March 9, 2010Her job: CEO, OnShore Engineering & Construction
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I participate in road design project, environmental waste management projects, wind energy projects and general construction projects. Also as the head of my own engineering and construction company, I am responsible for hiring engineers and construction managers as well as overseeing their work.
Why did you choose engineering?
I love civil engineering! I choose civil engineering because it was very easy to relate to and understand. Everything you do in a typical day somehow involves the work of a civil engineer. When you wake up in the morning and flush a toilet, a sanitary engineer is responsible for the waste management. When you drive to school everyday, a civil engineering road designer like me is responsible for the design of the road you traveled. When you get to the school, a civil engineer and architect were responsible for the design and structure of the building. The entire layout of the city is the work of city planners which is a discipline of civil engineering. It is a great profession and not for boys only!
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. I have a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering. I also have an MBA in Information Systems from Keller Graduate School of Management in Chicago.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
In the early days of my career, I did a lot of CADD (Computer Aided Design and Drafting). I worked for Intergraph Corporation (based in Huntsville, AL) I worked on many fun projects involving road design modeling, site engineering, plant design and many others. I also worked on some projects that were more mechanical engineering such as a heat loss project to develop alternative heating systems for 64 buildings at one of the U.S. Steel plants.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
I like the fact that I can do almost anything as an engineer! Civil engineering is a very well-rounded education and through my work, it is easy to see the result of my efforts which are most often long lasting. Roads and bridges last for 40 - 60 years and beyond. I also like the fact that the profession is well-respected and in demand. With incidents such as bridge collapses and hurricane Katrina, you can clearly see the need for civil engineering and what could go wrong if engineers are not allowed to do what they know needs to be done.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I am most proud of the fact that I have been able to establish and own my own company. As a female civil engineer, I recognize that I am in a special, unique group. As an African American woman, I recognize that there are few of us in civil engineering. I am hoping to help change that by encouraging more women of ALL races to pursue a career in civil engineering. I am also VERY PROUD of the fact that I graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. I have a great fondness for the University and all that it's meant in my life. I have traveled throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. My engineering career has allowed me to see the world in a way that would not be possible with other career options. I have had the time of my life and feel very priviledged to be a female engineer in the United States of America where anything is possible.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
I was raised in Chicago's notorious housing projects. Many young ladies ended up pregnant and dropped out of school. Most don't go to college or finish high school. My high school was ranked among the lowest in the State. I was able to over come this challenge by getting good grades and earning a spot at the U.W. -Madison. I made the deans list while at the U.W. and received in 2008 the U.W. College of Engineering Distinguished Career Achievement Award. This year, I will be receiving a Construction Lifetime Achievement Award.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. I grew up in Chicago's inner city housing projects. Although I was surrounded by gangs and poverty, my mother was very focused on education and made sure I studied. She encouraged all of us (1 brother and 1 sister) to achieve and get a higher education. My mom was a great influence on me and the main reason why I pursued my higher education. My brother was an airforce pilot and my sister graduated from Columbia College. My dad died when I was about 7 years old.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
My short term goals are to drive OnShore Engineering & Construction to higher levels of profitability and create at least 500 construction jobs across the country. Long term, I would like to retire and pass the company along to my children.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
My mother was clearly a great influence. Also, I had great college advisors who influenced me.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
DEFINITELY PURSUE A CAREER IN ENGINEERING! Do not be intimidated by the math and science - if you put your mind to it, you can do anything! Engineering is not for boys! Dont fall into that trap! If you like helping people and you believe you are creative, engineering is an excellent career choice. Also, dont be afraid to ask for help. I got through college with the help of many tutors!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I play the drums and I love bicycle riding. I have an Apple Mac Mini and Garage Band! I used to play drums in the marching band in high school but now I just play for fun. I have an electric bike and a 15-speed bike. I love to ride along the lake front of Chicago!