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Q&A With the New CEO – Greg Potter, PE

Effective July 1st, 2024, Greg Potter, PE, has taken the helm as the new President and CEO of Sunrise Engineering and Utah Testing. In this Q&A, we sat down with him to learn more about his journey and to give our employees and clients a chance to get to know him better. Join us as we dive into the insights and perspectives of our new leader.

Professional Experience

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

A: From a very early age I was always trying to build things. Lincoln logs, Legos, and anything that required assembling were some of my go-to toys growing up. As I got older, I became increasingly interested in maps too. The jump to pursue an engineering career was not a huge one because of how God created me in the first place.

Q: Which university did you attend, and what was your major?

A: Arizona State University – Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, 1993. Go Devils!

Q: Can you share a memorable experience from your college days that influenced your career?

A: I grew up on the SE shoreline of Connecticut, which is known as the submarine capital of the world. During the summers, while I was in college, I had an internship working on reviewing plans for submarine overhauls. I worked alongside all kinds of engineers at the company. I spent one whole summer in a conference room with an electrical and mechanical engineer reviewing plans. They both told me that if they “had to do it over again” they would be civil engineers because of the job security providing services that our society depends on daily and you get to go outside. At the time I was majoring in aerospace engineering. When I returned to college after the summer, I immediately changed my major to civil engineering and have never regretted that decision.

Q: What was your first job in the engineering field, and what did you learn from it?

A: During my summer internship, I learned the very valuable skill of how to read and review a set of plans. Plan, sections, details, etc. This is not something that is often taught in engineering school (if you can believe it). This job helped me be prepared for putting a set of plans together at Sunrise.

Q: How has your role evolved since you started at Sunrise Engineering in 1993?

A: When I was hired, I started as an engineer-in-training in our Salt Lake City office (even though I did not have my EIT certificate because I did not pass the test before I graduated) ☹. Through the years I was able to learn how to be a consulting engineer by working on some cool water/sewer and development projects with excellent clients. Over the years my career evolved into growing leadership positions like project management, manager, vice-president, and now CEO. It’s definitely been a journey and I can see over the years how God was preparing me for this new season of my career.

Q: What projects are you most proud of during your tenure with the company?

A: I’m most proud of the work we did on the Payson, AZ – C.C. Cragin Water Resource project. It was a 10-year-long, $55M project that was the most complex (and stressful) of my career that provided a renewable drinking water source for the Town of Payson. This project won many awards and is a great testament to how our entire team performed on the project.

Q: Have you had any mentors in your career? If so, how have they influenced you?

A: I have had several mentors throughout my career, but my preference is to be very collaborative when it comes to problem-solving. I love working in a group to find solutions and feed off the energy that everyone contributes. I learn from people who are both older and younger than me.

Q: What challenges have you faced in the engineering industry, and how did you overcome them?

A: In 2008, at the beginning of the great recession, the office in Phoenix was heavily invested (90%+) in the land development industry. In October 2008, a majority of backlog was canceled in the span of one month. Very tough times. It was at that point we decided to pivot to municipal work in the Phoenix Metro area (because there was no longer any development work), requiring us to completely revamp our clients and the way we won work. Painful lesson, but a huge growth opportunity. Fast forward 15 years and the office now works on a balanced workload between municipal and land development projects vowing to never go back to a space where we are too heavily invested in just one market.

Q: Which aspect of engineering do you find most rewarding?

A: If I can curl up with a good spreadsheet or a water or sewer model, those are the aspects of engineering that I find most rewarding. What I like most about consulting engineering is the “high” of winning. Winning a project at the SOQ or interview stage is a high like no other for me.

Q: What advice would you give to young engineers starting their careers today?

A: Be a lifelong learner and open to opportunities. What you thought you were “really interested in” at first, might not be where your career ultimately goes. Coming out of college I thought I wanted to be a geotechnical engineer. After being exposed to the practice when I first started at Sunrise, it became very clear to me that this was not a good career choice for me. Water and wastewater systems fit my interests much better and I have no regrets.


Personal Life

Q: Can you tell us a little about your family?

A: I am married to Vicki Potter who is a Senior Marketing Coordinator with Sunrise, so be nice to her. I have two daughters. Emily Tartaglia (24) is married to Solomon Tartaglia. They live in North Carolina with their cat Della (who does not like me one bit). Emily also works for Sunrise as a Marketing Coordinator (you can give her a hard time). Gabrielle (21) is my youngest daughter who vows to not work at Sunrise and is going to college to be an elementary school teacher.

Q: What are your favorite hobbies and how do you spend your free time?

A: I love being outdoors. My hobbies are jeeping and river rafting. My family loves to travel internationally as well. Finding a new destination to explore is always fun.

Q: Do you have any personal passions or causes you support?

