Whether you’re a new member of our team, or you’re considering applying to join us, we’re glad you’re here!
About SWE: In the simplest sense, we’re an MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) engineering company serving the built environment, with services in design, commissioning, and energy. More broadly, we like to think in terms of community — the mixed disciplines that collaborate on projects, the camaraderie between each other as colleagues, and how we show up in the communities we call home. If that resonates with you, we’d love for you to keep reading.
You can think of this resource as a framework for how we do things at SWE while leaving room for creativity. What you’ll find here is a mix of topics from brand and culture to how we get the work done and grow — as people and as a team. Simply read along and let us guide you. Jump to any section using the menu in the upper left, or use the search function to find something specific.
Our mission, values, and vision define what makes Systems West Engineers remarkable. Like our DNA, they make up who we are and what we stand for as an organization. While the business will continue to evolve, these elements remain unchanging. Our mission, core values, and vision enable us to be our best selves each day.
We believe that excellence is a steadfast commitment and constant endeavor. We seek to elevate our team, our clients, our city, and our global environment in everything we do. That means embracing a mindset of continuous improvement to support our collective and individual growth.
Elevating our community in this way requires discipline. We strive for excellence and don’t shy away from a challenge. Once challenges are overcome, we never rest on our laurels. Where others might say, “good enough,” we set our sights even higher — raising the bar on what’s possible.
Before we jump into the values that guide our approach to the work, we want to align with you on how we can make the most meaningful impact in our organization.
While we shine through our work, the way we show up daily is a cornerstone to SWE’s culture and resilience. In practice, this is a straightforward ask: do your part to create an elevated experience when you interact with others. Every time we relate to a co-worker, talk to a client, or partner with others on site, we have a unique opportunity to make that a positive experience for the other person.
Striving for excellence does not stop there. We constantly ask ourselves — what can I do to make this the best experience for the other person?
If you’re already a member of our team at SWE, you’re here because we have this in common. With our mission to elevate — to continuously raise the bar on what’s possible — it’s important to regularly remind ourselves of our intentions for growth.
But what does growth really mean? In a business context, it’s often associated with greater levels of revenue or profits. That’s not quite how we see it. Sure, those metrics are indicators of our success, but they’re not to be misconstrued as the primary goal — they are the welcome side effects of our true focus, which is on impact. Growth at SWE is about improvement as individuals, expanding our expertise as a team, delivering greater value to our partners, and doubling down on our commitment to our community. Even at the highest level on our team, we never stop looking for ways to learn and improve in our roles and as human beings.
So, whether you’ve been here a decade, or you’re considering your first internship with our company, we ask you to reflect on what growth means to you. What are you learning about now, and what are you interested to learn about next? What will the next iteration of SWE look like? How can we better serve our partners, our teammates, and the people in our communities? Our charge as a company is to support your growth as an individual, and we hope you’ll help SWE take it to the next level, too.
In cultures that emphasize improvement and problem solving, it’s common to readily move from one challenge to the next. While we appreciate that enthusiasm, we think it’s important to take time to high-five and reflect on what we’re accomplishing together. When we bring our attention back to what’s going well, we can stay energized as a team and maintain a positive outlook on what’s yet to come.
These celebrations take many shapes big and small. A brief acknowledgement of a colleague’s job well done can go a long way, and major milestones on projects or as a company are often cause for greater gatherings where we can all raise a glass together. (See also: Social Events)
If you’ve read thus far, you probably realize we like to approach each day with optimism. We’re also careful not to lean too far into what is commonly referred to as “toxic positivity” or “Prozac leadership”. Difficult conversations are going to happen, and it’s important we don’t sweep them under the rug. When we approach these situations with an open ear and an open mind, we can make others feel heard and understood so they feel safe enough to share authentically.
This also means we’re all responsible for illuminating issues before they begin to fester. You may choose to start with a private conversation or have a word with your supervisor. It’s not necessarily your job to resolve things on your own — reach out for support and we’ll work through it together.
