Kramer's journey with OHM Advisors began at a young age when he joined the firm as a 19-year-old intern. Over the years, he propelled through the ranks, holding various key positions, including Vice President of Engineering and serving as OHM's first-ever Chief Operating Officer. In January 2021, he was named the firm's youngest President.
Kramer has been instrumental in overseeing OHM's multi-state operations, managing a network of 18 offices and leading a workforce of nearly 700 employees. Under his leadership, the firm’s local client base and overall revenue has substantially and consistently grown, resulting in OHM Advisors being named the 2020 ACEC/Michigan Firm of the Year.
Having actively served on ACEC/Michigan's board of directors in various governance roles over the years, Kramer said he is excited to uphold the reputation and accomplishments of the organization as the 2023/2024 President. In a recent interview, Kramer shared more about his journey to leadership, his plans for ACEC/Michigan, and his vision for the future.
Was there someone or something that first sparked your interest in the engineering industry?
I loved — as a child — seeing things get built around me, whether it was a building or a road or a bridge or a hole in the ground. And then understanding how our infrastructure works. You know, you flush the toilet, “Where does the water go?” All that kind of stuff. So I think that was probably the biggest impact.
What first led you to ACEC/Michigan, and what inspired you to run for President of the organization?
OHM has a history of involvement with ACEC. I believe we had at least three past presidents of ACEC. At the end of the day, I really like being a part of something larger than myself or my firm. All of the things that we do — like going to Washington D.C. or to Lansing and lobbying on behalf of our industry and our firms — have just appealed to me.
What does it mean to you to be appointed the President of ACEC/Michigan?
I have to be honest and say, it really wasn't my dream as a kid. Because I certainly didn't know what ACEC was until long after I was working. But I'm honored to be chosen and excited to really promote the value of the engineering industry. And I think that I'm able to have a big impact on the well-being of our communities and our collective firms' health at the same time, which really resonates with me.
What are some of the top priorities that you would like to accomplish during your time as President?
I’d say QBS, quality based selection, capital investment. We always need dollars for improving our infrastructure. And then even though this is a little bit more of a national goal, we'll be working on it for Michigan as well — repealing the current R&D research and development tax credit, which was really handcuffing a lot of our firms, especially our smaller firms. And I think lastly, just finding ways to get more, whether it's junior high or elementary or high school students, involved and engaged in STEM fields, because we're clearly feeling the pinch of a shortage of engineers out there.
Have you encountered any challenges during your career, and how did you overcome them?
I was relatively young, starting here (OHM Advisors) at 19. But I graduated high school at 16. So I was always younger than, not just everyone else around me, but basically anyone that reported to me was sometimes much, much older than me, let alone a few years. But I overcame it by just studying, networking, listening, and learning. So I think that would probably be one. Also, I think managing the firm through COVID and figuring out, “What are we going to do? What are we going to take a stand on? How are we going to operate when things were just changing hourly and daily?” We were learning how to be able to pivot on a dime every single day for, quite frankly, at least six months or so.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the engineering industry?
Follow your passion. I think it's fair to say, in today's world, if you are in engineering, you're going to make a very decent living. So if you're trying to choose an engineering field, I wouldn't say to join one of the top three paying. I'm a civil engineer, and civil engineering was not and still is not one of the top three paying engineering fields, but because of my passion for it, I think I've been able to climb the ladder accordingly and have done quite well. So I'd say, find something that you're going to be able to do not one year or three years later, but something that 10, 20, 30, or 40 years later, you still think will pique your interest.
What are your hopes for the future of ACEC/Michigan and for the engineering industry as a whole?
I definitely believe that our best days are still ahead of us. I think that our daily topics such as AI, artificial intelligence, are things that we need to embrace and learn about how we can do our jobs better rather than fear. And we can let the regulations and other things take care of themselves. But I think there's no doubt in our industry, it's going to play a crucial role of helping us design better and be more efficient. I'm not worried about it replacing someone; I'm more hopeful that it can help us. And I think another thing is, we need to find more people for our industry. Because we need those people desperately now and in the future, so that we can have a huge impact on people of all kinds, our country, and the world as a whole.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.