February is Black History Month. The Corps of Engineers Little Rock District takes this time to honor and celebrate Black Americans’ achievements and their immeasurable impact on the history of the United States. As part of this observance month, we wanted to take some time to highlight some of our employees.
One such employee is Erin Cumbo. She is new to the Little Rock District, coming to the Corps all the way from Washington, D.C. She is a Project Manager with the Civil Works Program Branch and has a Bachelor of Architecture.
There are many aspects of the job that she finds exciting. “I like experiencing the site visits with the engineers and the customer at the beginning of the project to assess the work.” Said Cumbo. “And I like going to the job site during construction to see the plan come together. The challenges that arise along the way when things don’t go as planned gives us more information about the work and gives us opportunities to make a better plan going forward. I enjoy both the final product and the process.”
One of the largest projects Cumbo is working on is the McClellan-Kern Arkansas River Navigation System flood recovery. It’s fast paced with Cumbo and her team having to work as quickly as possible within a short period to accomplish everything. They have to address known repair and dredging needs along the entire system as well as complete surveys for areas that still need to be investigated.
“The biggest challenge for accomplishing these repairs and surveys is the unpredictability of the river related to high flows and high water. Also, we can only hope that we will not suffer another flood before we are able to recover from this one.” Cumbo said.
Cumbo is also heavily immersed in working on bridge and sluice gate rehabs. “These amazing structures have performed very well over the past 70+ years, but now is the time for many parts to be replaced.” Cumbo stated, “The challenge is accomplishing project goals with several other rehab projects going on simultaneously at the same location and coordinating with the various internal and external stakeholders. Many of these projects also call for extended road closures, which requires us to notify public entities as early as possible then successfully manage concerns from all parties involved as they arise. The entire team must work as a unit to check off all the details.” Cumbo said.
Cumbo’s top three favorite projects she has worked on so far in the district have been the sluice gate rehab projects at Bull Shoals and Norfork as well as the Bridge Bearing replacement project also at Norfork. “I’m fascinated by the sheer size of these structures and by the number of people they serve. I feel like I am part of history as we work to add more years of service to this important infrastructure.”
She has various career goals for her time here in Little Rock. Some of these goals include, becoming a wizard at P2 (a scheduling tool for program management), completing the Corps’ Leadership Development Program, earning the Project Management Professional Certification, and becoming more knowledgeable about the goals and objectives of each organization within the Corps. She also hopes to receive her Project Management Professional certification next year.
When asked about her long-term career goals Cumbo said her goal is, “To always have a positive attitude and enjoy what I am doing on a daily basis no matter what it is.”
We all know that balancing a career and a personal life can be challenging at times. "For me, if I can stay engaged with home life, I can give my best at work. I also keep my appointments with myself on my off time for various things that are important to me in order to keep that work-life balance.” Cumbo said.
She also believes that flexible work schedule options and the ability to telework are great ways for employees to accomplish work goals while staying engaged with home.
In addition to her career goals, Cumbo also has some personal goals that she would like to accomplish. This includes travel to Asia, dancing more, swimming more and producing more art and design work. She would also like to create a large art studio / shop space where she can produce work and host small groups and classes for all ages.
When not at work, you can find her painting, cooking, sewing, swimming, doing some interior designing, spending time with her cat Ginger Pepper, AKA “Gingy Pep”, keeping up with all her loved ones back in D.C., and traveling abroad and around town with her boyfriend.
Here some fun facts about Cumbo that you may not know!
She can say the alphabet backwards and can recite the “Our Father” in French. Two skills she retained from catholic high school.
She also worked as a set designer from 2009 – 2014. This was something that she was passionate about. “I was able to turn a story into a visual experience for the audience and actors, and I was able to have a hands-on experience bringing the design to life through building and painting.” She said, “I moved to Little Rock to work at a specialized architecture firm in historic preservation. We worked on restorations, rehabilitations and adaptive reuse of various kinds of historic buildings all over the state.
Her laugh and energy is infectious, and her future looks very bright in the Little Rock District.