Engineers from MS Consultants Share How They Navigated Their Career Paths

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Since he was in middle school, Joe Leson has always been interested in taking things apart to learn how they work, put them back together “or make them better,” he said.

So becoming an engineer, he said, was a foregone conclusion. Leson shared his career path with students during a Brain Gain Navigators event Monday afternoon.

“Even when I got to high school my career path was always just – I’m doing some sort of engineering,” he said. “I was exposed to a lot of it. My dad’s an engineer, so I have family history there with the profession.”

Leson, a project manager with MS Consultants Inc. in Youngstown, was joined by his colleagues at the firm, including Project Manager Steve Preston and Jillian Penman, graduate engineer.

Penman, who earned a baccalaureate in engineering from Youngstown State University this year, worked two internships with MS Consultants as a Transportation, Bridge Structures intern before joining the firm full time in May.

For Penman, an affinity for math and science led her to following the engineering career path at the encouragement of her high school teachers.

“When I was little, I liked thinking of things in my head and bringing them to life using Legos and stuff,” Penman says. “So with that kind of mindset, I was like, ‘How can I do this in real life?’ And the best field I thought of was civil engineering, because basically you design something on paper and then it comes to life.”

From now until 2026, the U.S. looks to add nearly 140,000 new engineering jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Civil engineers make up the bulk of those new jobs at 32,200.

The engineers at MS Consultants have their fingerprints on a number of area projects residents enjoy every day. From the Canfield bridge that crosses over state Route 11, to the Phelps Street project in downtown Youngstown, to the wastewater treatment plant in East Palestine, these and other projects began as a plan by MS Consultants engineers.

During Monday’s webinar, the panelists discussed what their day-to-day looks like, what education is required to become an engineer, what are the different pathways that exist in the field and what they like most about their job.

Preston said his favorite part of the job is being able to leave the communities better than when they found them.

“If they’re calling us, there’s a reason. They have an issue,” Preston said. “The things that we provide, the services we provide help people day to day, and you might not even realize it.

“The opportunity that we get to give back to our community I think is really, really special.”

Hear more from the panelists in the video posted above.

Brain Gain Navigators is a virtual career exploration program launched by The Business Journal in partnership with Junior Achievement of Mahoning Valley and the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio.

Upcoming Navigators webinars include:

Nov. 8 at 12:30 p.m. | Entrepreneurship: Be Your Own Boss – Featuring a panel discussion with Melissa Poland, owner and operator of Sweet Melissa’s, and Ted Schmidt, PNC Bank, regional president, Youngstown.

Nov. 15 at 12:30 p.m. | Manufacturing: Ellwood Aluminum – Featuring a panel discussion with Scott Gregory, general manager, and Hank Stull, human resources manager.

To register your class or individual students to participate in the live webinars, visit Watch all of our exclusive Brain Gain Navigators content at

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.