Title: Mechanical Engineer, BR+A Consulting Engineers
Educational Experience: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Professional engineer (P.E.)
Organizational Affiliations/Achievements/Awards: ASHRAE St. Louis chapter board member and International Institute for Sustainable Laboratories (I2SL) chapter board member
What does your day-to-day job entail?
I work with a local and national team on health care and laboratory projects primarily in the Midwest, South, and on the East Coast. Right now, I am colocated on a construction site for a new design-build, 600,000-square-foot, health care project in St. Louis. Seeing a building I helped design has been an invaluable experience. I help to resolve any mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) issues that arise on-site and work closely with the contractors and architects on a day-to-day basis. On the design side, I work with the local BR+A St. Louis office on projects and help lead the HVAC and HVAC controls efforts for both new and renovation projects.
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
I first realized I had found my passion during the first few months of starting my career after graduation. My job was a hybrid of designing at a desk and being on-site to help with the closeout of a new 650-square-foot hospital. The challenges presented fueled me to learn more and feel like I was part of a team to help turnover a new hospital that would provide essential services to the community. My favorite part of my job is the problem-solving aspect but also seeing a physical finished product in the built environment that contributes to the greater good of society.
What has been the most rewarding/proudest aspect of your engineering career?
Seeing the end result is extremely rewarding. It’s rewarding to be able to point to something and recognize I got to be part of a team that helped to design and construct a building. I also enjoy working for a company that continues to push the envelope on finding new ways to reduce the impact on the built environment. Implementing sustainable designs is becoming more critical globally, so, for me, knowing I am doing my part is not only a responsibility but gives me a sense of pride.
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 think one of the biggest hurdles I can personally relate to is getting through the program in college. I personally felt somewhat isolated being one of few females in a male-dominated degree program. The number of women in my classes seemed to continually diminish, year after year. With that being said, I think there is opportunity to provide more support at the university level. I also think there needs to be resources for men to understand how to better support women in the construction industry. From being interrupted in meetings to feeling underrepresented, there’s a responsibility for us all to do our part to improve the gender gap in the industry.
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’ve been in the engineering industry for almost six years. Since I started, I’ve seen the most change in technology across the board. From project delivery methods to virtual design and construction (VDC) to new HVAC technology, there’s always something new to learn. In addition to technology, I would also say that how we work together has changed in our industry, thanks to the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, it was unusual to have virtual meetings with clients, external design team members, professional organizations, etc., but now it’s the assumed first option. Another big impact of the pandemic has been scheduling and budgeting projects. Project schedules have become increasingly demanding to ensure a project budget early on, which means any changes are that much more detrimental to both schedule and budget and, sometimes, a team dynamic. I’ve seen the least amount of change in the industry's day-to-day operations. Despite the change in how we do things, what we do continues to remain somewhat the same.
What drives/motivates you every day?
The first thing that comes to mind is exceeding clients’ expectations. Another important one to me personally is not losing sight of the big picture and end goal. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day, but keeping the end goal in mind is very important.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
I’ve always wanted to do at least one project outside of the U.S.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
Some people do know this, but I am an avid runner and really enjoy getting to run with some of my colleagues.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe precisely how they’ve shaped your success.
John Heger continues to support me and offer different perspectives on approaching problems. He also coached me over the past year to help me accomplish my goal of running a marathon in under four hours.
Craig Webster has always had my best interests in mind and has helped me navigate my career since the start. Craig has always been extremely supportive of me as a person and a professional. I always say that I “hit the jackpot” when people ask me about my boss, but I believe it to be true.
Buck Wolfhope took me under his wing soon after I started my career and invested a great deal of time and energy to help me grow into the professional I am today. I worked under Buck on-site for about a year and a half, but he still mentors me from a distance. I am grateful for his mentorship and everything I have learned from him. He also continues to take the same initiative with some of my peers.
Britt Ellis has guided me since the onset of my career, and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. From a technical perspective, he’s second to none. I have learned most of what I know about HVAC from him, and despite working in a different office, he always picks up the phone when I call. I hope to be half as good as him one day.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Find good mentors who will support you both personally and professionally; prioritize work-life balance; and take on challenging opportunities when presented. As long as you have the support, you will be successful and grow from the experience.
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