Title: P.E., Design Engineer II, Southland Industries
Educational Experience: Bachelor and master’s degrees in architectural engineering, Pennsylvania State University
Professional Credentials/Accreditations:Professional engineer (P.E.) in Virginia, Alabama, and New Jersey
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
As a child, I watched a housing project being built day by day as I rode to school on the bus. I loved how intricate the building process was and knew it was something I could see myself doing one day. As I grew older, I learned more about architecture and engineering and fell in love with the combination of high technical skill and creative problem-solving. During college, my coursework, internships, and study-abroad program enlightened me to the possibilities that even a very specific engineering field could offer me. Every day, there is a different challenge, and I love being in an industry that is so important to so many people’s lives.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
I have an extreme appreciation for the skilled trades. I work alongside them every day to bring a building to life. They continue to teach me daily about how systems are built, operated, how to do it safely, and bring creative ways to achieving the same outcome. If I can learn more about how building HVAC systems are built and started up, I can take that knowledge and apply it early in design to allow for a safer and smoother install.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
I am very proud of being a team member on the Penn Medicine Pavilion project. Being an integrated project delivery method, we all pushed the envelope of what was possible to achieve from new methods of collaboration, using new technologies, and integrating with the hospital system to deliver an exceptional hospital. While the project is not yet complete, I am proud to have contributed to this project in many ways.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Can you give a personal example?Why aren’t there more women in engineering? How can we increase the number of women in engineering?
Many women face conscious and unconscious biases in the engineering field. The conscious ones can be easy to see and, as a society, we are getting better with calling them out. The unconscious biases will be a harder fought battle. During my career, I have come across both types of bias. I believe one factor keeping women from staying in engineering fields is the unconscious bias and the demanding schedule structure, specifically in construction. It’s usually not one instance that drives a woman out of her initially chosen field of engineering but the “death by 1,000 cuts” of unkind comments, the unforgiving work schedule, and an unwillingness to compromise her personal life to make the demands of the job. While highly demanding fields, like medicine and law, have adjusted to become more flexible with schedule and work-life balance, construction and engineering must adjust as well to create a better environment for women to thrive. Once we start seeing more women in leadership roles and give entry-level candidates someone to aspire to, it is my hope that we start to see more women entering engineering roles and sticking with them in the long term.
What does your day-to-day job entail?
Every day has a different problem to solve. In my current role, I work on a construction site supporting the field during system install and planning/managing the commissioning and startup activities for the equipment on the project. One minute, I could be walking the job site with a foreman looking at an installation issue, and, the next, I can be flying through our 3D virtual model of the building or running calculations trying to solve the problem. I love that I get to work with a variety of people and backgrounds and learn something new every day.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I enjoy seeing the progress that has been made each day on the project. I also enjoy looking back at all that we have accomplished but have yet to finish. I am very excited to see the final product and know that I contributed to that being possible.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?
Just as COVID-19 has affected all of us, I feel I am very fortunate during this time. Construction is a robust industry and has been able to operate with limited interruptions. When I got the call asking to help design and build a temporary field hospital, I was happy to jump right in. I supported the team by designing and drafting the oxygen piping system for a 1,500-patient field hospital in the D.C. Convention Center. After the initial design rush (72 hours after a Friday 5 p.m. project award), I supported the fabrication and install. We had to deliver the entire project in two-and-a-half weeks, so it was all hands on deck to keep construction moving. Personally, replanning my wedding has been a fun addition to all the COVID excitement. While my fiancé and I are still getting married on our original date, it will look much different than we initially anticipated.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
I’d love to be the engineer of record on a large integrated project delivery (IPD) hospital.
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What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I hate avocados.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
I have several mentors and advocates at Southland, including Shawn Manley and Scott Winkler. Both have taken the time to teach me in order to grow technically and also support me throughout my career changes. Shawn especially has pushed me to grow out of my comfort zone and supported my growth through taking on challenging assignments. Their guidance and encouragement have added to my success.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Find out what you’re passionate about and do it. You might not see someone who looks like you in the field, but don’t let that stop you.