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How Justin Parlapiano '16 Made the Leap from a Career in Business to Study Engineering

By Kenneth Stratton '19 MONDAY, JULY 29, 2019 - 12:00 PM WNE100

After earning his degree and working for a couple of years, Justin Parlapiano ’16 decided to shake things up and go back to school. This time, he went to study civil engineering at Western New England University.

Parlapiano’s journey started at Sacred Heart University in 2007. As an honors student, he studied business administration and played Division I soccer. Later, he transferred his studies and athletics to Ithaca College, where he gained a passion for design due to the unique learning environment provided at the Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise.

“The school of business there is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified building which is the highest standard that can be achieved in the LEED certification process,” Parlapiano said. The LEED program is one of the most reputable green building certification programs in the world. “Studying in that school every day piqued my interest in the environment as well as building design,” he added.

After Ithaca, Parlapiano would use his degree in a couple of finance positions, first with Northwestern Mutual and then First Niagara Bank. But at the same time, he found himself soul searching.

“I was 22 and feeling like, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ A common question I’m sure many recent grads ask themselves,” Parlapiano said. “I had to learn life is a journey,” he continued. “I’ll drive myself crazy if I try to plan the next 30 years.”

The next stop on that journey was at Western New England. Here, Parlapiano had the chance to tap into that environmental design interest he put aside for a couple of years while he was working.

His first opportunity came through Dr. Chang Hoon Lee, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, when Dr. Lee secured a grant to collaborate with Central American countries in an effort to share knowledge through different programs. One such program was a trip to Panama and Costa Rica in the summer of 2013, for which Parlapiano served as ambassador.

“The trip involved meeting with officials at several universities in both Costa Rica and Panama, learning about their programs and teaching them about ours. We established a good relationship with one university in Panama, and later partnered to win a bid into the Solar Decathlon, where we built a fully solar-powered house,” Parlapiano explained.

Parlapiano remained close to Dr. Lee, who encouraged him to attend the New England Water Works Association conference one spring. There, as the engineer recalls it, he nervously handed out resumes and landed an internship with Tata & Howard, a water consulting firm.

“I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Dr. Lee and the importance he placed on opportunity outside of the classroom,” Parlapiano said. “It is important for all students to get real world experience because the network you build eventually becomes your pathway to success,” he added.

Later, Parlapiano would interview with Tishman Construction, and began work with them as an intern on the MGM Springfield project. After graduation, Parlapiano started full time with the company as a project engineer, and eventually got promoted to assistant project manager.

“Our construction management team was responsible for delivering the $1 billion MGM Springfield casino and resort,” said Parlapiano. “I was responsible for contracts, cost control, estimating, submittals, requests for information, scheduling, and reporting. I managed various scopes of work, including deep foundations, cast-in-place concrete, exterior framing and façade, and interior fit-out,” he explained.

As the MGM project was winding down, a former colleague from Tata & Howard contacted Parlapiano with an opportunity at Connecticut Water. With the timing right, Parlapiano joined the team. He recognizes that the job he has today all stems from going to the NEWWA conference years ago.

As project engineer, Parlapiano has many responsibilities which include project management of new vertical construction, asset management, and water storage tank maintenance. In the one year he’s been with Connecticut Water, Parlapiano’s project management work has included new construction of the 1.32-million gallon pre-stressed concrete Ridge Road Water Storage Tank in Madison CT, the Somers Pump Station in Somers CT, and the Long Hill Pump Station in Guilford CT.

Among other responsibilities, in his asset management role, Parlapiano compiles and analyzes risk data on company assets, and in his water storage tank maintenance role, he’s responsible for inspections and reporting to Connecticut Department of Public Health.

In his free time, Parlapiano is a soccer coach, and spends time with his family, which includes his wife and nine- month-old son, Leo.

Thinking about his future, Parlapiano said “The next step for me is to continue to provide for my family and continue to learn from the many experienced professionals at Connecticut Water so I can become a part of the next generation of leaders that this company will have to offer.” That’s the plan, but as he’s said himself, you always have to be able to adapt.