2021 40 Under 40: Phil Watson, 31

Director of Engineering, Bernhard; BS, Architectural Engineering, Kansas State University

By Gary Cohen, Chris Vavra and Amara Rozgus May 17, 2021

Watson began his career as a mechanical designer and became one of the youngest project managers at Bernhard. One of his most notable achievements was designing and managing the renovation and addition to the historic Robinson Auditorium Performance Hall in downtown Little Rock, Ark. This $72 million renovation was especially complex due to its historic nature, strict acoustical requirements and goal of achieving LEED Gold for sustainability. Watson also has developed and helped facilitate many internal training efforts for the firm, including Revit training, onboard training for mechanical designers and a project management workshop. Since 2016, he has continued managing large-scale projects while also overseeing a multidisciplinary team of up to 21 engineers who design critical projects such as surgery centers, pharmacies, labs and energy plants. Watson is passionate about promoting STEM education and regularly speaks at schools and career fairs to raise awareness about potential careers in engineering. An active member of ASHRAE, he also volunteers his time as a chair of Young Engineers in ASHRAE. Watson is active in the community, where he works with his local food bank and helps sustain a garden that donates all proceeds to families in need. Watson is an avid cyclist and has competed in eight century rides, started a cycling club at Bernhard and ridden across Iowa five times in organized cycling events. His love for the outdoors started in Boy Scouts, where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He still loves to hike and explore the rivers of Arkansas and continues to work on improving his golf game.