The word “professionalism” often conjures up images of corporate America, where every interaction is layered with unspoken rules and formalities. That’s not quite what we have in mind here. We’re a small company, and we’d like to create a comfortable, approachable environment where folks feel they can be themselves and connect openly. There are, however, still a few aspects of professionalism we feel are useful to agree on so folks can bring their best each day:
Communication — We’re always representing the company, so we simply want to be mindful about where we’re showing up and how (see also: Brand Ambassadors). Context is key — of course interactions with customers may carry a different tone than casual watercooler talk with colleagues. Whether you’re sending an email, doing an on-site walkthrough, or just sporting some SWE gear out in public, be mindful about what you say, how you say it, and how it will be received by the audience.
Attire — You probably haven’t seen many neckties or stiletto heels around our team — that’s not an accident. You also won’t see many graphic tees or ballcaps in the office. Instead of a strict, universal dress code, we essentially dress for the day, with consideration for who we’re seeing and where, or whether we’ll be in a safety vest and helmet at some point. Our team’s headshots show the broad range of the look we’re going for — put together, approachable, and never stuffy.
Volume — Our office space is open. Very open. And part of the appeal of coming into an actual office is connecting with our co-workers. You’ll see everyone from recent grads to directors chatting about their weekends, the ballgame, families, etc. — and we encourage it. We also need to remember that while some of us are catching up on life, others are catching up on work. We’ve all been in situations where audible distractions make it hard to focus, so we just try to keep our volume in check and save the longer conversations for lunch.
Create the community you want to live in! Make our work environment positive. Be committed to the mutual success and welfare of our employees, clients, and business partners. Treat others as you want to be treated.
Give your best! Be challenged to increasingly high levels of quality, improved process, creativity, and performance. Aspire to greatness.
Our Essential Values complement our Operational Values and show up in our behavior and decision making every day:
It starts with me! Being self-disciplined, accountable, authentic, respectful, consistent, and honorable. We each individually need to become the parts of the whole we aspire to.
SERVE OUR CLIENTS
Be fully committed to each project by providing high quality, good value, and a satisfying experience. Deliver solutions that work. Exceed expectations!
SUSTAIN THE ENVIRONMENT
Be leaders in sustainable construction and energy conservation. There’s only one earth! Commit to care for it.
Our Vision: Building impact through trusting community partnerships.
Ours is a vision of continuation. We aim to constantly grow, evolve, and improve, but we know we cannot pursue excellence without the people around us. That’s why we envision a future where our impact is maximized by ever-deeper connections to the community. Systems West will be known for our expertise and professionalism, not just by our markets but by the entire region we serve. People will see us as a strong partner with ample experience and will trust us to make a meaningful difference on their most important and challenging projects.
We’ll know we’re achieving this goal when we are highly regarded and sought after by the most discerning clients and engineers, who are eager to work with (and for) the best. We’ll continue to foster a culture of collaboration and trust, and together will engineer a brighter future for all.
Brand is an amalgamation of many elements both visible and invisible. In a highly technical market like ours, it’s easy to blend in by looking or sounding the same, but we want to help outsiders understand what makes us different and remarkable. For that reason, when it comes to the external representation of the SWE brand, we unify visual and verbal communication by aligning with two concepts that support our positioning: an archetype and a brand story. (See also: SWE History/A new era)
Our archetype is the role we play in the minds of our customers and community. We are the sage — the expert, the scholar, the advisor, thinker, or intellectual. We seek information, knowledge, and wisdom. In many cases we not only provide insight but also encourage others to think. The sage’s core desire is the discovery of truth, and its goal is to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world.
Classic, recognizable examples of the sage include characters like Yoda and Mr. Miyagi, people like Stephen Hawking and Marie Curie, or brands like PBS and Gallup.
