May 30, 2014Her job: Civil Engineer, US Army Corps of Engineers; Louisville District
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
For the past four years I have been working with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Louisville, Kentucky and have been provided with so many opportunities in such a short period of time. Our region includes Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, but we have offices across the world! So much to see, so little time!
I have worked with the Environmental Engineering Branch on environmental projects in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, California, New York, and even helped out with American Samoa. Our branch is comprehensive as we provide in-house support, contract support, technical management, and oversite for many of our projects. My every day job is to provide technical support of environmental contamination and restoration projects. Being a technical manager includes everything from preparing reports, maintaining schedules and budgets, serving as liaison to local, state, and federal agencies, and keeping the public informed of our activities.
Why did you choose engineering?
This answer is simple, because I always want to know why something is the way it is or acts the way it does. I will forever be someone who wants to know more, asks 1,000 questions, needs to understand, seeks to learn, wants to be surrounded by equally curious people, and is never satisfied with “because” as an answer. I bet I drove my parents crazy.
The thing is, I didn’t know any engineers growing up, and I honestly did not even know what it meant to be an engineer. But I have since learned that engineers are all about the ‘why’, the ‘how’, and the ‘what if’. We ponder, we think, we tinker, we guess, we may never be satisfied, and so we keep moving forward. That’s why I became an engineer, because we do that every single day.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
University of Cincinnati, Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
Another really cool part of my job is that I am a member of the Louisville District’s debris removal emergency operations team that is sent to emergencies across the world at a moment’s notice. Most recently I traveled to New York City to help out with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. With support from the US Army Corps of Engineers, most debris was removed within five months of the hurricane that devastated much of the coast in New Jersey and New York. This assignment opened the door for another temporary assignment in New York District to support the restoration efforts for coastal restoration along New Jersey and New York.
Outside of my work assignments, I serve as the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Committee Chair for the Society of American Military Engineers and volunteer with outreach and scholarship committees for the Society of Women Engineers.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
The sky is the limit. In my short career, I have had a chance to work on hundreds of jobs including: construction, land development, water and wastewater treatment, transportation (roadway design, retaining walls, multi-modal design, traffic), environmental (soils, groundwater, vapor, planning, remediation, restoration, water quality, compliance), public health, hydrology and hydraulics, and coastal and ecosystem restoration…to name a few.
Oh the places you’ll go. I have worked in Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; New York City, New York; Morant Bay, Jamaica; and Kingston, Jamaica! To top that, work has taken me to Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., New Jersey, and California.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer for three years. This experience built the foundation for my success as an engineer. It taught me that there are thousands of ways in which you can accomplish a task. My Peace Corps experiences reinforced the importance of collaboration, because when all parties contribute, then everyone feels a sense of ownership and responsibility. Since I have returned I have had the opportunity to mentor a few friends through their application process and during their service in several countries. The Peace Corps is my other family; one that just keeps growing with each nervous and excited volunteer that packs their bags for two (or more!) years.
Another career accomplishment has been my contributions on the Hurricane Sandy efforts! We were working over 60 hour work weeks, with very little rest, and extremely demanding workload. Every day presented a new set of challenges: one day I would find myself briefing senior staff, the next I would be providing oversight in the field, and the next executing contracts and coordinating with multiple different agencies. Not only were we able to provided a much needed service to the community by ensuring timely execution of clean-up efforts, but we were able to complete these actions in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations. We also succeeded in executing a ‘green clean-up’ by beneficially reusing 100% of concrete and sand and over 75% of vegetative materials. While on this mission I built professional mentorships and relationships that span from New York City to Sacramento.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
I always want to do more. My biggest challenge continues to be that I want to gain experience everywhere and learn everything. This seems to be a challenge, just as much as it is a success. By traveling, learning, and establishing relationships, I build my personal and professional experiences and network. The challenge with wanting more is that there will always be so much more to do than I have time for and I need to practice living in the moment so as not to miss anything.
Please tell us a little about your family.
My parents raised me in Cincinnati, and brought up all four of their children there. My three siblings are all younger than me (two, four, and eight years younger, to be exact) and I am close with all of them. Thankfully through some pretty excellent technology (and engineering I might add), we have easily stayed in communication even while I lived in Jamaica. Currently my parents live in Cincinnati, my brother lives in Charlotte as a physical therapist, my sister and her husband live in Texas (both physical therapists), and my youngest sister is pursuing her masters in business in Cincinnati. As you can see, we live all over! Thankfully we are never more than a quick drive, train ride, or plane trip away (all possible thanks to more engineers!)
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
One of my short and long term goals is to be happy. This is definitely a goal that I revisit often. I never want to become complacent or just let life pass me by. I need to seek out every opportunity I can and continue to stretch my mind and my imagination with the endless possibilities ahead of me. Another short and long term goal is maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. My parents have taught me many things throughout my life, but one of the most important lessons was to maintain balance between friends, family, personal, and professional responsibilities. One last goal I hope to continue throughout my life is to seek and provide mentoring, as I believe that mentorships provide one of the most lasting effects. I would not be where I am today without the many mentors I have had along the way. I can only hope to pass on the little I have learned so far with others.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
Definitely my parents. I hope to be able to show them just how much their guidance has led me to become the person I have become today. While I was growing up I did not fully appreciate how much they really knew their stuff.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
If you’re here, reading this, you should definitely go for it. Engineering opens up your world to all kinds of adventures. If you’re second guessing yourself or want someone to talk to, feel free to contact me!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
One thing I’ve always been teased about is my inability to sit still. I have tried everything under the sun (though I’m sure I will always find more). Here’s a list of a few of my hobbies:
• sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball, running, cycling, rock climbing, yoga, swing dancing, square dancing, snow skiing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, ice skating)
• cooking and baking (random adventures in the kitchen and cookie decorating)
• learning, reading, and writing (continued education, listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, blogging)
• outreach (volunteering, leadership training, mentorships)
• random things (juggling, headstands (currently learning to do a handstand), knitting, card-making, event planning, derby hat decorating, collecting maps and globes…this list could last forever)
• the arts (photography, practicing piano, attending musical festivals, musicals, and concerts)
• traveling (I’ve been to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Canada, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin, and this summer I will go to California, Colorado, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New York, and maybe even Panama City, Panama!
• whatever else catches my eye!