August 6, 2015Her job: Transportation Team Leader at Sain Associates
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I currently manage a group of five people in our Transportation Engineering practice and I serve as the project manager for many transportation design projects. Project management involves overseeing a project’s scope, schedule, and budget as well as making task assignments to staff and interacting with clients, approving agencies, and other engineers.
Why did you choose engineering?
I wanted a career that was versatile and allowed me to find a job no matter where I lived. I did not want to feel constricted to specific locations just for my job. When I chose civil engineering, I was not entirely sure I would enjoy it. One of the reasons I picked civil engineering was it had a broad array of engineering services. I reasoned if I did not like one, I always would have many other engineering options to choose from within the civil field.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I attended Auburn University and received a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
I am a member of several groups within our company – I manage a transportation engineering team, I am a member of our Team Leader group and our project manager group, and I also participate in teams for individual projects. This involvement on so many levels requires participation in meetings on a frequent basis to ensure good communication. A major part of my daily duties is answering questions from designers and engineers on my transportation team so they have the information they need to keep moving forward on their tasks. For my team leader group and project manager group, there are bi-monthly training meetings in which we focus on management and business training topics. Project meetings can be anything from kick off and scoping meetings to status update or brainstorming meetings. I also do a lot of proposal writing, reviewing of plans, emailing, and phone calling.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
I really enjoy bringing all the pieces of a project together and doing so with a team. Working as part of a team brings forth several things: you learn from your teammates, each teammate brings a specific expertise to the table so the project receives a well-rounded thought process, and it gives you an opportunity to excel as a leader and expert in your field. Being a part of team on a successful project is one of my most favorite parts of being an engineer.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
I was so very proud of receiving my Professional Engineering license. I studied for months prior to the test. The test was very difficult and left my mind numb. I was so worried I had failed and would have to repeat the misery of studying for months again. I was so excited to receive the passing certificate in the mail.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
I am naturally an introverted person. My job requires a lot of mingling with clients, engineers, approval agencies and generating leads on work. I struggle with participating in small talk, especially with people that I do not know, so this has been something I have to work at in order to meet the expectations of my job.
Please tell us a little about your family.
I am married with three children, ages 7, 4, and 2. Working full time with three young children is extremely difficult, but not impossible. It requires a support system with your spouse, family, and friends. My most favorite time of the day is picking up my children, receiving huge hugs, and hearing about their day.
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
Short team goal is to grow and strengthen my role as a team leader which includes training my group and understanding the business. Long term goal is to broaden my engineering horizons into the community. I enjoy teaching and sharing experiences with others so I am exploring options for how to influence others in the community with my engineering background.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
My parents have always been very supportive of my goals. My father is an engineer and he encouraged me to consider engineering after he encountered a female environmental engineer on one of his projects. My parents often joke they never thought their daughter would be out standing on the side of roads looking into ditches and manholes. I enjoy “shop talk” with my dad and husband, who is a contractor, as we all enjoy talking about the engineering and construction industry and some of the issues we encounter.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
Below are the most important lessons I have learned that I would like to pass on:
- o Never be afraid to ask questions. If you do not understand, keep asking questions until you do.
- o Being a young woman in a male dominated field can bring on issues, but only if you allow it. Dress and act professionally and gain the respect of your peers.
- o Like many careers, engineering has two aspects – a technical side and a people side. The two need to work together in order to be successful. Engineering school is not going to teach you the soft skills you will need in order to successfully deal with people in your day to day job. If you can communicate well, you will outshine your competition.
- o If you are provided opportunities to broaden your experience, take them. Even if you are offered a job task that you are not certain you will enjoy, take it. Experience in different segments of engineering helps you build your resume. Even experiences that you might not enjoy are teaching you something.
- o Figure out what you are good at and work on it to make it a great skill. You will not be good at everything.
- o Contrary to popular belief, engineering requires a lot of writing. Do not neglect your grammar and writing classes, you will need these skills.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I love to read. Reading allows me an escape at night to settle my mind after a busy work day and attending to my family. I also love to take walks. I usually try to meander out of the house by myself to get a walk in for actual exercise and then I swing back by the house and take the kids out for a walk or bike ride of their own.