Introducing a new feature to Connections – profiles of our employees! Let’s meet Tom Hart.
Engineer by Day,
Firefighter by Night
Some people claim that they spend their working hours putting out fires. For Tom Hart, this claim is more than a metaphor: He’s not only a fire/life safety engineer at Syska, but also a firefighter at the Yonkers Fire Department.
To some extent, he’s following in the footsteps of his father, who was a professional firefighter. But Tom points out that his father never pressured him to become a firefighter. And his mother thought that Tom should seek out a professional technical field, like engineering.
At first, he did what his mother suggested, and graduated from SUNY Binghamton with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. After graduation, he landed a job at Syska as a mechanical engineer. He found himself drawn to firefighting, though, so his father recommended that he take the written and physical exams for Yonkers firefighters.
After passing, Tom faced a difficult dilemma. He wanted to serve as a firefighter and continue his engineering work. Would such an arrangement be possible? He spoke with his supervisor Jim Carrigan on the challenges that he would face working for the fire department and Syska. Tom also spoke to colleagues like Sean Marcel and Josh Lilburn regarding his career. Ultimately he decided he would start his firefighting career but work part time at Syska, designing fire and life-safety systems.
Today, he works 40-hour weeks at the fire department and about 20-30 hours a week at Syska. “The weeks are long, but the combination of roles is ideal,” says Tom. “At Syska, I’m focusing on the systems that make buildings safer. I can then talk to other firefighters, and even inspectors, about the inner workings of these systems.
“On Jim’s team, I’m always learning,” Tom continues. “Whenever a new code is established or changes, we determine how its application will affect buildings. These effects can be pretty complex.”
Meanwhile, how is he faring in the fire department? “It’s a tough job – but it’s also rewarding,” Tom says. “I did not know how much I would like it until I actually started the work.”
According to Tom, many firefighters retire after 25 years and pursue second careers, “I’m fortunate because I know what my second career will be,” he notes. “I can easily see myself ramping up fully in engineering, taking all that I’ve learned as a firefighter with me.”
“I’m glad to have Tom on the Syska team in any capacity, and certainly appreciate his service as a firefighter,” says Jim Carrigan. “But I have to confess -- I’m looking forward to his retirement!”