“I wonder what happens if…??” That’s the way Khyle Clute approaches his work in the methods section of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Office of Design. That way of thinking is also one of the reasons Clute was nominated by three co-workers and chosen to be the 2016 Outstanding Design Employee.
Clute, a transportation engineer who started his Iowa DOT career in 2008, says working in the methods section brings a host of challenges and opportunities. The section traditionally has been a support system for highway designers, working on defining standards and details for roadway plans. Clute sees the boundaries of that traditional definition expanding.
“We’re trying to find a balance in our section,” he said, “For the better part of six years, our staffing levels have gone down, but our duties have increased, especially in process improvement and design application of safety research.”
As with many groups within the Iowa DOT, data is driving the direction of the methods section. Clute said, “There’s always new data to study related to safety, cost, and other elements of highway design. That’s exciting, but also challenging.”
In addition to searching for ways to analyze data for process improvement, Clute says he’s currently involved in eight research projects. He said, “I see these projects as an opportunity to move past the day-to-day of how we currently do things and move forward with a better understanding of how we can do what we do better. “
One of the things Clute says he likes about his work is being able to connect with many other groups, both inside and outside the Iowa DOT. He said, “There are a variety of challenges at the Iowa DOT and I’m always looking for ways to leverage these connections to accomplish the challenges at hand. I appreciate the support from my office to reach out and explore opportunities and connections that I wouldn’t expect to have in my position. There is always something new if you’re willing to look for it. It’s exciting to think that successful implementation of an opportunity can make a difference for the next 20 or 30 years.”
This forward vision is one reason Clute has taken on a recruitment role for students to come to the Iowa DOT as interns or coops. Later, as they prepare to become licensed civil engineers, he leads professional engineering exam preparation classes to enable the next generation of Iowa DOT employees to go and make their own mark. He said “I get excited to share the opportunities at the Iowa DOT with these young professionals and let them know there are options here that they may not have known about. Some of these opportunities are surprising to those who had a preconceived notion about what the Iowa DOT is all about.”
Clute continued, “There is an enormous amount of opportunity at the Iowa DOT. I want to grasp these opportunities and do what I can to leverage connections within the agency, with students and with other groups we work with to do what we do better.”
Mike Kennerly, director of the Office of Design said of Clute, “What I appreciate about Khyle is that he has a passion for what he does and he is committed to making a difference. You see that in the way he immerses himself in whatever problem he is trying to solve, and the way he works with young engineers. It’s a rare combination, and one that has made an impact beyond just our office. This honor is well deserved.”