley immediately began working for CED (then called Maser Consulting) in the Newburgh, NY office, mostly doing Civil/Site development. From 2005-2008, he did a lot of land redevelopment creating housing subdivisions, and started interacting a lot more with clients, architects, attorneys, municipalities and agencies, developing relationships every step of the way. He moved to the firm’s West Nyack, NY office to work on more municipal projects, and when the firm acquired a traffic engineering company, he became the liaison, working out of the acquired firm’s office for a month, assisting with their transition. Then, another summer sent him to the firm’s Mt. Arlington, NJ office to do more municipal work there. Cokeley proved himself to once again kindle and maintain excellent relationships with both new and past coworkers, and with clients. He got his PE license in 2012. With that and his comprehensive familiarity of so many parts of our firm, it’s no surprise that in 2013 change came a’knocking again.
Ron Lezott joined the firm and would quickly become the Geographic Discipline Leader in the Montvale, NJ (formerly Chestnut Ridge) office . Lezott saw immediately that Cokeley’s history with the firm and strong technical background had put him in a position to make the leap into Project Management.
As a result, Cokeley received more and more opportunities to run projects. An entry-level engineer joined the team, and Cokeley trained and managed the new hire. They worked on multi-family residential projects in Bergen County, gas station and convenience stores in Long Island, not-for-profit community centers in Rockland County, and many more projects in the region. Additional members of the team soon joined, and now Cokeley had his own team executing a vision of providing quality, technically accurate work to clients in a responsive timely manner. This enabled him to focus more on business development and other initiatives to work on improving the team, office, and company as a whole. His new position required higher expectations and responsibility, but Cokeley rose to the occasion. He gained clients trust in short-order, helping prove Ron correct in what he saw in Cokeley from the outset.
Early in Cokeley’s career, one of his mentors gave him very memorable advice. “If you do good work, people will know about it and come back.” This mindset has guided Jesse Cokeley every step of the way. When potentially overwhelmed by the idea of business development and acting extroverted, the usually introverted Cokeley said he kept that advice top of mind and felt good about branding himself as the quality engineer who does good work, is responsive, and is reliable.
Man on the Move… Today And Beyond
Today, Jesse is the Geographic Discipline Leader for Civil/Site services in the firm’s Montvale, NJ office and is one of the top revenue generating and producing Billing Managers within the Civil/Site Discipline. His current goal is to grow his team so they can continue to service our existing clients in the region, gain more new clients and expand into additional markets and regions, such as the Five Boroughs, Long Island, and New England area. Contact him Jesse about your next project by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.