The Girl Behind The Stellar Resume ~ Insider’s Scoop on EChem Consultants

Written by: Nikki Alvin-Smith

Crevello is equally at home in boots on an archeological dig site at the Black Sea in Ukraine or wearing a hard hat and calling the shots to a construction crew atop a Manhattan skyscraper. Her woman owned and certified (WBE) company EChem Consultants L.L.C., based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., is a niche Material Science business that has amassed an impressive array of highly successful iconic landmark restoration and rehabilitation projects since its inception in 2009. Today it boasts an impressive 75% returning customer metric to its trusted industry name. Specialist services focus on non-destructive methods of testing and evaluating structures’ durability utilizing advance technology to identify their service life and monitor their structural health. Crevello keenly drives the success of EChem with her ‘hands-on’ approach. Her pioneer achievements, in particular as a woman in the field of electrochemistry in the repair of civil structures, are a matter of well-earned repute in the engineering bubble of a male dominated field. 

The girl behind the stellar resume is a no-nonsense leader with little patience for unproductive staff or ego-driven employees. Crevello leads her team with a heavy dose of mentorship that is generously administered to the technical engineering wizards of the future who are fortunate enough to call EChem Consultants home base.  

 Material science is not generally considered a sexy topic, though actually when you delve deeper the techniques available draw some interesting comparisons. Corrosion mitigation via electrochemical and material testing and predictive analysis of the data obtained parallel the scientific advances we see in medicine, through various scans such as MRI, PET/CT and are of equal importance in health, but in this case the health of the infrastructure upon which our lives increasingly depend.

Not Your Usual Childhood

 The importance of mentorship began at an early age for Crevello at the knee of her father. Science was always front and center in her upbringing with a Marine Geologist/ Geophysicist parent at hand.

 Crevello was born a twin in Evansville, Indiana. Within two years of her birth, her father’s career would take the family to Miami, F.L., where Mom kept things running smoothly at home while Dad explored the possibilities of small marine submersibles to better divulge the secrets held in the sedimentary layers beneath the ocean floor in the hunt for black gold.

 By age eight Crevello’s family had moved to Littleton, CO, where her father worked as a petroleum research scientist while obtaining his Ph.D. from the noted Colorado School of Mines and proceeded to travel the globe spending time during the oil crisis in Syria, Morocco and many parts of Asia. 

 While the young Crevello twin sisters were unable to join their father in the sometimes-risky adventures he undertook, his mentorship through the shared knowledge of his experience would inspire both girls to attain great heights in their academic achievements in years to come. 

 During the early years of her childhood. Crevello has many happy memories of trips spent finding fossils, exploring rock outcroppings and discovering dinosaur prints in the Red Rocks alongside her father, rather than the more mundane experiences of visiting theme parks or tourist hotspots like her schoolmates.

 These mind-broadening opportunities were not wasted on the intelligent Crevello. They fueled her passion for architectural history that resulted in her choice to study the topic at the then all female Wells College at Aurora, N.Y., where she achieved the first of three degrees she currently holds. This one a B.A. in Architectural History, a program heralded for its rigorous nature.

Wells College, Aurora, New York

 After the important college parchment was in hand, Crevello’s father adroitly took his twin daughters on a post graduate trip to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico where he imparted some heartfelt and stern advice. Namely, that he wished both girls to now chart a course to get advanced degrees, get qualified, and most importantly become financially independent before setting any sights on marriage.

 “Within a year of that trip both my sister and I had attained entrance to graduate. programs. For myself it was at Columbia University in New York City,” explained Crevello. When questioned as to why she chose Columbia, the forthright answer was simple,

Columbia University Library, New York, New York

 “It was the oldest and most respected program in the U.S.A. in the study of historic architectural material science and the most revered. I wanted to learn from the best, and their fine reputation was well-earned. The education and mentorship I received there has been invaluable in my career.”

 The curriculum at Columbia University was both comprehensive and challenging, and two mentors stood out for Crevello from her time in those hallowed lecture halls.

Norman Weiss

“One of the most popular and most inspirational professors in the program was without question Norman Weiss. Even the least engaged students on the course would attend his classes and could not fail to be motivated by his impressive then 20 years of experience in material science. The theories of analytical chemistry, their history and the scientists that discovered them, came to life in his words. He was one of those rare professors that ignited the passion in almost any student for the topic that was his passion. It was contagious and I learned so much for him,” said Crevello nostalgically.

 The second and no less important key influence on Crevello’s Columbia years was Pamela Jerome. Already a businesswoman of some repute working on major NYC Landmarks, Jerome’s Greek heritage would take her back often to the cradle of civilization. Her position as Thesis Advisor to Crevello was an important cornerstone to the young woman’s enthusiasm for learning about the human impact on historically significant sites, where she was often able to join Jerome on her travels.

