Title: Field Operations/Project Manager, The LiRo Group
Educational Experience: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, SUNY, New Paltz
What does your day-to-day job entail?
Each day can vary depending on what stage a project is in. I always write everything down, since there are multiple projects going on, which helps me stay organized. A typical day may include a few meetings, reviewing drawings or change orders, and communicating between all of our different departments (for example, design, legal, or the field team).
I also manage a few projects behind the scenes using Procore construction management software, which allows me to keep track of those projects to make sure they are going smoothly.
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
My father is a very handy man who basically rebuilt our home piece by piece. Even at 4 years old, I had to be right there with him to help. He taught me there was always a way to fix something, even if it seems impossible.
Growing up I was an artist, constantly doodling and painting. In fact, I originally wanted to pursue a fine arts degree in college, but I also had a huge love for math and science. Turns out, engineering is a perfect mixture of creativity and numbers. I like to think mechanical engineers are problem-solvers, as there is always a creative way to solve a problem.
What has been the most rewarding/proudest aspect of your engineering career?
Being still fresh into my career, I am most proud of my ability to adapt to new situations. At the time I was hired, my position was in the field, working in train yards. With COVID-19 and supply chain issues, that project came to a pause, and I was brought into the office world. This was a major adjustment, and I was tasked with learning what goes on behind the scenes of a project. For example, out in the field, I never had to worry about the logistics if we needed a new tool or more hardware. Now, I am reviewing those change orders for each project.
Over the summer, I was tasked to travel to upstate New York for a commissioning project. This was extremely rewarding, as I was the personal representative from my company on-site. I held the safety meetings and organized how the commissioning progressed.
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?
Women face challenges every single day in this profession and have to work 10 times harder to gain the respect and acknowledgement they deserve. Women must prove to themselves they belong here, whereas men are automatically accepted, but that is what happens when you enter such a male-dominated profession.
Unfortunately, there are too many examples. While working in the field in the train shops, I oversaw a group of electricians who were installing equipment in the trains. The younger portion accepted me quickly; however, the older generation questioned my judgement quite frequently. Over time, I proved I belonged and gained their respect. This took time, as there were two things rooting against me — not only am I a woman, but I’m also especially young to be in that type of position.
It's truly a shame there are not more women in engineering. I feel this may be due to a lack of exposure. The younger generations are not exposed to all of the amazing things engineering has to offer. Some assume its just designing or working on a machine. There is such a widespread variety of engineering that they do not know about.
I believe it's our generation’s role and responsibility to expose them to how incredible engineering is. That, yes, even though you, as a woman, will have to work harder, it is also 10 times more rewarding. Instead of gifting young girls dolls and mini-kitchens, give them Legos and kinetics blocks, let them build something, and encourage them to create something new with their hands.
How many years have you been active in the engineering sector? What’s changed the most in that time? What’s changed the least?
This is the very beginning of my career, being only active for three years now, and COVID took away some time out of that as well. COVID has changed a lot and affected the supply chain heavily in the construction management world.
What drives/motivates you every day?
My passion for solving problems drives me every day, as I hope to leave some sort of mark on the world no matter how small. I am extremely grateful for where I am today. There were days I didn’t think I could get here. What motivates me is to learn more, to better myself, and make my projects the absolute best they can be. There is nothing better than seeing a project you had your hands on reach completion.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
My engineering bucket list is quite long, as I am still at the start of my career. Aside from taking the P.E. exam one day, becoming a certified construction manager (CCM) is high on the list. Being an engineer in the construction world has given me a bit of an advantage that I would like to continue. I’m also interested in becoming more involved with design-build projects. They are new to the industry and New York as a whole. Earning a Design-Build Institute of America (DBIA) certification is definitely on my list as well.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I absolutely love to cook and create new recipes. Hosting small dinners for friends and family is one of my favorite things to do.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe precisely how they’ve shaped your success.
My parents have been amazing mentors my entire life. They have always pushed me to succeed and achieve any goal I set my mind to. I can never thank my father enough for teaching me all he knows on how to fix things and become a problem-solver. I'd also like to recognize my mother for her endless support and encouragement.
I owe my entire engineering career to my cousin Joey, who is a partner at a consulting engineering firm. I interned at his firm for multiple summers during college. He is the reason I can read and understand drawings and walk into a building and know what I’m looking at. I admire his work ethic and all the time he took out of his days to teach me.
Finally, I have to mention my current boss. After being pulled into the office from the field, I was nervous I would not understand this part of the industry. He has passed on so much knowledge that can only be learned from experience. He has trusted me with tasks I did not believe I was capable of, and his faith in me has pushed me further than I thought possible at my age.
I am forever grateful for the amazing role models I have in my life.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Pull your shoulders back, stand up straight, and pick up your chin. The way you walk into a room can have more of an impact than how or when you speak. Own who you are, stay true to yourself, and never give up.