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Bridging Military Service and Engineering Excellence: An Interview with Joseph Caudle, PE


In the world of engineering, the blend of technical expertise and leadership is a coveted combination. We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to delve into this unique intersection through the experience of our newest Civil/Structural Department Manager, Joseph Caudle, PE. With his impressive achievements in the engineering field and an active role in the Army Reserve, Joseph brings a wealth of knowledge and a distinctive perspective that seamlessly integrates military discipline with engineering innovation.

Get to know Joseph Caudle

Joseph Caudle's journey into the realm of engineering was sparked by two major influences: NASA's space exploration and the engineering marvels of the Roman Empire. "What inspired me to pursue a career in engineering was NASA with space exploration along with the Roman Empire’s feats of engineering," Joseph shares. His initial aspiration was to become an astrophysicist, driven by a desire to explore the unknown reaches of space. However, reduced government spending and job cuts in that field led him to pivot towards structural engineering, where he could channel his fascination with ancient Roman constructions like aqueducts and the Colosseum, into a fulfilling career.

Joseph's career path eventually led him to join RTP, where his dedication and expertise earned him a promotion to Manager of the Civil/Structural Department earlier this year.

The Journey to Becoming a Department Manager

The path to leadership in any field is seldom straightforward. For Joseph, the skills and discipline honed in the military played a crucial role in shaping his professional trajectory. "There are quite a few things I have learned and can apply from serving in the National Guard. Most importantly is being a leader and not just a manager," Joseph explains.

His military service instilled in him the importance of teamwork and the ethos of servant leadership. "There is no ‘I’ in team and an excellent result is due to the team, not just an individual. The team members must be empowered and feel their individual position is just as important as the next because every position supports each other," he notes, as this philosophy has been instrumental in his role as a department manager.

Insights into the Intersection Between Military Service and Professional Career

Joseph's dual careers in the military and engineering are not mutually exclusive but rather symbiotic. The leadership principles and problem-solving skills he developed in the Army Reserve translate seamlessly into his work as an engineer and manager. "While my role is the department manager, I strive to be a leader and not just a manager, mentoring and guiding the team members to their full potential," Joseph emphasizes.

The discipline and strategic thinking required in the military have equipped him with the ability to manage complex engineering projects and lead his team effectively. His approach underscores the value of diverse experiences and how they can be leveraged to drive professional success.

Advice and Perspectives for Aspiring Engineers and Military Community

For aspiring engineers and members of the military community looking to balance dual careers, Joseph offers valuable advice: "Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well. Anything that you do should be done to the best of your ability and if you do not know how, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone only gets to where they are by asking Why or How."

He also highlights the crucial difference between leadership and management. "For those looking to obtain a leadership position, the best advice is the key word 'Leader.' There is a big difference between a leader and a manager, and that difference is the most important to learn. Take care of your people and they will take care of you."

Joseph's insights are not just theoretical but rooted in his lived experiences, making them particularly resonant for those navigating similar paths.

The Value of Diverse Experiences

Joseph Caudle's journey emphasizes the importance of diverse experiences and the unique value individuals bring when they integrate different aspects of their lives into their professional roles. His story is an inspiring reminder that the skills and lessons learned in one sphere can significantly enrich and enhance performance in another.

At RTP, we are proud to have leaders like Joseph who embody the principles of dedication, innovation, and leadership. His contributions continue to drive our commitment to delivering exceptional engineering solutions while fostering a collaborative and empowering work environment for all.

For those looking to embark on a similar journey, remember that every experience, whether in the military, academia, or early career roles, has the potential to shape you into a well-rounded and effective leader. Embrace these opportunities, seek knowledge relentlessly, and always strive to do your best.

pittsburgh engineering internship program

The Essential Role of Internships in Engineering Firms from an Insider's Perspective

pittsburgh engineering internship program

In the fast-paced world of engineering, real-world experience is the catalyst that transforms vast academic domains into practical know-how. For both students and the companies that will one day employ them, an engineering internship bridges the gap between theory and application, playing a pivotal role in career development and industry innovation. In fact, interns have a 70% chance of full-time employment with their host company, emphasizing the significance of successful internships. Our very own intern-turned-engineer, Tyler Clayton is a shining example of this crucial learning experience that resonates beyond merely filling a summer schedule or easing the transition from academia to corporate life. 

A Deep Dive into the RTP Engineering Internship Experience with Tyler Clayton

Engineering internship programs serve as a proving ground for budding engineers, with over 66,249 engineering interns currently employed in the United States. We sat down with Tyler to glean insights from his firsthand experience going from a student intern to a full-time engineer at RTP. We learned that his tenure at RTP not only shaped his future career trajectory but also offered him a holistic view of the engineering industry from the inside out.

Can you describe a typical day at RTP for an intern? I’m interested in hearing about the tasks you handled and how you interacted with the team.

I started my internship with R.T. Patterson on May 16, 2022, in the summer before the last semester of my Mechanical Engineering degree, planning to graduate that December. Before my first day of work, I was unsure what this internship would be like. You always hear of interns not being given any substantial work and mostly acting as an assistant, grabbing coffees, doing homework, studying, taking notes for meetings, etc.

