Name: Jen Hafington

Title: Mechanical Engineer, Jacobs

Age: 35

Educational Experience: Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Architectural Engineering, Penn State University

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Professional Engineer (P.E.) in Pennsylvania

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE Member

What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?

My dad is a general contractor and spent most of my childhood renovating and rebuilding our house. I spent a lot of time following him around, asking questions, and learning about construction. In school, I enjoyed math and science classes, and, as I started to think about what career I would be interested in, I learned more about architectural engineering. It seemed like a perfect place to learn more about buildings and construction. Once starting in architectural engineering, I was drawn toward the HVAC side. I wanted to learn more about ways to design more energy-efficient buildings.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?

I find it very rewarding to go out on-site and actually see what I designed on paper. It’s great to work with the contractors and make my vision a reality. Working with existing buildings is an extra challenge, and I enjoy the coordination in the field to make designs work with the existing conditions.

Describe the proudest moment in your career.

Anytime we get to a project’s completion and I see everything come together is incredibly rewarding. It’s amazing how all those lines on paper can turn in to something so great. As I’ve started working on multiple labs, it’s great to think about the life-changing research that will be completed in those spaces.

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?

I’m really fortunate that I’ve been able to work with a lot of women engineers in my career. But, it’s definitely still a male-dominated field, especially as you get on-site. I think we just need to encourage more women to pursue their love of all STEM subjects and be available to mentor them as they enter the field.

What does your day-to-day job entail?

I perform various calculations, including loads calcs, fan static calcs, pump calcs, and energy modeling on a day-to-day basis. I help out the junior staff as they learn and develop and also get on-site to assess existing conditions and verify installation of the design.

What drives/motivates you every day?

The thought that the buildings I design will have a lasting impact (however small) on the world is an incredible motivator. Knowing that people will use the buildings I’ve helped design every day makes it all worthwhile. Years from now, it’ll be fun to point at buildings and know that I helped design them.

Also, the desire to create more energy-efficient buildings to help combat global warming and make the world a better place for my kids is motivating.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?

The pandemic caused me to miss out on some important events, as we cancelled my son’s first birthday party, limited contact with friends and family, and increased our usage of Zoom for celebrations and holidays. I’m thankful my kids are still young, and we were able to keep most of their day-to-day life the same. I also remind myself that kids are resilient and that we have been lucky to all remain healthy.

Professionally, I’ve learned new ways to coordinate and communicate with other people, since you can’t just stop by someone’s desk anymore. While working from home, I’ve also had to remember to separate the two, as it’s almost too easy to hop on your computer at night when your office is just upstairs.

I’ve also examined the impact of the pandemic on HVAC design. Should we alter the way we design things, like increased ventilation rates, improved filtration, and humidity control? it’s been fun examining those types of questions.

What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?

I’m still planning on becoming a LEED AP. I’ve worked on several LEED projects, completing the energy model and the mechanical LEED documentation; I just need to make time to study through some of the topics I’m less familiar with.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

My last name is a portmanteau of my maiden names and my husband’s last name. We both legally changed our last names to Hafington to start our own family together.

List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.

My parents have always been there for me and encouraged me to become an engineer.

I’ve worked with a lot of senior designers and engineers over the years who have always been willing to answer questions, review concepts and designs, and brainstorm new solutions to problems.  

My supervisor has always encouraged me to learn and grow. He has always had a lot of confidence in me to take on more responsibility and has helped me become more comfortable presenting my ideas in front of a group.

What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?

Be confident in what you know and don’t be afraid to speak up. But, also, don’t be afraid to say when you don’t know something. There’s always more to learn and new opportunities to grow.