Title: Mechanical Engineer, Arup
Educational Experience: Bachelor and master’s degrees in architectural engineering
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Professional engineer (P.E.) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Associate (LEED GA)
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: Illinois ASHRAE president-elect; Illinois ASHRAE student activities chair; author of “Lucy’s Engineering Adventure;” and Architecture, Construction, Engineering (ACE) Chicago mentor
What does your day-to-day job entail?
I am typically working on three or four different projects in various phases of design and construction. I have a mix of design and project management duties. I perform various load calculations, pressure calculations, equipment selections, and modeling calculations. I am also in various meetings throughout the day, speaking with architects, contractors, and clients of the various projects to coordinate.
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
I always enjoyed math. It clicked for me. I also enjoyed putting things together, whether it be a jigsaw puzzle or IKEA furniture. In high school, I fell into drafting and construction classes and really enjoyed the idea of combining creativity with practicality and science. My parents told me to research engineering for a college major, and, after much research, I found architectural engineering. It seemed to combine my two interests, and, from that day onward, I was set on this path.
What has been the most rewarding/proudest aspect of your engineering career?
The most rewarding achievement in my career was having the ability to write a children’s book for ASHRAE that promotes STEM and engineering to young kids, specifically young girls. It was a passion project of mine that started five years ago when I suggested the idea during a regional training for ASHRAE. I have been an active member in ASHRAE’s student activities committee and have always had a passion for youth outreach. To be able to hold the final product and see industry members share it with their children is so rewarding. It's my hope that the children who read it identify with the characters, and it helps open their eyes to the world of engineering.
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?
There are many challenges women in STEM still face. First and foremost, there is still a prevalent unconscious bias in the industry when it comes to women in STEM. I have been to many events where I was asked if I was a volunteer or someone’s daughter rather than a professional in our field. While this perception is slowly changing, it will take a cognizant effort within our industry to become more aware and transparent. Other challenges include professionalism in a historically male-dominated field, where the mentality of “work hard, play hard” is often used. This has led to inappropriate comments and situations that could be construed as sexual harassment. “Locker room talk” in mixed company is no longer acceptable in professional situations. Often times, these situations occur during conferences or external events in more relaxed environments. The last challenge is in part due to the lack of women representatives in the industry. When there are so few women in the industry, it can quickly turn into a competition of who can stay relevant rather than building our female peers up and supporting each other’s success. The first step to increasing women in STEM is to create an environment where men and women can excel and feel equally supported. This includes having equal time for parental leave for both men and women, having flexible work hours so men and women can share workload and familial responsibilities, having diverse representation in the leadership team, and maintaining accountability for both the firms and employees’ actions. To attract more women in STEM, starting interest in math and sciences at a young age will have the largest impact. We must teach girls in elementary grades they can have STEM careers, and success has more to do with determination and curiosity than academic excellence. Oftentimes, children think they need to be top math and science students to pursue these fields, and that is not the case. We must expose them to different careers in STEM in an engaging and exciting way and give them the confidence to pursue these careers by seeing fellow women like themselves in these roles.
How many years have you been active in the engineering sector? What’s changed the most in that time? What’s changed the least?
The importance of resilience and sustainability has taken a noticeable turn over the last eight years I’ve been a part of the industry. Companies have started taking accountability in their climate impacts, either through carbon assessments, turning to electric, or providing additional supporting data and metrics to help drive the effort of carbon neutrality.
What’s changed the least is the focus and priority that cost has to a project. In our industry, I don’t see that changing; however, I do hope the cost of more sustainable options goes down over time, making it a more attainable goal for the end users.
What drives/motivates you every day?
My goal is progress. Whether it’s progress within a project, expanding my technical knowledge on a specific topic, or progress in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives, I strive to end my day with progress made. I try to be the role model I wish to see in the industry.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
A dream of mine would be to host a kids’ show where we play with engineering principles, tour or explore different careers, and conduct interactive experiments and games that would ignite kids’ interests in STEM. There are so many niche careers out there that don’t get any exposure. It would be wonderful to introduce kids to these.
Career wise, I’d love the opportunity to work in Europe one day as well as have the opportunity to work on a truly net-zero or net-positive building.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I am a blue ribbon apple pie winner.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe precisely how they’ve shaped your success.
First and foremost, my parents have shaped me to be the woman I am today. My mom and dad have always been my No. 1 supporters in all I do. I lost my dad my senior year of college, and, to this day, I still remember how he cried the day I received my scholarship to school. My mom is one of my best friends. Whenever I receive good news, she is one of the first I call. All that I do, I do to make them proud. They have given me my love of numbers and questions and always encouraged me to speak my mind, assert myself, and stand up for what I believe in. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Find your voice, and don’t shy away from challenges. Be a team player, but stand up for yourself. Nobody is perfect. We are all constantly learning. Imposter syndrome is real, and everyone experiences it. The best you can do is try to better yourself every day.
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