Jean- Luc Teixeira '04
Paying it Forward
Steppingstone 2004 / Boston Latin Academy 2010 / Worcester Polytechnic Institute 2014
“Steppingstone definitely taught me to be a leader,” says Jean-Luc Teixeira. Since his days as a Scholar, he’s carried those lessons with him in every aspect of life, school, and work. Today, in his career as a civil engineer, “I try to speak up for people, to be someone others depend on.”
Asked how those who know him best might describe him, he hopes three qualities shine through: humble, helpful, hardworking. He prides himself on being someone people know they can go to for help. “That’s how I try to live my life,” he says. He’s keenly aware of the help, kindness, and generosity from which he’s benefitted. “I always look back to my beginnings and try to pay it forward,” he adds.
“And I never shy away from a challenge.”
From a young age, his parents were his number-one inspiration. He knew “education was something that they took seriously,” he recalls. “It was a core value of our family.” It’s a value that spans generations, with roots going back to Cape Verde, passed on to his parents.
They “wanted the best education possible for me and my younger sister,” and they always held Steppingstone and its mission in the highest regard.
When Jean-Luc first began as a Scholar, he didn’t fully grasp what it would mean to him. He knew of a cousin who’d gone through it. At times, for any kid, going into a brand new environment can be daunting, he explains. As nervous as he felt, his newfound friends quickly eased his mind.
In time, he took on a role as a Steppingstone peer leader and went on to become a teaching assistant during the summer. The leadership qualities fostered by those experiences proved invaluable in his years at Boston Latin Academy and then at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
If he could share some advice with today’s Scholars, it would be “to come into everything with an open mind, because Steppingstone is a wonderful opportunity.”
Loving his Work
Thinking back to his 5th-grade self, Jean-Luc says he imagined being a video game designer. By high school, robotics and computers fascinated him. When he participated in a program at WPI designed to help students decide on their majors, “that’s when I fell in love with civil engineering,” he reflects.
As the program leader described what civil engineers studied and worked on, Jean-Luc became more and more intrigued. He’d found his major and his career path.
After college, as he looked for job opportunities, a neighbor helped connect him to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. The work was “right up my alley,” and as an added bonus, “I got to work in my home city.”
He left for a year to work on the private sector side of projects, adding to his perspective. But his heart remained with the city and the Commission. He kept in touch with his old colleagues and returned when its construction department had an opening. “I love it!” he exclaims. He appreciates being able to work with both contractors and customers, often behind the scenes.
Uncovering Boston's Secrets
He recently was promoted to the Commission’s managerial ranks, taking on the role of Project Director of Asset Management. He and his team oversee the contracts with outside firms to manage “assets” such as water mains and catch basins.
Along with managing the team and addressing issues with contractors, he gets involved in special investigations. If a project turns up something out of the ordinary, he goes out in the field to understand what’s going on. It may be something from years ago that’s not labelled on the city’s plans. “It’s kind of cool to uncover Boston’s secrets.”
He’s fascinated by the history that projects often reveal, though sometimes 15 to 20 feet below the surface. In parts of the city, there are systems that were built a century ago. Work can mean relaying and rehabbing a network of clay pipes, but he’ll also encounter parts of the system built with brick and mortar in the early 1900s that are still doing the job.
While he grew up in Dorchester, he now sees the neighborhood through different eyes. When his work takes him there, he realizes how tidally influenced it is. There as everywhere, the recent extremes of weather have taken a toll on infrastructure.
Building up Others
In time, Jean-Luc aspires to continue to grow as a leader, and he’s had great role models to emulate, including his current boss. As a leader and a teammate, he tries to build up those around him and make things run more smoothly for everyone.
Last summer, he passed the six-hour Fundamentals of Engineering exam, a pathway to becoming a Professional Engineer (P.E.). The achievement elevated him to “Engineer in Training.” As a next step, he’ll be studying for the P.E. exam. With that designation, he’ll be able to literally give projects his stamp of approval.
Beyond work, he describes himself as “huge into sports.” For Jean-Luc, whether he’s playing volleyball or flag football or basketball, it’s a natural way to find and make friends as well as a stress reliever.
He recently invested in his home city in an exciting new way: buying a condo in Dorchester. He’s about a half mile from his childhood home, and close to some of his extended family.
Keeping on the Right Path
Last year, in the midst of the dual pandemics, he appreciated seeing how countless people finally stood up and called out the deep inequities in society. While that has come at an enormous cost, it has also pushed people to see that change is possible.
Looking to the future, Steppingstone’s vision of equity and justice resonates with him deeply. From the time he was young, “I’ve always wanted to be inclusive, to be opening and welcoming,” he says.
While he strives to be there for others, he’s deeply grateful to Steppingstone for “being there for me and keeping me on the right path to be the kind of person that I dreamed of being.”
When things get tough, he seeks to stay confident in himself and know his inner strength. “There’s always an answer to something,” he notes. “I tell myself, ‘you’ve got this, just take your time.’” He does his best to step back, make a plan, and address the challenge.
One step at a time, he trusts that he’ll see things through.