Colista Freeman
Colista Freeman
Senior Planner, Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
Cary, NC

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Close Up
  • 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.
  • Any other stories or comments you would like to share with EngineerGirl visitors?
    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!
  • 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.
Latest Questions
  • Daniel, Liverpool

    Added Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    Hi! I'm considering becoming a civil engineer, but I have two questions: as an engineer, do you have to get your hands grubby on-site? I'm more interested in the office and design aspect of engineering, would I be able to stick to that or will I be required to get a bit messy on-site? Also, do I need to be able to drive as an engineer? I have a medical condition that prevents me from being able to drive unfortunately! Thanks!
    Answers 1
    Colista Freeman, Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
    Answered Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 9:09 AM

    One of the great things about civil engineering is that there is a huge variety of jobs you can do! If you prefer to work in an office, stick with planning and design – there is typically very little outside work. Sometimes you will need to visit a ...

    Read More
  • Nasly, Jersey city

    Added Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 12:39 AM

    Hello, I'm currently a student at a community college majoring in Engineering Science. After I get my Associate I would like to major in Civil Engineering, but I'm kind of wondering if this means that I have to travel a lot. I don't like traveling. So my question is does civil engineers travel a lot?
    Answers 1
    Colista Freeman, Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
    Answered Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 12:39 AM
    Many civil engineers are able to work without traveling extensively. It simply depends on your employer and the type of engineering work you do. Working on the construction side of civil engineering will often require more travel, since work occurs on ...
    Read More
  • Mary, high school, sydney, Australia

    Added Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 1:25 AM

    Once you become a civil engineer, do you have time to be a normal wife and mother? In forums I have noticed some engineers discussing how long hours keep them from important family life. Is this in issue in any of your circumstances? Thank you in advance!! :)
    Answers 1
    Colista Freeman, Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
    Answered Sunday, December 29, 2013 at 1:25 AM
    While there are many civil engineers who devote an enormous amount of time to their work, there are many others who seek to strike more of a balance between work and home. If you want to take the more balanced approach, the key is to find an employer who ...Read More
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