KINGSTON, R.I. – Dec. 7, 2020 – Stephanie Robat knew she would start her own engineering firm someday. Just three years after completing her master’s and bachelor’s degrees in civil engineering from the University of Rhode Island, she made her goal come to fruition.
With husband and fellow URI alumnus Shane serving as vice president and the only other engineer, Robat established FR Engineering Group in August of 2019 in Warwick, R.I.
Q: Why did you decide to start your own firm early in your career?
A: Since making the decision to go to school for civil engineering, I knew I’d eventually want to work for myself. My father is a geotechnical engineer who has owned his own firm since I was in elementary school. Because he was able to manage his own schedule, he never missed one of my sporting events. I’ve worked at a few larger firms and it always stuck out to me how difficult work-life balance is for most people in the engineering field.
Q: What type of work does FR Engineering Group do?
A: FR Engineering Group is a geotechnical, geo-structural and waterfront engineering firm. We do a combination of public and private work.
Q: How much risk was involved in starting your own firm?
A: I understood that there is always going to be a risk with owning your own business. Small firms are typically more directly impacted by shifts in our country’s economy. I’m hoping to continue to diversify the type of work we do to reduce our economic risk. I was taught not to put all of my eggs in one basket.
Q: Do you have any plans to expand the company?
A: Not at this time, but Shane and I have professional engineering licenses in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire and Colorado. We are a certified Woman Business Enterprise and a certified Disadvantaged Business Enterprise in the State of Rhode Island. We plan to pursue similar certifications in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Colorado.
Q: What advice do you have for someone wanting to start their own firm?
A: Be patient. Clients don’t just appear overnight. A lot of work goes into building those relationships. Make sure you understand the financial risks and how much work you’ll need to put in up front to be successful. We work a lot of nights, weekends and sometimes holidays. We put a lot of time in now to hopefully set ourselves up for future success.
Q: What is your proudest achievement since starting FR Engineering Group?
A: My proudest achievement was being a part of the design team for the new pier at the URI Bay Campus. The existing pier is being replaced to accommodate URI’s new research vessel. We were hired as part of the geotechnical engineering team. As a URI alumna, I was excited to be a part of the project. I look forward to seeing the progress once construction begins.