Melanie Soto-Medina

Current Position: President & Structural Engineer at Cragnolin Engineering and Design Associates DPC
Melanie Soto-Medina
Highlight Just do it! Get your degree, get the experience, and get licensed.
December 12, 2011Her job: Owner, Structural Engineer, Cragnolin Design Associates
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I am Managing Partner and Structural Engineer for Cragnolin Design Associates. CDA was established in May of 2009 as a professional design consulting firm, capable of providing clients with a variety of civil engineering services. We provide a comprehensive approach to the art and design of the built environment.
Why did you choose engineering? The various fields of engineering are so exciting. I am an artist, but was also mathematically inclined. I took college courses in various engineering disciplines, and finally set my sights on Architectural Engineering. I studied building systems and bridges, as well as project management and control. I believe engineering chose me ;)
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I hold a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering from Drexel University, and a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, and am a licensed Professional Engineer in the States of Connecticut and New York.  I started at Villanova, but transferred to Drexel University and completed my BS in AE in 2003. I've also taken various courses at Reading Area Community College, and at Penn State University. I was the ultimate transfer/commuter student! I then completed a MS degree in Engineering Management in 2008 at NJIT via distance learning. Distance Learning is a working mother's best friend.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? My firm offers comprehensive professional design services specializing in the following: * Structural Condition Assessments - Condition inspection and structural analysis to evaluate an existing structure. * Intelligent Structural Modeling - 3D Structural Analysis and Design (also known as BIM - Building and/or Bridge Information Modeling). * Light Gauge Cold-Formed Steel Framing (CFSF) as Specialty Structural Engineer (SSE) of both low and mid-sized commercial structures. * Critical Path Method (CPM) - Primavera P6 Construction Scheduling and Review.
What do you like best about being an engineer? The pay and advancement for me has been excellent, and the job security during this very difficult economic period is very important to me as a professional. Starting my own firm has been challenging and very rewarding. This profession is constantly changing...there are very exciting possibilities on the horizon!
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? Many times, I was the only woman on a construction site. I had to stand up for myself and be able to prove that I knew the project and could make appropriate decisions. I am proud to have chosen a profession so underrepresented by women because I know we can change that.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? I had a very unique situation where I was commuting to college from Reading to Philadelphia PA for three years, while raising two children. I was also working at night delivering pizzas and on the weekends at a bank! It was financially difficult as well...but it was all worth it. I had to make time to study as every minute counted.
Please tell us a little about your family. I am married and have three children, a boy and two girls. We own a home on Long Island. My husband is a Landscape Designer. My son will be entering the Navy this upcoming summer. My older daughter is thinking about the culinary arts, and my youngest...well I have my eye on her to be a future engineer!
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? My short term goals continue to be focused on obtaining new business and delivering a quality product on time and on budget. My long term goal is for my firm to lead the industry toward the goal of BrIM (bridge information modeling). We are determined to become a leader in “Intelligent Infrastructure” implementing structural modeling from project inception. Committed to our professional endeavor of utilizing the most accurate and thorough technology available for “Integrated Project Delivery,” we proceed with the proper tools used to plan, design, construct, and maintain the infrastructure of tomorrow.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? I've received a ton of "bad advice." So I have to answer that I've actually trusted my instincts and looked to myself. I knew what I wanted to be involved in, and how I wanted to live my life, and I never let anything stop me. I was surrounded by loving and supporting parents who trusted me enough to let me do what I wanted.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? Just do it! Get your degree, get the experience, and get licensed. Then start your own boutique engineering firm. No matter what you decide, find a woman to be your mentor. It took me a long time to figure this out, but now that I have, I wish I had done it when I was in high school.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I've always loved reading. I also adore foreign and independent films.