Karen Strauss
Karen Strauss
Pavement Design Engineer, Oregon Department of Transportation
Wilsonville, OR

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Close Up
  • Describe what you do in your current work situation.
    - Supervise staff of 3 coordinators, covering zone inspection, bridge inspection, subdivision inspection and engineering plan review
    - Supervise total staff complement of 25, including assigning and adjusting work, contract administration, interviewing, hiring and mentoring, Direct and review work of subordinates throughout construction project duration.
    - Under my supervision, staff has improved excellent record of turnaround time and customer service
    - Perform the more complex elements of project reviews, including roadways design, stormwater analyses, and approve variances for policy when appropriate. Review contract work for compliance with policy and specifications, and accept or reject work based on established policy or ISPWC
    - Monitor and review consultant firms that plan and deliver construction plans at 75%, 95% and 99% complete
    - Prepare and recommend project budgets and work force based on projections and reports for development cooperative projects and small construction projects
    - Establish and maintain professional relations with the consultants, the contractors, the public and other project personnel, as well as public entities such as the cities, the county and utility companies
    - Represent ACHD at public meetings, local civic groups such as the BCA and commission meetings to answer questions
  • Why did you choose engineering?
    I wanted a profession where I would get paid well, I would always have a job, I could design things, I could affect the environment positively, and I could work immediately after 4 years of college.
  • Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Northern Arizona University. I also have a Master's Certificate in Technical Communication from Boise State University.
  • What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    I have designed and drafted engineering plans. I review other engineer's work for compliance with our standards. I supervise and mentor staff. I've done environmental surveys, traffic reports, drainage and hydrology analyses of large watersheds, I've pretty much done all kinds of things with my degree by now and had fun learning each and every one of them!
  • What do you like best about being an engineer?
    I like seeing how a simple drawing with information can be built into a highway, a building, or a subdivision. It's incredible.
  • Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
    I am proudest of earning my professional engineering license!
  • What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
    I've steadily moved up the ladder by proving myself in a male-dominated career field and have been rewarded for my hard work and dedication to engineering.
  • Please tell us a little about your family.
    I have a mom and sister in Arizona; my extended family all lives in the Netherlands!
  • What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
    Short term I might decide to leave my current city and move to a different city to get a fresh start. In 10 years I want to be a high level manager of a large program I can influence.
  • What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    I have a thirst for adventure and I'm impulsive which has led me on several crazy twists and turns in my career that I never predicted.
  • What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    Absolutely do it!!
  • Any other stories or comments you would like to share with EngineerGirl visitors?
    I like seeing how a simple drawing with information can be built into a highway, a building, or a subdivision. It's incredible.
  • Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    I write a novel every year during the contest National Novel Writing Month. I also paint as a hobby, sing opera, play the accordion and saxophone.
Biography
I design, or verify the design of all of the pavement for the Oregon Department of Transportation. My staff and I design the pavement thicknesses, materials, and strengths of pavement for new or reconstruction projects in the state. We calculate all kinds of things such as strength, durability, roughness, performance, cracking, and flexibility. I work with a great staff and it's really fun to drive over pavement that I know I designed!
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Education
BS in Civil Engineering, Environmental Emphasis, Northern Arizona University 2001. MC in Technical Communication, Boise State University, 2011.
Volunteer Opportunities
  • I am willing to be contacted by educators for possible speaking engagements in schools or in after school programs or summer camps.
  • I am willing to serve as science fair judge or other temporary volunteer at a local school.
Latest Questions
  • Ram, Oman

    Added Friday, May 30, 2014 at 4:58 AM

    What goals do you have in your career as as civil engineer?
    Answers 1
    Karen Strauss, Oregon Department of Transportation
    Answered Friday, May 30, 2014 at 4:58 AM
    Hi Ram,
    Great question! The biggest goal I had coming out of college was to obtain my PE license. As a civil engineer, getting licensed is a huge part of our ability to function in our job. I’ve needed a license for almost every aspect of the job I’ve ...
    Read More
  • Trang, Steilacoom

    Added Monday, November 11, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    I am nineteen years old. I'm in a dilemma right now. I'm considering civil engineering and mechanical engineering. I prefer to be a civil (structural) engineer, but I hear that there are many hardships in the civil field. I'm not strong, so I wonder whether I'll need to work a lot outside or to take care of any heavy things. I don't know what I should do right now. Should I switch to mechanical engineering? Thank you very much.
    Answers 1
    Karen Strauss, Oregon Department of Transportation
    Answered Monday, November 11, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    Hi Trang,

    My first inclination is always to encourage someone to follow their passion. Your email sounds like you are more inclined towards structural engineering (civil) than mechanical, so that’s likely where you should be.

    Interestingly, ...

    Read More
  • Rebecca, Milwaukee

    Added Friday, March 30, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    I'm currently an environmental civil engineering student and I find myself struggling with my core classes such as Physics. Does this mean I may be in the wrong career path? Or are there other careers that I could pursue with this degree?
    Answers 1
    Karen Strauss, Oregon Department of Transportation
    Answered Friday, March 30, 2012 at 7:35 AM
    Hello Rebecca, Have no fear! I think a lot of us struggled in Physics courses. I also worried that because I didn’t “get” all of my core classes such as Physics or Statics that I might be in the wrong profession. I had to fight very hard to earn my “c” ...Read More
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