Beneath the external representation of our brand lies a metaphor that helps us tell our story and communicate our value. Mycorrhizal networks are the underground, branching, filamentous structure created by mycorrhizal fungi that connect individual plants together and transfer water, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients and minerals. The formation of these networks is context-dependent and can be influenced by factors such as soil fertility, resource availability, disturbances, and seasonal variations. It’s these invisible dynamics that allow the above-ground plants to flourish and elevate.
Just like the hidden transmissions of mycorrhizal networks, SWE makes sense of the surrounding context to support the entire project community. We dig into owner and project goals, how to make the most of limited resources, and how to enable others through real-time exchange. When we equip fellow contributors with the insights we uncover, they are empowered to do their best work. While our efforts may go unseen by many, the underground collaboration and technical depth leads to above-ground elevation of the project and the entire team involved.
You can see the presence of this metaphor in our external representations — in our visual identity, in our proprietary way (our approach to design, commissioning, and energy), and in our voice and vocabulary in writing. We don’t need outsiders to connect the dots to the underlying metaphor, but internally it creates cohesion and consistency in our brand and the SWE value proposition.
Every member of the SWE team is an ambassador of our brand. Whether we’re showing up in person or online, with a customer or elsewhere in our community, we’re all reflections of our company. We’re delighted for that to be the case, as each person here was selected for their outlook and alignment with our mission and values.
Attitude and Energy — Brand is so much more than a marketing tool. Every touchpoint someone has with our company — a phone call, an invoice, a handshake, a meeting — shapes their perception of us. That’s what brand really is: it’s what people think, not just a logo or a website. Even before we launched our new visual identity, the SWE brand was built on reputation, on 30 years of investing in relationships and establishing trust. This is why attitude and energy are everything; brand is how we show up. And people notice! We don’t expect everyone to be extroverted rays of sunshine, but even a calm positivity can elevate a room and turn an acceptable interaction into an exceptional one. Our ask of you: bring it.
Amplifying SWE — It goes a long way when members of our team help boost our visibility on social media. Zero requirement here, but an open invitation, as everyone’s personal profiles are theirs to do with what they so choose. If you were involved in a big project that just wrapped up, celebrate the big win publicly by engaging with or reposting content from SWE or other collaborators on the project. As we look to grow the team and find excellent candidates, tap into your network or point right-fit folks in our direction. The lowest hanging fruit — see what our team and company page are up to on LinkedIn and join the conversation.
If you’re interested in exploring more ways to share the SWE story with the community, please come forward! There are always opportunities for us to strengthen our presence in both the markets we serve and the places we call home. Whether it’s a customer open house, a tradeshow, a career fair, a volunteer event, or some other way to engage, we’d love for you to help us elevate!
There are many ways we exchange information and ideas as a team. It might be second nature to a more tenured team member, but it may not be as obvious to a more recent hire. Here’s an overview of our various channels and some basic guidelines for when to use what:
Email — Not everything needs to be documented in an email. What’s most essential for this digital paper trail are deliverables and items related to project tracking. When it comes to meeting deadlines, capturing input from customers or other contributors, or anything we may need to refer back to (i.e., covering our bases), it's best to put it in an email.
MS Teams Messaging — Great for quick questions, quick answers, and responding when convenient. If the thread starts to go off the rails, it might be time to take it elsewhere. Keep in mind that not everyone uses or reciprocates with the same style.
Meetings — Real-time meetings can be worth 1,000 emails. When we’re navigating opposing views or trying to involve multiple perspectives, step away from the keyboard and come together to talk it out. It’s great to do this in person for important milestones with the client, or when the relevant team members are around for an internal discussion. When that’s not the case, we have options:
Casual Connection — Stopping by someone’s desk is sometimes the most efficient way to get something done. It’s also how we build rapport as a team, so it’s generally a safe bet to reach out in person. Get to know each other, solve problems together, and be considerate of those around you (see Professionalism: Volume). If the topic you’re excited to discuss with a colleague won’t fit into a quick chat, consider scheduling a meeting or a coffee, lunch, or after-work beverage together.
