April 27, 2008Her job: Project Transportation Engineer, Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP
Describe what you do in your current work situation?
I'm a traffic engineer. I design traffic signals, parking lots, and garages; perform accident studies; determine the traffic impacts of new or expanded developments; and design ways to counter traffic impacts. Traffic engineering is part science, part soft skills. We deal a lot with the public, and the public deals with us!
Why did you choose engineering?
I started out as an architecture major in college, since I was good in math and art. That didn't work out, so I transferred into liberal arts, and it turned out that the classes I liked the most were my engineering classes.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
I got my A.S. in Engineering Science from Nassau Community College (Garden City, NY) and my B.S. in Civil Engineering from Polytechnic University (Farmingdale, NY). I'm a P.E. (Professional Engineer) and also a LEED AP (a Green Building Accredited Professional).
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
There are lots of activities: counting traffic volumes and parked cars, figuring out traffic conditions with proposed developments, doing computer models of future traffic conditions, working in AutoCAD for signal designs and parking layouts, going to local hearings, and writing reports.
What do you like best about being an engineer?
The fact that I get to do a lot of different things that are really important. And when I tell people what I do, they're always impressed. They say something like, "Cool - I didn't even know people did that!"
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of?
Right now, I'm the New York Section President of SWE, the Society of Women Engineers. We have almost 200 professional members, a dozen schools, and we get a lot of questions from the general public too. It's challenging, but it's a lot of fun, and the outreach aspect of being SWE President has become one of my favorite hobbies!
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
With traffic engineering, almost any layperson who knows how to drive thinks he/she is a traffic engineer too. They don't realize the technical knowledge you need to have. It's challenging to get your professional findings across if laypeople think they know better. For example, a layperson may think you can make people drive more slowly on a main road, if you just build a traffic signal at every intersection. But in reality, all that does is increase the chances for more traffic accidents, worsen traffic flow, and worsen air quality!
Please tell us a little about your family.
I got married a little over a year ago, and we're very close to my in laws. We see his parents every couple of weeks, and his brother comes to visit pretty often too. I'm very lucky to have married into such a warm family!
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
Short term, I see my career in the same place, just with more design responsibility. In the long term, I may try to switch into teaching, and teach math or engineering at the college level. It's very far out and I haven't made any concrete 10-year plans.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
I'd have to say my husband, my boss, and my closest friends, because they all have qualities or achievements that I'd like to foster in myself. I can look at someone else, see where they are in life, and try to emulate the qualities I most admire. No one person has affected any particular choice I made. It's more about learning how to deal with life in general.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
If you're interested at all in being an engineer, keep up your studies in math but also really focus on your writing and public speaking classes. Also, you should talk to current engineers, and when you can, you should shadow or intern at a company and see what it's really like. Engineering is a very rewarding and challenging career, and I love being part of it. If it is a fit for you, that's wonderful, and you have come to the right place to learn more!
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
I love playing volleyball, especially during the summer on my beach league. We have 2 championships (and counting haha!) I also love decorating, photography (thank goodness for digital cameras, another engineering feat!), and comedy shows and movies. Biking is also a lot of fun, as long as the weather holds up :-)