Faces of Gresham Smith: Saa Shemsu

Saa Shemsu, E.I., Assoc. DBIA

Saa Shemsu, E.I., Assoc. DBIA

Name: Saa Shemsu

Current Title: Project Executive

Office Location: Cincinnati, OH

Years at Gresham Smith: 1


As a firm, we pride ourselves on finding unique employees, which is why we’re thrilled to introduce Saa Shemsu, a project executive in our Water + Environment market who dreamed of being an astronaut, but instead hits it out of this world with his innovative ideas. Keep reading to find out more about this classical pianist turned utility manager and water resources designer.


What city did you grow up in?

I grew up in Dayton, Ohio and went to Trotwood-Madison High School. After that, I went on to study agricultural engineering at Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes!


What drew you to Gresham Smith?

First, the relationship I have with employees such as Katie Nolan. But also, the opportunity to develop new markets, and the small firm feel with the support and expertise of a large firm.


What is your favorite project you’ve worked on while at Gresham Smith and why?

The Central Boone County force main and new pump station. Katie Nolan actually approached me during the KY/TN Water Professionals Conference in Chattanooga and told me that we had been selected by the client for this project.

This is a dynamic project that was initially a routine pump station and force main design project. During the conceptual design phase of the project, our team identified challenges to the original basis of design for the project. With this new understanding, the project is now transforming into an alternatives study with a design that could modify the original proposed pump station and add a tunnel to the project.

What made you choose your profession?

My father, Wallace Wright Jr. provided a great example for me as a leader and thinker.  He was in the Signal Corps in the U.S. Army, an Amateur Radio Operator, a Microwave communication technician for Dayton Power & Light Company, and a Pastor in the A.M.E. Church.  He always investigated and tinkered with electronics and communications.  His home electronic and radio projects spurred my interested in science and engineering.


What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? 

Gear your message to your audience and listen to the feedback they provide.

Do you have any hidden talents?

I played piano on a regular basis from elementary through college, often playing in classical music competitions, church services, and church choirs.


What book are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading a book my grandmother, Harriet Graham, compiled entitled “A Family of Families: Reflections of Three Generations Green-Quarles-King” which details family history from the mid-19 through the late 20th century.