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How intrapreneurs at C.S. Davidson helped modernize a century-old engineering firm

How intrapreneurs at C.S. Davidson helped modernize a century-old engineering firm

  • Bridge engineers Jordan Good and John Petro led a C.S. Davidson division to build a software solution that revolutionized the way municipalities managed their infrastructure.
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Jordan Good enjoyed his job but knew he wanted something more. The repetitiveness of bridge engineering had begun to take its toll and the entrepreneurial itch demanded attention.

He began roasting and selling coffee beans, converting used vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel, and toying with the idea of launching a full-time endeavor.

But with six kids at home and a supportive team that he enjoyed at work, Jordan wasn’t ready to risk losing the stability of a good job.

Innovation from within

Instead, Jordan pivoted internally and began analyzing areas within C.S. Davidson, Inc., where he could use his innovative drive to make the engineering company stronger. He found at C.S. Davidson a leadership team ready and willing to let him take a risk.

Jordan began working with fellow bridge engineer John Petro. Both men were Penn State University graduates with an entrepreneurial vein. Together, they began to dream of building more than just bridges: They wanted to build tools that would revolutionize the way municipalities manage their infrastructure.

Under the watchful guidance of their firm’s leadership, Jordan and John created internal tools – spreadsheets, digital maps, and more – that enhanced their efficiency as engineers. In 2011, large-scale flooding in the region had led them to develop tools to assist the York County Parks Department in tracking flood-related data involving bridges. That endeavor opened their eyes to a broader potential.

“We put it on a website with an easy-to-use map,” Jordan says, “and that probably was the tipping point that we realized, hey, this could be more than just an internal tool.”

The duo’s epiphany paved the way for CSDatum, a software solution that could empower municipalities to manage their infrastructure with ease. The user-friendly platform simplifies complex data management and mapping for municipal engineers, allowing them to record road, sidewalk, bridge, and other infrastructure updates from a cellphone.

Building software and relationships

John, a self-taught computer programmer, provided the technological backbone for developing the software. Out of Jordan’s visionary ideas and John’s technical prowess, the new division of the company began to grow.

“I think there’s a lot of congruency between the type of work we do as a civil engineering firm and the software that we’re building,” Jordan says. “We’re all really focused on building great relationships and easy-to-use tools.”

Soon, CSDatum became John and Jordan’s primary focus at C.S. Davidson as they grew their subscribers to over 80 municipalities. Jordan, in his 20th year at the company, soon will step into the role of chief administrative officer at C.S. Davidson, a position he never could have imagined holding 15 years ago as he contemplated leaving to roast coffee beans full time.

C.S. Davidson’s transition from a century-old traditional engineering firm to an innovative hub was possible only because leadership was willing to hand over the reins of modernization to employees.

As the company wraps up its third generation of leadership and looks to its next 100 years, no longer family owned but rather 100% employee-owned, Jordan hopes to continue to fuel the intrapreneurial spirit and foster ideas.

“It just comes down to treating your co-workers with respect and then hearing people out, trying to understand their perspective and what they’re dealing with,” he says. “It’s having emotional intelligence to listen, but then also put it all together into meaningful solutions. I think anyone can do that if you slow down and listen. I think that’s the kind of culture we want to have as a company. I don’t want any one person to be the arbiter of innovation.”