Basilica Hall in Medina Azahara. Cordoba, Spain

Pamela Jerome

“Jerome’s holistic approach to conservation has always fascinated me. Through my educational experiences with her I was able to visit UNESCO world heritage sites such as Cordoba and the Medina Azahara, Spain, Evora and Porto in Portugal and was fortunate to work with Jerome on the documentation of the Tarimi Palaces in Yemen, as well as Chersonesos, an archaeological site conservation project in the then Ukraine held shores of the Black Sea stabilizing Greek farmhouses. It was an exciting time and seeing a woman of her standing navigate the world with such confidence taught me a lot. She gave me much advice, one of the resounding pieces of which has stuck with me to this day and that I would advocate to other women in the workforce, is to never second guess yourself.”

“It is not easy being a woman in an industry dominated by men, and while the gender balance evens out in some generic areas of material science, the niche areas of study such as electrochemistry are still pre-eminently held by males.”

 

A Serendipitous Meeting

 Following her graduation from the prestigious Columbia University, Crevello embarked upon a successful career in the expansive world of architectural conservation and restoration in New York. The city’s architectural diversity between antiquity and iconic landmarks, aging steel structures, its multitude of bridges and underground network of tunnels for everything from trains to water and electric services became her backyard for material science investigations. But it was once again Columbia University that would provide a firm foundation from which Crevello would launch the further ascent of her scientific career.  Crevello would later work in California and Colorado. 

Paul Noyce

 In March 2004, Crevello attended an APTNE (Association for Preservation Technology Northeast Chapter) event hosted at Columbia University that featured two highly regarded British corrosion engineers and material scientists, Paul Noyce and Peter Gibbs. The meeting of the minds in the forensics of corrosion in historic steel frame buildings ignited a relationship between Noyce and Crevello that became both personal and professional. A long-distance relationship ensued, and finally Crevello decided to venture to England to explore the possibilities of work in the country.

 “My expectations were to work for the National Trust or English Heritage or a similar organization and put my skills in architectural conservation science to work. It came as a complete surprise when Paul {Noyce} suggested I come on board a project he and his partner Peter Gibbs had secured working on the only known Tea Clipper still in existence in the world, the Cutty Sark, docked at Greenwich, London,” explained Crevello. Frankly, I had no experience in electrochemical chloride extraction on wrought iron, and it was actually my experience collaborating with owners and organizations working in the heritage field that Paul wanted to tap into. The funding for the evaluation and restoration of the ship was £50 million that came to the Cutty Sark Trust from the Heritage Lottery Foundation. I was to liaise with the folks from British Heritage, while running the scientific testing program.” 

 After casting away her doubts, Crevello embraced the unique opportunity to lead the endeavor, and her counterpart turned out to also be female, rather unusually for 15 years ago,.

 Julia Brown, the Cutty Sark Trust Program Manager was both delighted and surprised to find a female leading the other side of the project. “I don’t know who was more shocked actually, me or her.” 

 The Cutty Sark restoration involved an area of material science that Crevello admits she knew almost nothing about at the time, the use of electro-chemical chloride extraction. Something she learned to navigate without hesitation. 

Cutty Sark Museum, Greenwich, London, UK

 “The hull of the ship is a composite of iron and wood. Paul had designed a system which used external anodes and power to draw chloride out of the iron without any invasive or detrimental affect to the material. I was quickly tasked with learning how to use the equipment, assess efficacy, and how to instruct others in its use. “Important counsel from Crevello’s professor Jerome stood her in good stead.” Pamela {Jerome} impressed upon me to always arrive well-prepared for a task as it evokes a better level of confidence and ultimately success. I can tell you I spent long hours getting to grips with how to administer the electro-chemical technology. By the time morning rolled around I was ready to go. I was well and truly hooked on learning more about this technology and the types of non-invasive and non-disruptive methods that could be used in for corrosion mitigation in material science after this experience.” 

Building Bridges

 Crevello and Noyce’s relationship was to extend beyond him being, “a great mentor to me”. Crevello and Noyce returned to New York, encouraged by Noyce to go it alone and set up her own business. 

 “When I began EChem Consultants I had doubts of course. Not about getting the job done, but about running and managing a business. That was an area in which I had little experience. I was nervous about generating consistent revenue streams and the nuts and bolts of business management, but I just got on with it. Running a team of scientists out on site and getting the material science job done was one thing, office set up and administration was quite another,” Crevello confided. 

American Council of Engineering Company Excellence Award

 EChem’s sales began with income from a loyal following of clientele from prior architectural historical restoration and rehabilitation investigative projects that Crevello had led, but she consistently sought to further develop her clientele and the diversity of work that her company could handle. Her experience was considerable across a broadband of material science at this point. but, it was not always easy to secure a role in the large projects that she wanted to participate in across multiple structures types. For example, it is not easy to develop a woman owned business in the specialist industries of concrete and metal corrosion dominated 98% by men. She needed to build a bridge of her own, and build it she did.

