In his own words: Shaw Engineering’s David Kitchen |

In his own words: Shaw Engineering’s David Kitchen

The basics

Name/title: David Kitchen/Principal, Shaw Engineering

Number of years in this job: three as principal, but I have been with Shaw since 2008.

Years in this profession: 20

Education: I got a bachelor of science in engineering at UNR in 1996. I went to grade school in Carson City and high school at Manogue.

Last book read: “John Adams” by David McCullough, and I’m in the middle of the “Game of Thrones” series.

Favorite flick: I love to just sit and watch a bad horror movie. It doesn’t matter how bad it is; it allows me to shut my brain off and relax for a little while.

What’s on your iPod: everything from classical to electronic to classic rock.

Spouse, kids or pets: Right now we are working on blending two families. I have a teenage daughter, Mackenzie, 16, and my son, Jacob, 13. One is finishing up middle school and the other is getting ready to finish up high school. My girlfriend just moved in, and she has a son who is 12.

Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about Shaw Engineering and your position with the firm.

David Kitchen: Shaw Engineering was started in 1982 by George Shaw, who has since passed away. It specialized in water, wastewater and public infrastructure and served not only the Reno-Sparks area but outlying areas: Portola, Lake Tahoe, Fernley, Lovelock and Tonopah. We really went to these smaller communities that needed these services, and they have been a really big part of our core. If they needed a wastewater treatment plant or sewer replacement in their town, we were there to help them with the government funding to bidding the projects and payrolls to the contractors. We help from start to finish, from obtaining a preliminary idea to financing and design to completion through construction management. Our main focus is public infrastructure, but we do it all, from tiny commercial jobs in Fernley to apartments here in town or custom homes in Lake Tahoe. I am one of the partners here, and we share the workload. I do a lot of the employee management and day-to-day admin. We also recently brought on geotechnical services, and I am helping manage that part of our business as we try to grow it.

NNBW: How did you get into this profession?

Kitchen: My dad was a builder, and I liked seeing things built. He would build homes, airplanes, boats, you name it. I loved the hands-on part of that. I loved history and wanted to become a history teacher, but I got to college and found it was not what I wanted to do with my life — I needed something more challenging. I jumped over to the engineering side and never stopped.

NNBW: What do you like most about being an engineer?

Kitchen: There is nothing better than problem-solving. You are given a problem and have all these pieces, and you try to bring it all together and make it work. You are given a challenge that somebody doesn’t quite know how to fix, and when you realize the solution it is really a great feeling.

NNBW: How did the recession change the way Shaw Engineering looked at its business, and what changed at the firm?

Kitchen: Shaw always had a reputation, and our repeat clients got us through the recession. We had given them such great service and quality work in the past that we were their go-to people. And even though there was a recession, wastewater treatment plants needed to be expanded, equipment needed to be replaced, or government regulations changed and that would send everyone across the country scrambling to meet new regulations.

NNBW: What was your first job?

Kitchen: I worked as a ranch laborer in Washoe Valley, and I worked for my dad as a construction laborer through high school.

NNBW: What’s the most difficult engineering job you have worked on?

Kitchen: Every job has its individual challenges. One of my most recent ones was a project that’s going to go into construction in Verdi, where we are going to take a private water company and upgrade their system to TMWA standards. It involved so many agencies: Washoe County, City of Reno, NDOT and TMWA.

NNBW: Have any advice for a young and aspiring engineer just coming out of college?

Kitchen: Get experience. My dad really encouraged and forced me to get a job at an engineering firm to get experience. Experience can mean just as much as education. As far as landing a job out of college, if you have a little bit of real-world experience, it goes a long, long ways to furthering your career. We are looking to hire someone right now and wish we could find someone with autoCAD experience.

NNBW: What’s your dream job?

Kitchen: I kind of already have my dream job. Being a father and a parent, it is such a challenge but it’s so rewarding. It’s a job you love. Being an owner and a principal is kind of similar. I see my employees as another family that I am nurturing and making sure that they are fed and paid. I am responsible for these people.

NNBW: How do you spend your time away from work?

Kitchen: It’s with family, being at home and taking care of them. Sometimes if I can I love to get out and hike and take the dogs. But with teenagers, and a house, there’s always something that’s got to get done or be fixed.

NNBW: If you could hang on to just one memory for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Kitchen: I don’t like that question — there’s just too many. I love everything about life, the good and the bad. Without the bad you don’t know how good the good is. I want to hold on to them all.

NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?

Kitchen: My dad flew airplanes, so I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy, but then I realized my eyes were bad.

NNBW: If you could retire right now, would you?

Kitchen: I would, but I would still do something either in the community or something to keep myself active. I wouldn’t want to just retire and fade away. I would have some projects going on somewhere.

NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?

Kitchen: My partners and I went to a 49ers game two seasons ago.

NNBW: What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?

Kitchen: With family and the person I care about somewhere tropical and nice with no worries. Someplace where I can relax.

NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?

Kitchen: I am Nevada born, and my family has been here since the late 1800s. I have always loved the area and the region, and I love the Nevada attitude and the independence that comes with being a Nevada. It bodes well for being an engineer because it gets your mind out of the box. It lets you see things a little differently.

Know someone whose perspective you would like to share with NNBW readers? Email reporter Rob Sabo at or call him at 775-850-2146.