Name: Casey Wilson

Title: Business Unit Leader – Building Services at Horner & Shifrin Inc.

Age: 35

Educational Experience: Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering, University of Missouri

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Professional Engineer (P.E.), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional (AP)

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Member of the Missouri Society for Healthcare Engineering (MOSHE), Southern Illinois Chapter for Healthcare Engineering (SICHE), American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE), and ASHRAE

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

When I was little, I loved going to my grandpa’s house and building things out of his scrap wood pieces as well as playing Legos with my brother. My high school physics teacher took note of my interest of building things and my achievements in science and math and recommended I consider an engineering profession. I decided to take his advice and pursue engineering at the University of Missouri. My freshman year in college, I took a general engineering class to learn more about each engineering discipline, and mechanical engineering seemed to be the best fit for me.

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

The most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades is seeing our projects come to life. I have been involved in the creation of a variety of projects, from a state-of-the-art laboratory facility to an operating room renovation to a new fire station. Each project is so unique with its own code requirements, sustainability goals, and constructability challenges. We must work together as a team of professionals to create buildings and solve problems, and I’m continuously impressed at how we create these beautiful facilities and work through challenges. Being a part of the process from start to finish is very rewarding, and I am continuously discovering new means and methods to improve our processes for the next project.

Describe the proudest moment in your career.

My proudest moment was being promoted to business unit leader for the building services department. My goal has always been to achieve a leadership position, and I was presented with an opportunity three years ago to transition into a department leader role and manage a team of nine engineers and designers. I never imagined I would become a leader this early in my career, and I enjoy the added challenges and responsibilities. I am constantly learning new things and being challenged to push myself outside my comfort zone.

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 have generally had a positive and encouraging experience as a woman in engineering. I do typically get a surprised response when I tell someone I’m a mechanical engineer. There are markedly more men in leadership roles in the engineering industry, but over the past 13 years, I’ve noticed more women assuming leadership positions. Having the diversity in leadership with women representation provides a different and unique perspective.

I think the best way to gain interest in engineering, especially for women, is to have more exposure to the notion of being an engineer at an early age. Illustrating the impact engineers have on our society, buildings, and infrastructure and generating enthusiasm to the career opportunities would encourage more interest in the engineering field.

What does your day-to-day job entail?

I have two roles at Horner & Shifrin: mechanical engineer and business unit leader managing a team of engineers and designers. My responsibilities vary daily. No two roles or days are ever alike. As part of my management role, I am involved in business development and client retention, strategic planning, reviewing financials, preparing proposals, project management, and assigning work to staff. As a mechanical engineer, I prepare studies on various mechanical systems and collaborate with architects, engineers, and clients to produce construction documents for projects. I am also out in the field verifying HVAC systems are installed per the plans.

What drives/motivates you every day?

My motivation comes from my ability to work with an amazing team that completes successful projects and faces different challenges every day.

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

Initially, the pandemic pushed me to adapt to work from home. It was tough at first making that transition, but I quickly welcomed the efficiency of virtual meetings and flexibility with my family life. I think we have become more flexible as an industry by making work-life balance more achievable. The pandemic has also changed the way we approach HVAC design in buildings, especially hospitals. We are continuously assisting our clients to provide guidance on their building systems and operations to improve air quality and reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2.

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

I would like to participate in outreach to young students and encourage them to pursue a career in engineering. There is a deficit of engineers in our industry, and I would like to get students in middle school and high school interested in engineering.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

I wanted to be a mortuary scientist prior to taking interest in engineering. I job shadowed an autopsy in high school and found it to be very fascinating.

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

My parents are the first to whom I give credit for helping me succeed; they have always encouraged me to push myself and to be my best. They are my biggest cheerleaders and have supported my entire career. My former boss, Brian Heideman, saw the potential in me to be a department leader and provided me with the tools and encouragement to succeed.

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

Face the challenge head on and never give up. There is so much opportunity for you. Be confident in yourself and go with your instincts.