Deirdre McShane

Current Position: Civil Engineer at Thornton Tomasetti
Deirdre McShane
Highlight As a structural engineer, Deirdre designs the steel and concrete that go into some of the most spectacular and internationally renowned skyscrapers, museums, and stadiums.
September 8, 2007Her job: Civil Engineer, Thornton Tomasetti
Describe what you do in your current work situation? I work at Thornton Tomasetti, an international engineering firm in New York City that has built some of the world’s tallest buildings. We design huge, elaborate projects. Everything requires a very creative solution and a lot of analysis, because it’s never been done before. There’s no precedent. 
Why did you choose engineering? I have a lot of friends from engineering school who are in med school now, or consulting, or doing finance, or they’re in law school, or they’re engineers. I think it really prepares you as far as problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and some intangible qualities you get with the education.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? B.S. in civil and environmental engineering, from the Pratt School of Engineering, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? Sometimes I explain to people that if an architect drew a picture of a body, I’d be the one who goes in and designs the bones.
What do you like best about being an engineer? I like it when people, especially guys, ask me what I do. They're kind of stunned when I tell them I'm a structural engineer. They'll say, 'what, you . . . you do that?'  I guess they are just surprised that ideas for such big structures come from such a petite girl!
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? As an undergraduate I co-founded a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders, a humanitarian organization that helps communities around the developing world with much-needed engineering projects. The EWB team traveled to Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the disastrous 2004 Asian tsunami, and helped rebuild a village’s shrimp hatcheries. The team also traveled to Papua, at the other end of the Indonesian archipelago, where they worked to prevent the erosion of a riverbank. Today, I belong to the New York City chapter of EWB, which carries out projects around the world.