I am very thankful to say that my internship at R.T. Patterson was nothing like that. I was given plenty of real work and responsibility. Starting my very first day in my office, while still getting set up with my computer and email, I was given some information on a project, asked to review it after getting settled, and meet with the manager to discuss my first assignment. This may seem intimidating, but I was happy to hear this. From this moment, I knew this engineering internship would be incredibly beneficial and educational.

Can you tell us a little bit about the projects you were assigned as an intern?

This first assignment was a good example of the tasks I would handle throughout my internship. My first assignment was to design a shock absorber to stop the rotation of the ladle fork arm in a steel mill. To complete this project, I had to perform calculations by hand and in Excel, create 3D models in Inventor and perform Finite Element Analysis on those models, and develop the 2D AutoCAD drawings for construction.

My next project would introduce me to the other daily tasks I would perform as a full-time engineer. My second project would have me assist with coordinating the Piping Department tasks for a project involving a lot of new pipe routing at a plastics plant. For this project, I created drawing transmittals to the client, wrote discipline Scope of Work documents and Specifications, and visited the client site several times to perform field investigations of existing conditions to assist in our design.

For these first two major assignments, I interacted mostly with the Piping/Mechanical Department manager and assistant manager. Over time, when I approached the managers with questions, they would direct me to others in the department who had additional knowledge or experience on the topic. This allowed me to get introduced to the team in a natural way and learn from the best based on the question.

Bridge to the Profession

Comprehensive training and mentorship during internships assist in the transition from student to professional. Placing young engineers in the midst of live projects educates them in the nuances of the industry, from conducting technical investigations to participating in the decision-making process of engineering solutions.

During internships, students have the chance to meet and collaborate with professionals from various backgrounds. These connections often lead to valuable references and future employment through the relationships established during the program. As an intern, Tyler was able to take advantage of events Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania Banquet which is an annual event that includes most of the engineering firms, engineers from local industry, city of Pittsburgh engineers, Allegheny County engineers, and Penndot engineers.

The experience gleaned from internships brightens students’ resumes and profiles, setting them apart in a competitive job market. Recruiters often seek applicants with relevant work experience, and internships offer exactly that—a window into the working life of an engineer.

What are some of the key skills you developed during your internship at RTP, and how did they set you up to become a full-time engineer at RTP?

I feel like I learned more in my internship about being an engineer than I did in my education. My time pursuing my degree taught me the foundation I would need to perform my job, but my internship taught me to become an engineer. The team at R.T. Patterson understood that I did not have the same knowledge as the tenured full-time engineers, but instead of treating me as a liability, I was encouraged to ask questions and learn in my time while performing meaningful tasks and given real responsibility. I was treated as an entry level engineer from day one, not a student or typical intern.

My internship taught me key skills and lessons that I would not have learned without it. I learned to be confident in my work; just because I didn’t have experience did not mean that I did not know what I was doing. I learned that performing engineering tasks is very different than the lessons learned in your degree. I learned how to communicate professionally with clients.

The list of skills and lessons I learned is probably a mile long. I am very pleased with my internship experience at R.T. Patterson. In my opinion, it was the most valuable part of my engineering education. I was so happy to receive and offer to work as a full-time engineer at the end of my internship and am so proud to work here.

A Two-Way Street: The Company's Perspective

Engineering firms are strategic in their approach to internships, leveraging these opportunities to cultivate talent, innovate, and meet organizational needs. Investing in internship programs is a long-term commitment with tangible benefits for the companies that provide them.

  1. The Power of Perspective: Interns bring a fresh pair of eyes to the table, unencumbered by the "but we've always done it this way" mindset. The out-of-the-box thinking of interns often spawns innovative solutions to lingering problems and offers a new lens through which to view projects.
  2. Cost-Effective Talent Acquisition: Recruiting interns presents a cost-effective channel for firms to evaluate potential employees over an extended period. This 'extended interview' process allows companies to experience the applicants' work ethic and suitability for their organizational culture.
  3. Sourcing Future Leaders: Through competitive internships, firms gain access to the brightest minds in engineering. Investing time and resources into these budding professionals can result in high-quality, loyal future employees who are already familiar with the company's operations.
  4. Fulfilling Corporate Social Responsibility: By offering meaningful internships, engineering firms contribute to the development of their community's skills base and fulfill a sense of corporate responsibility toward nurturing the next generation of engineers.

According to RTP’s General Manager of Engineering, Larry Friedline: “Internships help the intern learn what we do at RTP and helps us learn about the intern and how they may best fit within our team.”

The Proactive Path Forward

As engineering continues to evolve and expand, internships will remain a linchpin of industry progression. Engineering firms and students must be proactive in initiating and participating in internship programs to secure their place at the forefront of the field.

  • For Students: Seek out internships that align with your interests and career goals. Investigate a company's internship program as you would their project opportunities and apply with enthusiasm and purpose.
  • For Engineering Firms: Invest in your future by investing in internships. Develop robust programs that offer genuine learning opportunities and recognize the potential for new ideas and talent that these aspiring engineers bring to the table.


From developing the skills of future engineers to steering the innovation of today's firms, R.T Patterson understands that these programs are the foundation upon which the industry grows. Companies that take an active role in shaping the intern experience are not only fulfilling a responsibility to the next generation but are also ensuring their own vitality and competitive edge in an increasingly dynamic engineering landscape. To learn more about our engineering internship program, contact Larry Friedline.