20 to Watch: Women in HVAC - Kerry Bruggemann
Principal, Michaud Cooley Erickson
Name: Kerry Bruggemann
Title: Principal, Michaud Cooley Erickson
Educational Experience: B.S. in mechanical engineering, Villanova University.
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: P.E. and LEED AP.
Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers (MnSPE) member of the board of directors 2008-2010, secretary/treasurer 2010-2011, president-elect 2011-2012, president 2012-2013, and past president 2013-2014; National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Race for Relevance Delivery Systems Task Force 2012-2013, 2013 annual meeting committee, 2014 annual meeting committee, 2015 annual meeting committee, 2015 annual meeting committee – co-chair, 2013-2014 Membership Messaging Task Force, and chair of the 2014-2015 Membership Messaging Task Force; Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW) programs committee 2018; MnSPE Young Engineer of the Year – 2014; New Faces of Engineering – 2015; Villanova University Alumni Board of Directors, 2014-present); Delta Gamma advisor 2009-2012 at the University of Minnesota, advisor of the year in 2012.
When did you fall in love with engineering?
I have loved engineering since I was a kid building with Legos, but it really started to build during high school. I attended Benilde-St. Margaret, where they had an advanced competitive science (ACS) program, where we entered a series of engineering competitions, including the National Engineering Design Challenge (NEDC). My team built a device we called the “keygrip,” which was used to help those with dexterity issues hold onto a key. My grandmother used it from 2002, when we created it, until she passed away in 2017. That experience sparked a passion for engineering that influenced my college path.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
I work with a team of incredible people who everyday work to create comfortable, safe, well-lit and clean spaces for people. Seeing people take pride and satisfaction in their work and seeing their designs come to life is really rewarding. When something transforms from lines on a paper to real-life ductwork, piping, and functioning systems, everyone appreciates the team that makes that happen.
What challenges do women face in this profession? Why aren’t there more women in engineering?
As with any male-dominated industry, it’s difficult to feel a connection in the same way in the industry as your male counter parts. This lack of connection can be either defining or driving depending on the individual. I tend to be in the driving camp, as I love finding ways to create a space for women in the industry to excel and shine. Additionally, I don’t think it’s a profession that women were very aware of until more recently. As more women join the marketplace, they can thrive and grow professionally. I think the more education and promotion that the industry can do, the more that gap will continue to close.
Describe what your job entails on a day-to-day basis.
I’m currently working within the aviation industry almost exclusively. My main client is the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which largely focuses on the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Most days you can find me there working on a variety of different types of projects from retail to infrastructure improvements. If I’m not at the airport, I’m in our office working on internal management initiatives or collaborating with one of our design partners, developing a strategy to win our next big project. The best part of my job is that no two days are the same; they are each challenging in their own way.
What drives/motivates you every day?
I’m driven to create a wonderful workplace for our employees and produce unique and successful projects for our clients. Michaud Cooley Erickson (MCE) is lucky to have incredible clients who value and appreciate their MEP infrastructure and value its role in the building. Additionally, we have one of the best teams of people. I could never dream of working with a better team — they’re dedicated and excited each day to tackle the next new project. Making sure they have something new to tackle the next day drives me to do more.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
When I became a Professional Engineer (P.E.) my father was the secretary of the Minnesota Board of Licensure. Becoming a P.E. was a milestone experience for me, but my father’s pride in signing my P.E. certificate was enormous. This is something not many people can say has happened for them and something I will cherish forever.
What remains on your engineering bucket list — what do you aspire to do that you haven’t done yet?
I aspire to continue to make a mark on aviation design across the country. Whether that be through airport cooperative research programs (ACRP) or at new airport campuses that MCE doesn’t currently work on. I truly hope we can bring our engineering expertise to other airports across the country and help them with creative engineering solutions.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
I have run two marathons — the Twin Cities Marathon in 2008 and 2009.
List any mentors who’ve helped you succeed and describe exactly how they’ve shaped your success.
Doug Cooley, my father, has been a huge mentor to me. He is the president of MCE and has always been there for me. Challenging me more than any other employee, expecting the most from me, and making sure I was always working harder than everyone else. He has taught me the value of design, being a part of your community and valuing those around you. He’s an amazing man and I am lucky to work for him.
Sherm Cooley, my grandfather, is one of the founders of MCE. He is a true engineer and really embodies what MCE stands for. He focused on the details of the design and was a master in steam design. He built what the company is today. He was always amazed that I was interested in what he did and how things worked when I was a child. I think of him often in my work and how he would handle a situation.
What does the future hold for you?
The future looks bright. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow in my career by expanding our client list, partnering on challenging projects, and finding new ways to share with the engineering profession. I plan to expand my involvement within the community through boards and outreach programs as a way to share my expertise with the broader community. At MCE, I enjoy mentoring future leaders and helping our staff continue to grow and develop. Personally, I look forward to watching my family grow and will maintain my support of Villanova University.
What advice do you have for prospective female engineers considering entering the field?
Make sure you speak up, ask questions when you don’t understand something, and know that you can do anything you set your mind to. That is something my parents always taught me. When we were touring Villanova University, before I was accepted, my parents and I were standing in a wind tunnel and my mom asked me, “Do you really want to do this?” I responded by saying, “You don’t think I can do this?” Being the strong and empowering woman she is, she said, “You can do anything you set your mind to, but do you want to do this?” She didn’t want me to do it because my family before me had, she wanted me to do it for me. So, make sure you’re doing it for you, and when you do, go for it with great gusto.