Meet Our People: GAI Transportation Structures Professional Jenna Jakes

With sadness, we inform GAI’s clients and friends of Jenna Jakes’ untimely passing in March 2022. GAI is maintaining Jenna’s own words here as a tribute to her life and in appreciative memory of the valuable contributions she made as a highly regarded member of the GAI family.

Jenna Jakes, PE is one of hundreds of skilled GAI professionals who help clients create better communities, transportation infrastructure, energy generation and delivery, and more from our office locations throughout the United States. Today we’ll find out a little about what makes Jenna tick—the background, motivation, and methods that she brings to the table every day for GAI and GAI’s clients.

Slide Name: Jenna Jakes
GAI Office Location: Jacksonville, FL
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Education: Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with a focus in Structures, University of North Florida Professional Licenses: Professional Engineer (PE) in FL and TX

Q: Please tell us a little about how you arrived at your area of specialization.

Jenna Jakes: I’m a Structural Engineer and my specialization is bridge design. I always loved math and it came very naturally to me while it seemed that everyone around me in high school loathed math. So, I decided, “I should probably do something with this…” With that, I started college as an engineering major, not knowing yet which discipline I wanted to specialize in. In my junior year, I saw a presentation on the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, and I fell in love with bridges. I was amazed by the unique geometry and the significant design effort that is required to create these structures that we see every day, yet generally don’t recognize as being as complicated as they are. I immediately applied for an internship with a bridge design group, and I have been designing bridges ever since, which has been for about 15 years now.

Q: What role do you play at GAI, and what sorts of projects do you typically contribute to?

Jenna: My role at GAI is to help the Florida Transportation Structures Group keep our clients happy by applying high standards of quality, safety, and economy in the work we do consistent with engineering standards of care. This client-first focus helps us maintain great relationships and continue to win challenging projects. I’ve been a part of everything from major bridge projects involving steel bridges with complex geometry to smaller local projects with miscellaneous transportation structures, as well as working with contractors to resolve difficult issues during construction. I’m very fortunate to play a variety of roles in my job, and it has enabled me to contribute to the successful procurement and completion of a range of exciting and challenging projects.

Q: What does your typical day at GAI look like?

Jenna: Well, there’s really no such thing as a typical day for me. Any given day might include hours of intense focus performing or reviewing calculations, collaborating with my group on design and detailing methods, estimating staff hours and planning budgets, coordinating with clients, and taking part in various meetings. I may spend a part of my day researching new project pursuits and helping write marketing and proposal documents. I can also be called into the field to photograph the undersides of bridges or help contractors with problem solving. Each day presents stimulating new challenges, and it definitely never lets me get bored!

Q: What do you like most about your job, and why do you believe GAI is a good place to put your skills to work?

Jenna: My favorite thing about this job is the feeling of purpose I get in knowing that details matter. A slight error in a bridge engineer’s calculations could have a major effect on a bridge’s structural integrity, which requires us to be extremely detail oriented and aspire to maintain high standards of quality. The sense of accomplishment and pride I get when watching others safely drive over a bridge that I am the Engineer of Record for is amazing.

I believe that GAI strives to maintain an environment where everyone is treated equally, is rewarded for their efforts, and is given the support they need to have a good work-life balance. GAI also encourages all employees to express their opinions and provides a comfortable platform for them to do so. In addition to treating employees well, GAI also sponsors and participates in volunteerism in the communities we serve. GAI seeks to constantly improve and grow as a company—working here contributes to the fact that I have a happy, balanced life where I am challenged every day and can be proud of my contributions.

Q: How do you measure your success?

Jenna: I measure my success by my ability to constantly improve myself. I do not want to become complacent or over-confident—I’m always happy to be ‘wrong’ in a given situation as long as I can learn from the experience. This applies to my work as well as to my personal life.

Message GAI online and start the conversation about how our multidiscipline professionals can meet your unique project needs. 

Jenna Jakes, PE is a Civil Technical Leader within GAI’s Structures Group. A registered Professional Engineer in both Florida and Texas, Ms. Jakes has 15 years of transportation and bridge design experience. She has led the design and plans preparation of structures on projects of varying sizes for both public and private clients; her project experience includes interstate design-builds, conventional design-bid-builds, structural rehabilitations, and coastal trails and docks. Jenna also provides inspection, design, and post-design services for bridges, retaining walls, and miscellaneous transportation structures.  

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