Behind the Build: Interview with Will Marinos, Director of Design Technologies, Hazen & Sawyer

Construction design and technology have evolved quite a bit over the last several years. From manual drawings and traditional drafting techniques to digital tools and automation, the industry has seen tremendous changes and advancements.

Will Marinos, Director of Design Technologies at Hazen and Sawyer, has seen these developments firsthand throughout his career. As someone who sits at the intersection of design and tech, he has a unique perspective on how these advancements are shaping the future of construction.

We recently caught up with Will and discussed everything from his career path to the biggest challenges and opportunities he sees around design and technology. 

Check out what he has to say.

Tell me a little bit about Hazen and Sawyer and what you specialize in.

At Hazen and Sawyer, we focus on all things water. That includes drinking water, wastewater, and literally everything related to water. Now, I don't personally do any of that. That's a bunch of smart engineers that I'm happy to support doing all that important work. 

My specialty is focused on the design technology that the company uses. I come from a civil design background, using Autodesk products like AutoCAD, Civil 3D, and more.

Throughout my career, I became the person everyone went to, and the person to answer questions and provide support, which got me to where I am today.

At Hazen, I currently lead the Design Technology team. We are a subset of our larger IT group, and we focus on everything Autodesk and Esri. From the Autodesk design software, Plant 3D, Civil 3D, Revit, Navisworks, to the GIS software, ArcGIS Pro. There are also the systems that those software use, which include Autodesk Construction Cloud and AGO.

We're a team of seven, and we're in charge of all things support, maintenance, administration, and training for these technologies and services.

Walk us through your career and what led you to becoming Director of Design Technologies.

I started doing design work and learned hand drafting and CAD way back in the day. The internet was starting to become a thing, so I used it and started answering people's CAD questions. 

I've always liked technology, so I picked it up on my own when I could, building computers and learning here and there. So, I merged the two pieces—design and technology—together, and next thing you know, I'm managing a licensed server. 

I enjoy learning, and I enjoy software. And that sounds a little weird to say at this point, but knowing what the software can do is one thing. But figuring out how to push the software to do something else has always been what's intriguing.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role? How does technology help you overcome those challenges?

That's an interesting question since part of the reason I have my career is because of the challenges people face with technology. That's almost the elephant in the room. It's like, "Okay, I have a career focused on supporting software because software can be challenging.”

Someone will say, "This isn't working; how do I do this?" Sometimes technology is the problem. On the other hand, there are times when you've just got to work around it and provide training to the users. Maybe it's about finding a better way to get their desired outcome. Perhaps it's a different piece of technology.

Whatever the case, it's all about trying to determine what the outcome is when those challenges come up. And then, can you address it with technology or maybe some other solution? 

That's more from a use-case perspective. As far as a high-level general industry overview, I'll say technology is pushing everybody in a very good direction. It's allowing us to do things we've never been able to do before. 

And every time that tech evolution has happened, every industry has gotten better for it. We've been more efficient, the designs have been more efficient, and the construction ends up better. 

For example, putting a piece of paper in front of somebody has been the legacy of our entire industry. Most products have always been a drawing of some form. The good news is that we're moving away from that through digital reviews and advancements in our engineering practices. 

That is now transferring to the construction side as we implement Build at Hazen internally. We've got a client that we're helping with that as well. The platform gives them the ability to take that BIM product in the field, spin that around, and if there's a question on site, it may not turn into an RFI because now you have a better understanding.

All this to say that technology has helped with all of those challenges. I'm speaking for a large group of people there, but that is what I've seen in the positions I've held in my career.

What do you value most about your partnership with Autodesk?

In the last eight years, the relationship with Autodesk has grown in a very, very positive way. In the early parts of my career, I was always just struggling with the software, but now it's working with Autodesk. That has been a huge change, and it has had a positive impact on the products we're using. 

