Title: Vice President and Regional Commissioning Manager, Glumac
Educational Experience:Bachelor of science in mechanical engineering (BSME)
Professional Credentials/Accreditations:Professional engineer (P.E.); Certified Commissioning Provider (CCP), ASHRAE; Building Commissioning Provider (BCxP), Building Commissioning Association (BCA); and LEED Accredited Professional Building Design and Construction (LEED AP BD+C)
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Board of the BCA, ASHRAE member, member and membership committee member of the Commercial Real Estate for Women Puget Sound Chapter, and Building Design + Construction 40 Under 40 Award Winner
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
I’ve always loved problem-solving but never knew it was called “engineering” until college. My dad was an engineer and helped me learn at an early age to solve problems systematically. He helped me create some amazing things, but the rebel inside of me wanted to be something different than my parents, so, early on in my higher education schooling, I pursued medicine. It wasn’t the best choice for me, but I was driven to excel, and I knew that was a respected career. Right before picking a major, I took an engineering 101 class. About one week into it, I realized this is what I was born to do. The class didn’t focus on the math and the science but, instead, emphasized problem-solving and the math and science skills as tools to problem-solve. I walked out of that class realizing I had actually loved engineering all along.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
There is a lot of focus in education on math, science, and English, but the ability to learn a skill that can immediately be applied in the real world is something I think our society should really focus more on. Learning a skilled trade allows you to immediately hit the ground running in the workforce in an industry that has plentiful demand, great job security, and allows you to earn a reasonable pay at the onset. I think it is a terrific and undervalued career path in our society.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
It’s when I am driving through downtown Seattle, and my kids are chatting with their friends in the back seat. One of them will subtly say, “My mom helped build that building right there.” Or when they shout “WEEEEE!” as we drive through the SR99 Tunnel, and my kids say, “She even helped build this tunnel we are going through right now.” Their friends are shocked. The pride in my kids’ voice at knowing that their mom is helping to make our society a better place in a very visual way makes me proud.
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?
Where to start? First, it’s hard being in any industry where there are not a lot of people like you around, especially at higher levels than you. Second, it’s challenging to have people underestimate you based on unfair, preconceived notions. On a recent project, a new member of the project team asked in a meeting what made me qualified to lead the commissioning effort. I can’t imagine him ever asking a man to justify his competency in a meeting. After a deep breath, I looked up at him and asked him if he had a chance to look at my business card, and if he had, did he know what all the credential certifications behind my name meant. He stated, “No, not really.” I said, in addition to the years of experience, those letters prove I’m qualified. I think some of that pushback and face-to-face confrontation in construction would deter many women. The attrition rate is pretty high. We need to change as an industry so that we can keep the women who we already have working in the industry. That might mean identifying blind biases, calling out inappropriate behavior, mentoring women to develop their career, identifying competing priorities, and making it easier for everyone to have both a healthy family and career. To increase the number of women in engineering, we need to start teaching girls at a young age that being smart isn’t something to be ashamed of. We also need to show them they have a place in the engineering field. Engineering is not all about race cars; we need to show girls that engineering can help make the world a great place by improving infrastructure that builds a resilient community and creating beautiful, healthy spaces for living and working. We can also start right now in our sphere of influence. It can even be in organic and little ways like leaning over my daughter’s friend and saying, “Did I just hear you say it’s not cool to be smart? Let’s talk about that.”
What does your day-to-day job entail?
Microsoft Analytics recently told me something about what I do the most: collaborate. It sounds about right. Some of my day is made up project management, helping the team figure out how we can deliver excellent service within our set budget. Another portion of my day is acting as a commissioning authority, meeting with clients and construction teams to plan how the commissioning process will be delivered on a project. Leadership is another portion, collaborating with others about how we can refine our processes to make our firm better from a variety of angles. Finally, I do a lot of networking, meeting new people in the industry and creating trusted relationships for future teaming partnerships. I like working at Glumac not only because of the great team, projects, and clients but because I have the pleasure of working with every day but also because, as a firm, we encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. From deciding we really want to start working on different types of projects or developing an energy tool that helps a client analyze their facility energy use better, all of it creates a momentum that I find really exciting.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I am highly motivated to continuously improve and hit my goals. My current personal goal is to improve my health and relationships by wiring my brain with healthy habits and eliminating other, lower-priority activities (distractions) around me. It’s allowed me a little head space to understand how each habit could apply to me and to start building upon them. Part of these healthy habits I am working on spill over to my professional life, whether that’s through supporting my team to continuously hit our goals, visualizing future potential, identifying with intention how to tackle any self-imposed obstacles, or working on positive and meaningful interactions with others.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?
It certainly has been a trying time. Initially, it was a panicky feeling that seemed to ripple through all aspects of my life as we initially heard increasing news stories about communities and people suffering from the disease. I will never forget the feeling of standing outside of the grocery store with my daughter, trying to sell more than 400 boxes of Girl Scouts cookies, and people rushing by us with their carts overflowing with water and toilet paper. Shortly after, schools closed, and we closed our office. Then we started working, schooling, and socializing all within the confines of our home. I definitely don’t envy those with little ones during this time, but living with two teenagers — who seem to walk like elephants and think that shimmying on the floor behind me will go unnoticed while I am on a video meeting — definitely has created a different kind of stress. It’s a lot. I definitely, at some point, started to feel unhealthy. Recently, I helped create a healthy living group online, which has been focusing on developing good habits in my relationships, parenting, work, eating, exercise, and mental health, and it has really been a positive experience. In addition to hopefully creating lifelong health improvements, I am focusing on really enjoying this time with my husband and my kids while we have less activities. It is quite the juxtaposition to our life a year ago, when we were in continuous motion running our kids around from place to place. I miss the casual encounters with people in my community or workplace and look forward to the future when I can hang out with my colleagues and friends again.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
I have had the pleasure of working on so many exciting opportunities over the years from wastewater projects, community facilities, airports, aquariums, office buildings, and tunnels throughout Washington, California, Idaho, Alaska, and Virginia. I have learned a lot from each new type of project. That said, there are a lot of things left on my bucket list, like new locations, such as Hawaii or New York, or cool new projects, such as a water park or a consulate.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I really pull for the underdog and love a good grassroots effort.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
My mother was my strongest mentor. She was a vocational rehabilitation specialist for the Veteran’s Affairs. Growing up, I knew that although raising us was important, she was also doing lots of other important things for society. She was always running around town, trying to find ways to help her clients. She taught me how to self-advocate and has always been there to help me make career decisions. We’ve discussed the troubles she had entering the workforce as a woman, and it’s given me good background into how far we’ve come today.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Be creative. Find different way you can differentiate yourself in the crowd. Identify the skills a junior engineer might learn on the job and take classes on those skills so you are that much more experienced (and billable) walking in the door. Also, get involved in organizations outside of work to demonstrate soft skills, such as communication, organization, and working with others, which school doesn’t necessarily teach.