Barbara Mulkey

Current Position: Founder and Chair at Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
Barbara Mulkey
Highlight I like problem-solving. I also enjoy working in an industry where I get to work alongside intelligent people, most of whom work from a foundation of integrity and a desire to make the world a better, safer place.
May 20, 2008Her job: Chmn. of the Board, Mulkey Engineers & Consultants
Describe what you do in your current work situation? After founding a consulting engineering firm 15 years ago and serving as President and CEO most of those years, I have recently stepped down as CEO and remain as Chairman of the Board. In this capacity, I primarily serve in an advising/mentoring role to our new CEO, lead the Board of Directors, work on special projects and help set the long range vision for the company.
Why did you choose engineering? I always liked mathematics and problem-solving, and was looking for a major that incorporated both. Once I decided on engineering, the more specific area of civil/structural engineering attracted me because civil engineering deals with designs that you can visually see when you look around you.
Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have? I graduated from NC State University with B.S. and Master's of Civil Engineering (MCE) degrees.
What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work? I am a "people person", and so my career has ended up moving toward the management and marketing side of our industry. I have used my engineering education and work experience to attract clients for our company and to communicate effectively with them during the project process. My writing skills have turned out to be a big plus in my career, as many engineers are not strong in this particular area.
What do you like best about being an engineer? I like problem-solving. I also enjoy working in an industry where I get to work alongside intelligent people, most of whom work from a foundation of integrity and a desire to make the world a better, safer place.
Which of your career accomplishments are you proudest of? I am most proud of creating a company that has managed not only to survive but be the recipient of numerous awards for our success, while providing a flexible, comfortable work environment that respects the individual and honors family values.
What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career? The biggest challenge was successfully combining my family commitments with my career aspirations at a time when most engineering companies did not offer a lot of flexibility in work schedules and methods of accomplishing goals. Our industry has made progress in this area since the time when I was raising young children, thankfully, and I like to think that our company has been part of that progress.
Please tell us a little about your family. I have a husband, Jim, of 28 years, as well as three grown children -- Tina, David and Allison. Jim has spent most of his career in the construction industry and we greatly enjoy being able to "speak each other's language" when we discuss work. Our three children live close by and we are a tight-knit family. Oh yes, I can't forget our sweet little dog Parker!
What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals? My short term goal is to continue to make the leadership transition within our company successful, providing support as needed but also knowing when to step aside and give others a chance to test their wings. Long term, I just want to continue to live out my faith in whatever new avenues God opens up for me. Most certainly I see this as giving back to a world that has provided so many blessings to me.
What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices? Early on, my parents and several key teachers helped shape my future. With growth and maturity, my Christian faith has had an increasingly strong influence on my life choices.
What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering? I suggest that young women look at all of the career opportunities in engineering, not just those that you typically think of. There is a great need in this industry for people who are outgoing, good at writing, enjoy sales and marketing, etc., and yet our industry does not often attract this type of person. If you use a degree in engineering as a foundation to pursue some of these jobs, you will find many opportunities await you.
Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book. I have all kinds of hobbies, as I love variety and I love learning! We spend a great deal of time at the beach where I enjoy biking on my Cruiser, kayaking and reading. One of my favorite books that I recently read is a classic called Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott. I also enjoy music and play the piano for relaxation.