Employee Spotlight: Courtney Tolson

April 7, 2023

Courtney Tolson is a Project Manager in our Northern Virginia office. He joined SAM in 2016 as a part of the So-Deep, Inc. acquisition and is heading into his sixth year at SAM.

How did you get started at So-Deep?

I remember the day I was hired at So-Deep. I found the job opening in the newspaper, walked into the office, and the hiring managers were reviewing test holes and designating field sheets. They explained everything and then gave me an on-the-spot interview. They hired me right then! I showed up to work the next day at 5:45 AM and started my career digging test holes.

How was your transition to SAM from So-Deep?

The transition from So-Deep to SAM took time. There was a big push for changing our name, but I like to look at it as not only a name change but an adoption in history and knowledge. So-Deep was the inventor of Subsurface Utility Engineering, and SAM adopted that title with the acquisition. I was integral to this transition by providing SUE to Damage Prevention Services and working in other markets besides Transportation. SAM brought this new age of technology to the table, and it’s been the best thing to ever happen to this company!

While at SAM, I moved from Field Technician I to Project Manager, so my career has evolved significantly over the years. I’m currently a Project Manager in our Northern Virginia office. From performing, designating, and locating utilities, to managing clients and other employees, the path from field to office growth has continued for me at SAM.

Fun fact, I graduated with less than 150 students from Manassas Park High, and currently, there are 5 Manassas Park graduates working for SAM!

How many years of experience do you possess in the industry?

I’ve got about nine years of experience in Utility Engineering (UE). I was in the field for four years and the last five in the office. Having both experience in the field and office makes you a well-rounded professional; I believe everybody should have some field experience. It makes managing and understanding our work a lot easier.

Describe your day-to-day.

I feel an immense sense of being and purpose at SAM. Typically, my day starts with ensuring all my crews have made it in and the schedule can run as planned. Once all our crews are out, I review the work done the day before. I perform a review and QA/QC of all forms and data, then I begin to forecast and plan to ensure that the rest of the week and month is planned out. I provide operations and management of our people on a daily/weekly basis.

Once completed, I switch hats and put on my business development cap. I attend all 811 events across Virginia, representing SAM and educating people about the importance of knowing what’s below ground before you dig. I also preach the differences between professional services vs. contract locating.

What’s your day look like after work?

I serve on the City of Manassas Utility Commission and have been a City Commissioner for two years. I volunteer around our city, educating people on the importance of utilities and how the city’s Utilities bring in a significant revenue source. Outside of Utilities and work, I have an amazing 11-year-old son who aspires to be the next Ja Morant. We’re at basketball training and AAU practice 3-5 times a week, plus weekends. On the nice days, I enjoy driving my Camaro to work, powered by a 427″ Nitrous Stroker LS. Those are the good days!

What do most people not know about your role?

I’m the innovator, progressive thinker, and the successor to some very long-time UE professionals in my office. I may have been one of the last hires by So-Deep that have grown and stuck around with this company. I have the knowledge and expertise from working with long-standing professionals. Still, I also possess the talent and capabilities to work with new technology and produce new and creative ideas to create an inclusive work culture and other ways of outreach to our clients. I have a strong voice and enjoy speaking about our industry and purpose. I’ve been given such outstanding mentorship; I strive to build everybody around me and invest that mentorship back!

 What’s your favorite part about being a Project Manager?

The best part about being a Project Manager is that you do a lot. Our hands are in almost every aspect of projects, and we have that control. It may be too much for some, but I thrive off the big expectations. As a young Project Manager, this type of experience is excellent. From building teams, learning how to manage people, creating that team worth, delivering data to clients, developing proposals, and attending events with that SAM smiling face to all our current clients and the clients we want to win. I enjoy being in front of our clients as much as possible. I played four years of Varsity Golf in high school, and it’s one of the best things I could have done to prepare myself for project management, ha! I am fueled by passion, and any chance I can share that passion with my team, my clients, or others is what I enjoy the most.

Do you have a favorite project?

There’s this one project that tops every project I’ve worked on. SAM got to work with Park Mobile, the parking app that owns parking spaces in major cities. Park Mobile has over 5000 assets in Washington DC, including Parking Signs, Parking Pay Stations, and Coin Meters. SAM went to all 5000 assets and took pictures, GPS points, and condition assessments of every asset in Washington, DC. We put down over 35 miles by foot in a 7-square-mile city. We saw all the Nation’s Capital right in the middle of the cherry blossom season. It was one of the most beautiful times in the city. The weather was phenomenal, and spending all day in the city just walking around and taking pictures was the most remarkable project I’ve ever worked on.

In your opinion, what are the essential qualities of a leader?

A leader, first and foremost, must have passion and drive behind their why. You must fully believe, understand, and practice our trade to expect the people below you to believe, understand and practice the work to the expectations we give. Leaders must be willing to help their employees and not just point fingers at expectations. We must lead by example, invest in our team, and develop positive work relationships and mentorship. People want to work for a motivated and driven leader who helps the team move forward rather than just expecting the people to move the team forward. “Before you are a leader, success is all about building yourself and what you can do. When you become a leader, it is about growing others.” – Jack Welch

What do you look forward to about SAM and the industry in the future?

The technology is what I look forward to the most about this industry and SAM. This industry is on the cusp of a technological breakthrough, and SAM works towards staying at the forefront of that curve. We invest and train our employees on the latest technologies, and that makes me feel like I’m spending my career in the right place because the future is inevitable, and I believe these changes will happen.