A: Vicki and I are involved in several ministries at our church. We have a passion for healthy marriages, so we mentor couples who plan to get married and are part of a ministry for couples with struggling marriages. As a family, we are also involved, in a variety of ways, with international missions.

Q: What books or authors have influenced you the most?

A: The most influential book is the Bible which has changed me as a person over the years. I’m currently reading a chronological Bible which places scripture in sequential order as it happened. Also, I recently read a book called Unreasonable Hospitality which was about the journey of a restaurateur who elevated his business to the #1 spot on the top 50 restaurants in the world list. So many lessons were learned and correlations to our business were uncanny. Great read.

Q: How do you balance work and personal life?

A: Planning ahead. We plan our vacations about a year ahead of time, so they get on the calendar and stay on the calendar. These vacations are something to look forward to for me so I know there will be a break from work for a short while. Keeps my batteries charged.

Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Arizona?

A: The weather in November, December, January, February, March, April, and sometimes and May.

Q: Do you have any pets? If so, can you share a bit about them?

A: We have a 12-year-old dog named Tipper who has diabetes, a one-eyed cat named Jack who brings us birds, ducks, lizards, and mice every night inside the house, and a black cat named Jinx who is scared of his own shadow.

Q: What are some of your favorite travel destinations?

A: We love Montana and spend as much time there as we can. Internationally we have been all over the world and some of our favorite places were in Italy (Dolomites, Amalfi Coast & Lake Cuomo), Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey, Greece, Ireland, and Thailand.

Q: What is a personal achievement that you are particularly proud of?

A: (Besides raising my daughters) In 2018, me and my oldest daughter climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa (19,341ft). It’s the tallest mountain on the African continent and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. We were part of a team raising money for drilling drinking water wells in Ethiopia and Uganda. Our entire team raised over $125,000. After the climb, we were able to visit Uganda and see the positive impact these wells have in communities that previously did not have access to safe drinking water.

Q: What dreams or goals do you still hope to achieve in your personal life?

A: We dream of traveling more. I would really like to climb to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.


Additional Interesting Questions

Q: How do you start your day to ensure you’re productive and motivated?

A: I’m always making sure I have a “list” to conquer. That keeps me organized, prioritized, and on task for the day.

Q: What is something you struggle with?

A: Remembering names! This is something I want to get better at. If you see me around, please come up and say “Hi” and let me know you name!

Q: Can you share a fun fact about yourself that most people at the company wouldn’t know?

A: I lived in Brazil (3 hours south of Rio de Janeiro) for two years when I was in 3rd and 4th grades. Right on the beach! Having the opportunity to live in a foreign country was life-changing.

Q: How do you handle stress and maintain your composure under pressure?

A: I have two life verses for handling stress and maintaining composure under pressure. “Ecclesiastes 1:9 – What has been, will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” “Philippians 4:6 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Knowing that whatever stress I am going through is not new and that I can turn it over to God is extremely comforting to me and helps me get through stress and pressure.

Q: How do you stay current with the latest developments and trends in engineering?

A: At this stage in my career, I am not staying current with the latest developments and trends in engineering (although I am dabbling in AI). I trust that our experts throughout the company are staying abreast of new advancements in our industries. What I do invest time in is learning how to be a better leader and how I can pass on and inspire others to increase their skills as leaders. Everyone at Sunrise is a leader in some capacity. Becoming better leaders helps us achieve our goals as a company and adds the ancillary benefits of making us better leaders in our families and communities.

Q: What role does teamwork play in your leadership style?

A: My leadership style (Democratic) encourages the sharing of thoughts and ideas of team members to develop buy-in and build trust among others, while still requiring the guidance and control of a specific leader (the buck has to stop somewhere). This includes asking for participation in the decision-making process and in doing so fosters respect and commitment within the overall team.  This style is helpful in guiding the leader and generating a new vision for the organization.  Democratic leadership works best in situations where group members are highly skilled and eager to share their knowledge (like the people at Sunrise).  This leadership style is one of the most effective and creates higher productivity, better contributions from group members, and increased group morale.

Q: How do you celebrate successes, both big and small, within the company?

A: Seeking ways to celebrate large and small victories builds community. It shows that we care about one another and want to have fun where we work. These celebrations can take the form of a high five, Teams message, email, donuts, or office celebration.

Q: What is your approach to problem-solving and decision-making?

A: For problem-solving I prefer to bounce my ideas off of other people and seek their input on potential solutions. The old adage “two heads are better than one” is one I exercise daily.

Q: How do you hope to be remembered as a leader by the employees of the company?

A: In my work life, as well as my private life, I am known as someone who will encourage people (including myself) out of the status quo and take on new challenges for opportunities to grow. My hope is that I am remembered as being fair, honest, and well-respected throughout the company.