We like the AU feedback sessions, idea exchange, and research community activities. We also appreciate that Autodesk seeks feedback. Our current Autodesk reps and team always stay on top of things when we have an issue or recommend a change, ensuring it gets to the right product group. 

We've seen direct impacts on the software, including Autodesk Construction Cloud. I'm sure we're not the only company giving feedback, but from the input we've given, we have seen those product changes come to life. That has been absolutely great because we know Autodesk is listening to us. 

How has Autodesk Construction Cloud positively impacted your company? Why is this important to you/your role?

We use Autodesk Construction Cloud and a bunch of peripheral things currently connected to it or about to be connected to it. So we've been on the Autodesk Construction Cloud journey since 2017 when it was BIM 360 Team. We were using BIM 360 Team for Revit and AutoCAD P&ID at the time. 

We then moved from BIM 360 Team to BIM 360 Docs in 2018 and officially transitioned to Autodesk Construction Cloud on January 1st, 2022, putting all of our design products into Autodesk Construction Cloud. Civil 3D, Plant 3D, Revit, and Navisworks are our core design tools. 

Autodesk Construction Cloud has provided the company with a centralized, cloud-hosted solution. If you're remote, you do not need to be on our network, so there's no need for a VPN to access the files. 

That central, easy-to-access location has been super beneficial for everyone. It's very similar to how SharePoint is for our engineers and PMs for the rest of the project files. So it's been a huge benefit that way. 

Autodesk Construction Cloud also supports Hazen's larger goal of providing clients with additional services beyond design. We are actively using Tandem and working with our clients on the software right now. As I said, we have Autodesk Construction Cloud, but we've got all the ancillary peripheral products that go with it—including Assemble, Tandem, and more. We know IrisVR software is in the process of being integrated into Autodesk Construction Cloud as well as Unifi.

Autodesk Construction Cloud is truly the centralized hub of all of our design work.

When you think about the future, what are your plans to advance innovation and productivity at Hazen and Sawyer?

I think we will see a larger component for AR and VR. For instance, Microsoft HoloLens came out years ago, and we tested it with augmented reality. It was great, but the technology wasn't quite there. Now you're seeing the Meta Quest and Apple Vision Pro come out at a consumer level, which is going to make it much more approachable for people. They'll be more comfortable with having the equipment on their head and face.

We're going to see that, though not too quickly. I think that's going to take more of a footprint up for design review and proposals. It's going to grow as the technology and hardware get there. 

Beyond that, we will see a better BIM product, which may not be as visible to most people who don't understand the difference between BIM five years ago and what it might look like today. 

I truly think we'll end up with advanced software and platforms that continue to evolve to be more interconnected and provide better services. 

Now, I can't predict where the technology will land down the road, but I do know that it's going to force consultants to provide a better product to keep up with it. And that is going to be better for every industry, honestly.  

What advice would you give to the next generation of men and women entering and preparing for the future of the industry?

I'll answer this question from both the design and technology side. 

I'll start with design. My advice is to truly understand the process, especially if you're on the engineering side. Understanding design—how it's done and the process of it—will help engineers later on. As an engineer, having that design knowledge will allow you to understand how to run a project, the project schedule, and everything else. 

Also, for people who want to go into design, my advice is to go in with your eyes open. You have many, many different avenues and options, and you shouldn't be afraid to ask questions. Your desire to learn and ask questions will be your biggest assets.

On the technology side, you need to have the passion and desire to learn more. And don't just be "OK" with change; be very comfortable with change because that's the one constant. Everything's going to change. 

Again, don't be afraid to ask questions. You're never going to learn it all on day one, two, or three. It will be years before you feel like, "Oh, I did learn something." You're going to learn something every day, so just don't stop asking questions.

Kelsee Campbell

As a Senior Customer Advocacy Program Manager at Autodesk, Kelsee has the privilege of working with Autodesk customers to champion their stories on the Digital Builder Blog. Kelsee strives to create an engaging experience that amplifies customer perspectives, fostering a sense of community and connection.