Solving The Puzzle: Q&A With Water/Wastewater Leader David Rieken

 |  Sundt People, Water Treatment


Sundt’s first foray into Florida was in the 1960’s when we used our cryogenic piping experience to help build Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, where NASA first launched U.S. astronauts into space. Today, our presence in the Southeast is still focused on the infrastructure that will take our country to new heights, but now, it’s helping to ensure the future of clean water.

We focus on hiring experts in their fields, and Sundt Vice President and Regional Manager David Rieken is no exception. With over 27 years in the industry, David has spent his tenure at Sundt establishing the company’s presence in the Southeast, bringing with him vital expertise in water and wastewater treatment plants. We chatted with him about why he loves working in this sector.

Tell us about your career journey.

I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in engineering and realized early on that I was drawn to construction. I was, and still am, particularly fascinated by vital infrastructure like water treatment plants. As I progressed through my career, I’ve been a project engineer, manager and director. I’ve worked on the operations and financial side of projects, and spent my time being a “sponge,” seeking out opportunities to learn and grow. Now, I’m responsible for leading Sundt’s municipal water and wastewater work in the southeastern United States.

What drew you to working in the water/wastewater sector?

The challenge of providing the best outcome for our clients and their customers is what motivates me to perform in this sector. When we take on a retrofit project, like the one Sundt is working on in Nashville, there’s the added challenge of needing to keep the plant in operation as we work. Often, the plants have been established for decades—if not over a century, in some cases—and they’ve had various upgrades over the years. I enjoy what I like to call “mousetrapping”—figuring out how we can help the client get the best product without jeopardizing the safety or the quality of what we’re building and what they’re providing for their customers. It’s like figuring out the puzzle, but you don’t have the puzzle box to guide you.

The other piece is what excited me when I first entered the industry: the ever-evolving technology that goes into running a water/wastewater plant. As the testing gets more and more precise, or as we learn more about the treatment process, the possibilities in this sector are endless. There’s always going to be something new to learn and implement, resulting in better, cleaner water for the people who live in the markets we operate in.

What was your experience like establishing Sundt in the Southeast?

The easiest part of coming to work in the Southeast is Sundt’s reputation. We’re known for the quality of our work and the pride we have in our projects. When Sundt enters a new market, we look at our presence there as a long-term proposition, committing the resources to establish longevity in a region.

Why did you choose to work at Sundt?

First and foremost, the people. When I was considering joining the company, I could tell that the people I interacted with were passionate about the work they did; even those in leadership roles haven’t lost that “builder” mentality. Second, was the opportunity. Sundt is a place that offers growth to those who help the company reach new heights. When I think of the other companies I could have joined, I would have been filling a more traditional role. My role with Sundt doesn’t fit in a specific box; it represents a culmination of everything I’ve done over the course of my career. I also have the chance to mentor a younger generation at this stage of my career, which is one of the more rewarding parts.

What advice would you give to those entering or just beginning their career in the industry?

Recognize that you might not have all the answers right away, but you can learn. And, be engaged with the industry as a whole; attend networking events and connect with other people in diverse roles. One day, you may come across a challenge and it’s helpful to have that set of contacts who can help you find the best solutions, whether that’s personally or professionally.

Does a career with Sundt sound like the right fit for you? Learn more about our opportunities.