Title: Project Manager, Mueller Associates

Age: 42

Educational Experience: Integrated bachelor and master’s degrees in architectural engineering, Penn State University (2003)

Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Professional engineer (P.E.) in Maryland and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional Building Design and Construction (LEED AP BD+C)

Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE associate member and Baltimore Revit User Group advisory board member

What does your day-to-day job entail? 

Mueller Associates provides consulting design services for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) disciplines. I manage several projects in our office, ranging from a one-room renovation to a new, 180,000-square-foot academic building at a university. I track the project budget and staffing, interface with clients, and ensure projects are delivered on time. As a mechanical engineer, I also develop many of the mechanical designs for the projects I manage.

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

I realized in high school that my interests were well-suited to engineering. It stood out to me as a profession that would challenge me and make good use of my skills. I’m very interested in the building industry and how a building performs.

What has been the most rewarding/proudest aspect of your engineering career?

Many of our projects are either open to the public, such as museums, or heavily used by students at universities. It’s an amazing feeling to visit the buildings we have designed after they are in use and see how they are enjoyed by visitors.

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 don’t think there is just one specific challenge to women in HVAC or one specific reason why there aren’t more women in my profession. Unfortunately, it's a combination of several factors, which is why it makes it so hard to fix. In general, I think there is a tendency for women not to be taken as seriously as men in the HVAC industry. When female engineers are just starting out, this can be falsely attributed to being new to the profession. But, as they continue through their careers, I think some women start to realize they still aren’t treated the same as their male counterparts, which can be very frustrating. But, women also leave because of caregiving duties for family members, a desire for a different career, or for several other reasons.

I think providing career outreach to schools, especially high schools, is important because there are so many different careers in engineering. I think more kids need to learn about different, specific careers and learn what they need to do educationally if they want to pursue that career.

How many years have you been active in the engineering sector? What’s changed the most in that time? What’s changed the least?

I have been an engineer for 19 years. Since I started, there is much more preplanning and prefabrication in construction. I started in the industry before building information modeling (BIM) or virtual design and construction (VDC) were widely used, and these processes have transformed the industry. Now, the entire building can be coordinated virtually in a federated 3D model, which greatly reduces construction rework. Contractors can also use 3D models to prefabricate their work, which can greatly reduce on-site labor costs.

What drives/motivates you every day?

I am motivated by a desire to keep clients and project end users happy. I am also motivated by a desire to keep learning new things every day.

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

I’d like to find ways to improve the relationships between design teams and contractors.

What’s one thing no one knows about you?

I’m not sure it’s a secret, but I love bringing my 9-year-old daughter to the office and our projects. I recently brought her to the newly renovated National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., our largest project to date. She really likes math, loves building things, and has an interest in STEM activities. She’s able to see, at a young age, where a career in design and construction might lead.

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

The current principal staff members at our company have done a great job of advocating for and encouraging me and other women in our office.

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

I think younger female engineers need to think about how they want to have an impact on the world. They can have a huge impact by becoming HVAC engineers. We have an important opportunity to reduce the amount of energy used in buildings, provide better indoor thermal comfort and air quality, and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.