Committees are a way for folks to engage with others about what’s important to them. It’s also how we drive change in our company. Short-term committees come and go, assembling to work on something specific then dissolving when ready (so we don’t end up with dozens of them). We also have three long-term committees for:
Social Events at SWE are optional (and not the kind of optional that is secretly mandatory). It’s how we build relationships with one another and create the camaraderie that can only come with experiencing things together. Since the workday is typically consumed with, well, work, it’s great to have dedicated space for laid back connection and good times as a team. We have our big end-of-year shindig annually, with several smaller get-togethers sprinkled throughout the year. We’ll make sure the team is aware of what’s coming up, and we’d love to see you there!
We aren't big on the daily grind mentality. Our company values, objectives, and philosophy are a direct reflection of the kind of studio culture we want to inspire: where everyone involved is driven to create world-class next-generation products and user experiences with meaningful, positive impact.
Simply put: we strive to be the best. And we're looking for more like us. Our recruiting radar is always on: seeking the next superstar from every discipline.
It takes drive, creativity and a passion for solving tough challenges (and we mean tough).
We believe when individuals follow their interests and pursue their passions that it is mutually beneficial for the employee and the company. We also believe that growth is unique for everyone — some like to explore more broadly while others like to go deeper in one area of focus. This is why career development at SWE is more about multi-dimensional improvement as opposed to prescriptive paths or ladder climbing. (See also: Growth Mindset)
Every member of our team creates a Career Development Plan (CDP), which is a personalized roadmap outlining where they are in their career, where they want to go, how to get there, and the obstacles to overcome on the way. The CDP is also complemented by a growth path visual, which helps us see the current and future states of our unique skillsets, both individually and collectively. CDPs and growth paths are dynamic by nature — as we grow, our interests may shift, and our direction may change course. There are three primary tracks to explore, one at a time or concurrently:
Regular one-on-one meetings with your supervisor are your opportunity to review your CDP and growth path and discuss possibilities about your role and interests. This is also your time to share about your experience at SWE and exchange feedback. Half-baked ideas and questions are welcome here — you may see where you want to go but be unclear on how to get there. That’s where your supervisor comes in: to make sense of things together and explore opportunities.
Our main intentions here are trust and flexibility. Not everything needs approval, because life happens — yes, go to your appointment, take care of your family, and prioritize your own wellbeing when you need a personal day or mental health day. Your allotted sick time is not just for when you’re physically ill; it’s yours to use how you need for all the above.
As long as we communicate with our team members and the work is getting done, we can be understanding and accommodating of others when the unpredictable inevitably arises. When navigating trickier situations, simply bring it up and we’ll figure it out together.
We also embrace the fact that how and where we work has changed dramatically in recent years. Working from home is a great option when it comes to providing childcare or avoiding inclement weather, to name a couple examples. Again, context and communication are the keys — keep your teammates informed, be aware of meetings on your calendar, and consider how you’ll show up as a participant.
Our Roots — Systems West Engineers was founded in 1988 by former employees of the EMC Engineers Eugene branch. The small new SWE firm provided energy analysis and retrofit design services to educational and institutional clients in Oregon, and at the time it included a civil engineering department, which was later dissolved in 2004.
Branching Out — Over time, our team expanded its expertise and service offerings as company leadership broadened our horizons and reached for larger and more complex engineering challenges. Our scope soon encompassed a full range of engineering design, commissioning, and energy services, while strong roots in our original markets allowed us to build on those longstanding relationships and contribute to the projects that matter most in our communities.
A New Era — While our knowledge and impact had elevated over the years, the SWE visual identity still harkened back to our early days. It was time for our look and feel to catch up with what makes us remarkable. In 2020, we began the process of reimagining our brand, first making sense of what’s special inside our company, then amplifying that externally and telling our story better than ever with a new visual identity and unified messaging. It’s an authentic reflection of who we are and what we care about. Today, our team and the work we do together continue to reach new heights. As we look back, we’re proud of the ground we’ve covered, and we look forward to what lies ahead.