Tricia Berry

Director, The University of Texas at Austin
Go to her Profile

"I love the response I get when I tell people I'm an engineer. I love breaking stereotypes and being a role model to others!"

INTERVIEW DATE March 16, 2017
HER JOB Director, Women in Engineering Program, The University of Texas at Austin
Engineering Careers
Chemical |

I chose engineering because I saw it as a good way to keep progressing in math and science and as a way to head to medical school. I wanted to go into something impressive – something that people would look at as challenging and for "smart people". I ended up loving engineering and never went to medical school….and engineering is impressive!

Tricia Berry, The University of Texas at Austin

ADDEDThursday, March 16, 2017

  • Q
    Describe what you do in your current work situation?
    A

    In my current work, I work with students to excite them about the opportunities in engineering majors in college and in their future careers. I also work with educators, parents, and engineering professionals to help them understand how to best talk to students about engineering, how to lead exciting hands-on engineering activities, and how to be the most effective role model for students. I use my engineering problem solving every day as I manage multiple project budgets, analyze data to see what programs are working and what needs to be improved, and create reports that tell the story of the data and the impact of the work I do.

  • Q
    Why did you choose engineering?
    A

    I chose engineering because I wanted to be challenged. I wanted to go into a field where I could problem solve and figure things out. I love puzzles and making things better and making things and engineering seemed like a great field to head into. I also knew it involved math and science, my favorite school subjects. I didn't really know what it was all about when I chose chemical engineering as a major in college, but I'm glad I made that choice!

  • Q
    Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    A

    I went to The University of Texas at Austin and got a Bachelor's of Science degree in Chemical Engineering. Later I went to the University of Houston - Clear Lake and got a Masters in Business Administration.

  • Q
    What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    A

    My work has always involved making something better. When I worked at Dow Chemical, I worked on projects to improve the chemical processes for the company. For example, I worked on one project to improve the efficiency of a process that separated hydrocarbons. I had to design the equipment that separated them more effectively, with less energy and more accuracy. I also worked on a project trying to figure out alternative uses of a byproduct chemical. The company didn't want to just dispose of the byproduct if they could sell it. My job was to test the chemical in various types of products and processes to see if it would work and could be sold anywhere. 

    In my current job I'm working continuously to reach more students and to improve our recruitment, retention and graduation rates of students. I look at data, just like I did at Dow Chemical, to see where we can make improvements.

  • Q
    What do you like best about being an engineer?
    A

    I love being able to problem solve and look at challenges in a different way than my friends and peers with different backgrounds. Engineers are always looking at multiple pathways to solve a problem and seem to be able to look at things from lots of different angles. I love having that kind of "I can figure it out" mindset...it's freeing to know I can figure it out! 

    I also love the response I get when I tell people I'm an engineer. I love breaking stereotypes and being a role model to others!

  • Q
    Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
    A

    I'm proud of many things throughout my career! I am proud of the work I did at Dow Chemical - my last project there resulted in me being a co-founder on 2 patents. I'm also super proud of my work at UT where our enrollment has gone steadily higher in the percentage of women enrolled and our graduation rates of women matches that of the male students.

  • Q
    What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
    A

    Getting through the engineering degree was probably the most challenging part so far. It's tough coursework and I wasn't necessarily prepared with my small, rural high school background. But, I got involved in study groups, went to tutoring, and worked hard to do well in school. I had the mindset that I can figure it out and I can do it...even if it meant I had to work harder than my peers who had a better high school background. I was determined to stick it out and get the degree. And it's been amazing ever since!

  • Q
    Please tell us a little about your family.
    A

    I grew up in a small rural farm town in Illinois. My dad was a funeral director and my mom was a teacher. My sister followed me to Texas for school and now my whole family lives in Texas. I'm married to another engineer who I met when I was working as a co-op student in college. We got married a year after we graduated from college and both worked at Dow Chemical. We now have 2 sons and are busy with sports and engineering activities and adventuring.

  • Q
    What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
    A

    I'm not a goal setter like this. I have things I want to accomplish in my work and home. I want to see our stats continue to improve for women within the Cockrell School at UT Austin. I want to be sure my kids have great experiences and head off to college and are successful in whatever way that means for them. I want to be financially secure and not have to worry about retirement. I want to be connected to my family and friends...and be a good family member and friend.

  • Q
    What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    A

    I don't know that there is one thing that has had the greatest influence on my life choices. My parents gave me the opportunity to explore various career options in high school and supported me to come to UT for engineering school. My teachers throughout elementary, middle and high school as well as throughout college influenced my love for math, science and engineering. My co-workers and peers have helped give me the experiences and opportunities to do the work I do today. All along the way there have been various people and factors that have influenced my choices and experiences.

  • Q
    What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    A

    Go for it! Be persistent. Don't hesitate to seek help. Embrace the challenge and know you can figure it out...whatever it is. Surround yourself with those who will support your efforts and be there for you when you hit that challenging course, discouraging professor, or other roadblock that may get thrown in front of you (which happens in engineering and every other field you could possibly go into). Know what YOU want to do and what success means for you and don't let anyone or anything stop you!

  • Q
    Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    A

    I love to read...I read all kinds of things from mysteries to historical fiction to romance. I have a bunch of nonfiction books on various topics, but i tend to be slower to read them and go back to the wonders of fiction more often. I also love to wander in nature, walk for exercise, explore new places, watch movies (romance, action, comedy), and watch sporting events live or on TV. I love to do all of this with my kids and husband....or sometimes by myself or with friends.