Drive to succeed moves him forward
Steve Edwards discovered his interest in engineering at the young age of eight.
“I had an uncle who would travel the world doing large construction projects,” Edwards said. “At one point he came to Kansas City to build the old federal building. I remember driving in from the suburbs and seeing this really tall building reaching up into the sky and deciding I wanted to do engineering.”
As an individual who was good in math and science, a career in engineering was logical for Edwards. While working on his bachelor’s degree, Edwards joined the Black & Veatch team. The multi-billion dollar engineering and construction company, based in Kansas City, allowed Edwards to work, learn about his field and complete his college education. In 1978, Edwards received his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Computing and Engineering.
Edwards’ 36-year career includes experience in various engineering and management roles. He has been responsible for a variety of domestic and international projects and business lines, and in energy projects in North America, Southeast Asia, Australia and India.
In 2005, Edwards joined the executive committee as executive vice president and was elected to the Black & Veatch Board of Directors in 2012. Edwards was named chief operating officer in March 2013 in a transition role before becoming chairman and CEO in November 2013, making him only the seventh leader of the company since its founding in 1915.
Edwards will be honored as the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering Alumni Achievement Awardee with his fellow 2015 Alumni Award recipients on April 23. The UMKC Alumni Association’s annual awards luncheon is one of the university’s largest events and proceeds support student scholarships. Last year’s luncheon attracted nearly 600 attendees and garnered more than $117,000 in student scholarships.
“I never thought about a position like chairman and CEO until about 10-12 years ago when someone asked me if I had thought about it,” Edwards said. Once he decided to pursue a leadership role, he utilized growth opportunities at Black & Veatch and built his experience that ultimately prepared him for the opportunity of chairman and CEO.
When the moment came and he was selected to lead Black & Veatch, Edwards said memories of the people who mentored him along the way flashed through his mind. “I was very lucky to work with a lot of people who would take the time to mentor me,” Edwards said.
As CEO, Edwards is responsible for Black & Veatch’s engineering, construction and related business activities including their worldwide energy, water and telecommunications markets. He is focused on growth and diversification that will build a stronger, more resilient company. His plans also include providing opportunities for their professionals to develop their own careers.
“I am driven to guide the growth of Black & Veatch as we celebrate our 100 year anniversary and push forward with our initiatives in a number of exciting new areas for us,” Edwards said. “We have some very aggressive goals for 2020, and once we meet those it will definitely top the list of my professional career.”
As Edwards mans the helm at Black & Veatch, he remembers the many people who mentored him, and gives back to his alma mater. Edwards serves on the UMKC School of Computing & Engineering Executive Advisory Council.
“The advisory council is a sounding board for Dean Truman and is able to provide ideas based on our business perspective for him to consider,” Edwards said.
Through his support, the Black & Veatch Scholarship was established and the company regularly recruits SCE students, and turns to UMKC for continuing education classes at Black & Veatch’s world headquarters.
“UMKC is one of our best sources of talent as we continue to grow the company,” Edwards said. “Providing support for students from elementary school all the way through college helps make sure we can develop the best and brightest talent to solve tomorrow’s complex challenges.”
When talking with students about their future, Edwards’ advice is to ask a lot of questions and learn about the business. “Never quit learning and take advantage of opportunities that are in front of you.”