Colista Freeman

Current Position: Senior Planner at Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
Colista Freeman
Highlight I have had a number of very interesting work opportunities. One such opportunity arose when I got to fly over the Outer Banks of North Carolina in a helicopter to help photograph areas of a road that are in danger of being washed away by the ocean. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget!
Her job: Senior Planner, Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I manage environmental studies for different kinds of projects, including construction of new roads, widening of existing roads, replacement of bridges, and restoration of marshes.
Why did you choose engineering? I wanted a career that would give me lots of options and would be something I could enjoy. I took the Myers-Briggs Personality Test my freshman year of college, which showed me that many people with personalities similar to mine were in engineering fields. I researched the different areas of engineering and decided Civil Engineering was the best fit for me.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I attended Peace College in Raleigh, NC, where I earned an Associate of Art degree. I then transferred to North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? I work with federal, state, and local agencies to make sure that my projects do the least amount of damage possible to the environment. Some of the agencies involved these projects include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the North Carolina Division of Water Quality, the State Historic Preservation Office, and local cities and towns. My job also involves a lot of interaction with citizens. I often meet with the public to discuss my projects and find out what their concerns are. So not only do we take the natural environment into consideration, we also consider the impacts of projects on the human environment. Writing is also a big part of my work. I incorporate all of the environmental studies and concerns of the agencies and the public into a written document for each project. The document should be easy for anyone to read and understand.
What do you like best about being an engineer? I like trying to find solutions to problems. I also like the diversity of my work. Each day, I come into contact with different people, such as biologists, historians, archaeologists, lawyers, and politicians.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? I earned my North Carolina Professional Engineer license in 2003. It involved a lot of studying, but it was worth it!
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? I was always a good student from elementary to high school, but engineering school was a huge challenge. I had to study a lot more, and I wasn't at the top of my class. However, I didn't let it get me down. I stuck with it, and now that I'm in the working world, I feel like I've found my niche!
Please tell us a little about your family. I am married to a Civil Engineer, and we have a two-year old son (who seems to also have a knack for problem-solving!). I am an only child who grew up on a farm. My mom is a teacher and my dad is a surveyor.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? In the next couple of years, I plan to pursue professional certifications (in addition to my current North Carolina Professional Engineer license). Long-term, I plan to expand my work experience beyond transportation projects. I want to help ensure that all types of infrastructure are constructed or improved with as little harm to the environment as possible.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? My parents definitely had a huge influence on my choices. They have always been very encouraging and supportive, and they set great examples for me. Since I've been married, my husband has been a big influence. Like my parents, he is so supportive of me and encourages me to keep learning and growing in my life and career.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Find a woman who is in the engineering field and talk to her, maybe even spend some time with her at work, if possible. Part-time jobs and internships are also a great way to see what the engineering world is like. There are so many facets to engineering that it could take time to find exactly what you want to do, so be patient and be open to the learning opportunities that arise.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I have always loved to read. "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott is my favorite book. I even got to visit the Alcott house several years ago in Concord, Massachusetts! I also love to travel. I spent three weeks in England during college as part of a foreign study course. I've also gotten the chance to visit Boston, New Orleans, Denver, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C. during the past ten years.