Possessing a strong disposition toward science and mathematics wasn’t all that drove me to attain a career in engineering. I was actually born right alongside the family civil engineering business.
My father is a civil engineer and started his own firm the same year I was born. Running the company was a family affair. With my mom as the accountant, I spent many weekends of my childhood at the office as my father and his team worked into the night to turn out proposals. As a kid, I remember being so bored during those office trips, but in reality I was being exposed to the intricacies of the civil engineering field.
This exposure helped me to understand how an engineering business was run. During my junior year in high school, I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and venture into civil engineering.
My ability to excel in subjects like science and math, combined with the exposure to engineering careers, was the true motivation behind this decision. The engineering industry was something I knew, and I imagined eventually working with my father and running the company, or even starting my own.
After completing my undergraduate degree, I decided a master’s degree would better position myself and broaden my experience. I was also determined not to use any of my father’s connections and to gain my first job post-graduation on my own. After I completed my master’s program, I found my first job in New York as a geotechnical engineer, where I stood on a drill rig in the field for two years gaining a better understanding of soil-structure interaction.
In 2007, I moved to San Francisco and continued as a structural engineer working on seismic retrofit projects. My bosses in San Francisco threw me in the deep end of project management soon after I arrived. I went on to serve as lead structural engineer and project manager on a variety of projects.
I met my husband, Greg, a lifelong Dallas resident, and decided to move to Dallas in 2012. I led projects with unique structural loading, such as high seismic loading, hurricane forces, dynamic blast design and tornado hardening. My mentor in Dallas was an entrepreneur, and her work and leadership further inspired me to become a strong role model for women in the industry.
Four and a half years later, I arrived at Burns & McDonnell. I would not be in my position here without the breadth of experience I gained over the years. While my family connections to civil engineering are what gave me my inspiration, it was my work ethic and the focus on gaining as much technical knowledge and experience as I could in the field is that has brought me where I am today.
My advice is to find a great mentor who has already forged a path that can help guide you. Being a woman in engineering is incredibly powerful and is a huge asset — embrace it. Finally, nothing is more important than continuous learning and hard work to help you stand out among your peers.