 Crevello showed her leadership and foresight when she embarked on certification of EChem Consultants as a WBE {Women-owned Business Enterprise} three years into the company’s development. 

 “In hindsight, I wish that I had made the decision to file for this important certification at the birth of EChem rather than three years in. Due to the mandate required on Federal and State projects for minority or women owned business to be awarded up to 30% of the bid amount on government projects, once we had jumped through the arduous hoops for WBE certification, we were able to secure a place at the table on a multitude of projects as we fit the criteria.” 

 When asked if she would advise any female planning to start a business to orchestrate this certification at the outset and whether it was responsible for the success story of EChem, Crevello had this to impart: 

“Looking back it would certainly have been easier to obtain the certification at the outset. In my particular industry, one that is so heavily dominated by men and large organizations/developers etc., it has been particularly beneficial. I’m not sure this would be true for all industries. It’s not that the certification magically guarantees that the business will be successful. It just gives you that all-important first foot in the door. After that, you have to prove yourself worthy. I am very proud of our high percentage of return clients. I love that we have become a trusted ‘go to’ resource with a niche position in the huge world of material science.”

The Family Grows

 It was not long before Crevello’s company had need of more technical help and as was almost inevitable from the start at their meeting in New York, the familiar face of Noyce was to join the family at EChem.

When Paul was able to step away from the U.K. from his company, ElectroTechThe opportunity to unite in building EChem Consultants was a no-brainer. As everyone within the industry knows, Paul is highly regarded in the material science world and has his own stellar resume. Funny enough at one event I sat next to a lady who was unaware we were a married couple, and when his name came up and I said he was my husband she said incredulously, “You are married to the Obama of concrete.”  

 It is clear that the union of Crevello and Noyce has cemented EChem Consultants as a prestige industry brand, as their impressive logbook of work on iconic structures proves. But just as the structures that she investigates, it is what is beneath the surface of Crevello that intrigues those that meet her.  

 Clearly a woman of integrity with a clear sense of the importance of mentorship to those around her, she is certainly a woman breaking ground in a man’s world. Crevello exhibits a fascinating innate ability to traverse the divide between the sexes. Additionally, Crevello feels that it is imperative to share knowledge with a broader community of practitioners and to give back.  Since 2012 she has been a Member of the Board of Directors for the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT).  She is currently serving her second year as President of the Board.  This is essentially like having a part time job on top of running Echem.  When she is not on Executive Committee calls, chairing online meetings, or dealing with organizational chairing, you may discover her out enjoying an afternoon clay-shooting during her downtime. You will also find she is a woman that loves to travel, collect interesting objects while abroad and spend time in the garden.

 I asked Crevello what her legacy statement to her recently born step granddaughter would be and she repeated the one bestowed on her by her father all those years ago and Gina stated,

“ Be able to stand on your own two feet. Find what you love to do, do that, and you will be successful.” 

About Echem Consultants:

Echem Consultants LLC is a material science consultancy whose primary focus is understanding material durability of the built environment. Through our Life 52® assessment approach [Laboratory, Inspection, Field Services, Engineered Design], we assist Architects, Engineers, and structure owners with long-term durability planning and predictive service life modeling for critical infrastructure 52 weeks a year. 

An additional advantage to employment of EChem Consultants is its ownership status as a certified women-owned business (WBE) and disadvantaged business (DBE) enterprise, thus fulfilling minority requirements for local, state, and federal contracts which have M/WBE or DBE set asides. Echem provides niche expertise in complex problem solving for critical infrastructure, landmark buildings, and new construction.

For more information, please contact Echem’s marketing department at 845-215-4370.

About Nikki Alvin-Smith: British/American Nikki Alvin-Smithi s a seasoned Content Writer with a background in international commerce. Her works have been published worldwide across many genres including construction, investment, international freight forwarding, real estate, travel, the equestrian and pet industry and number in the thousands. Through her media enterprise company Horse in a Kilt Media Inc. Nikki collaborates with a variety of clientele to address their writing and PR needs, from Mom and Pop operators to Fortune 500 companies, from B-list movie/TV celebrities to Olympic athletes. Services include production of creative assets such as ghostwritten books, feature articles, blogs, vlogs, column writing, scriptwriting, speechwriting to copy for Executive Summaries, press releases, event coverage, brand building and marketing strategy.Additionally Nikki Alvin-Smith is an international level Grand Prix dressage competitor, coach and worldwide clinician. Together with her husband Paul, also a Grand Prix dressage rider, she lives in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York and operates an organic hay farm and dressage yard.