Name: Tami Haglund

Title: Mechanical Engineer, Alvine Engineering

Age: 33

Educational Experience: Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Brigham Young University - Idaho

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

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE Member, Toastmasters

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

I’ve always loved to build and figure out how things work. My favorite classes in high school were theater tech, where I spent a lot of time designing and building sets for each play, and math.

My two older brothers introduced me to engineering while they were in college (one studied electrical engineering and the other pursued civil engineering). When they explained how there are so many different types of engineering out there, I knew mechanical was what I wanted to study.

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

The most rewarding part of working with skilled trades is seeing how amazing a person can be at certain skills. It’s so fun to see something I helped design come to life through someone else’s hands. Everything I design has to be built by a person with a certain set of skills, and I’ve been pretty lucky that my projects have had some great craftsmen.

Describe the proudest moment in your career.

The proudest moment of my career was the first meeting I sat in that my lead engineer wasn’t able to attend. I was able to answer all of the owner and architect’s questions about our current system and any accessories they might need with ease. In that moment, I felt like I finally understood the system I was designing.

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?

One thing I have found challenging for women in the engineering profession is that many people outside of engineering believe we are intimidating individuals who cannot relate to those around us. One of the best ways to help women in this profession is to change the mindset around engineering. I think too many people, especially women, find it intimidating because they think it’s something they won’t ever comprehend. As an industry, we can work together to change the mindset that engineering is an unobtainable goal that only unique individuals can understand.

What does your day-to-day job entail?

My day-to-day job changes from day to day. Some days, I’m working on a design for a medical office building and getting my calculations squared away for that, and other days, I’m looking at submittals for a school to keep construction moving forward. My favorite part of the job is that every day is different. I don’t have a chance to get burned out, because I know there is always another project waiting — a different building with different problems to solve.

What drives/motivates you every day?

My biggest motivation every day is my girls. I have two daughters, and while motherhood is rather challenging, it’s really fun to watch them learn and grow. I go to work knowing that one day I can point out different buildings around the nation and say, “I helped design that,” and they will be inspired. I hope they will understand they can have an impact on the world around them.

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

The pandemic has changed my life in a huge way. During the summer of 2020, my husband and I decided we wanted to live near family again and give our girls a chance to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Living in Omaha, Nebraska, did not give us that chance, as my husband’s family is in Idaho and mine is in Texas. I was able to talk to my boss about working remotely, and since my productivity didn’t suffer during the time our office was shut down for the pandemic, he agreed that working remotely was something Alvine Engineering was willing to offer me. So, in October 2020, my husband and I packed up our family and moved back to Idaho, where my husband and I lived when we were first married. It has been great to have family so close. I’m excited for all the memories my girls will gain as they grow up.

Professionally, this has helped me become more self-sufficient and helped build my confidence in completing projects. I have had to rely more on my own training and knowledge and less upon those around me. The nice thing is, however, I have been given several tools to make keeping in contact with my team very easy and convenient. I have also noticed how my productivity has increased working at home, and I’ve had to learn how to be creative when it comes to keeping track of my everyday tasks.

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

I want to continue to grow at Alvine Engineering and become a leader. I started off at Alvine almost eight years ago as a CAD tech and am now a licensed engineer completing the majority of a project with less guidance from senior engineers. As for my future at Alvine Engineering, I want to earn a seat at the table and help the company and its employees continue to grow and succeed.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

While I was in school, I focused mostly on finite element analysis and manufacturing with not much interest in thermodynamics and heat transfer. After I graduated, I worked for almost two years at a manufacturing shop that designs storage tanks for nuclear waste and gloveboxes designed for handling radioactive equipment. When my husband graduated with his bachelor’s degree, we decided to move to Omaha so he could go to law school at Creighton University. I would have never guessed I would have to start over and work in a completely different industry. I didn’t know HVAC systems design was so involved and would need so much attention to detail.

Another fun fact is I was nine months pregnant when I sat for the eight-hour P.E. exam. I had my second daughter a little over three weeks later and found out I passed the exam while I was still on maternity leave.

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

The first mentor I had was Stephanie Walsh of Walsh Engineering. She gave me my first job as an intern. Right before I moved to Omaha and took my job at Alvine Engineering, she sat me down and told me to make sure I always valued my worth. She wanted me to know I didn’t need to let being a woman in the world of engineering keep me from asking for what I want or deserve. She helped me to realize I needed to make sure I stand up for myself and my skills. I hope I can pass that confidence on to other engineers around me.

My second mentor isn’t really one person, but my whole team at Alvine Engineering. My career started in the nuclear engineering field, so switching to HVAC was a big change. I have learned a lot from all those who work around me and appreciate all the patience they had with my many questions when I first started.

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

Make sure your voice is heard. Just because you aren’t the loudest in the room, doesn’t mean you don’t have the best ideas. You need to make eye contact with those you are speaking with, remember and use people’s names, and sound confident when you speak. If you end up being wrong about something, that’s OK! Sometimes, it’s better to have spoken up and been wrong than to not say anything at all.