Stacy Clark

Water Resources Engineer, ARCADIS
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"I have this thing for going against limits people set for me - what I'm "expected to do" or "capable of doing"."

INTERVIEW DATE November 3, 2016
HER JOB Water/Wastewater Engineer 3 - Mott MacDonald
Engineering Careers
Environmental |
I have this thing for going against limits people set for me - what I'm "expected to do" or "capable of doing".
Stacy Clark, ARCADIS

ADDEDThursday, November 3, 2016

  • Q
    Describe what you do in your current work situation?
    A
    I work on design teams for projects related to wastewater treatment, sewage collection, and green infrastructure (stormwater management). I do some calculations for sizing piping, pumps, and other equipment. However, most of what I do is create drawings for the contractor (construction workers) to use to build the project the correct way
  • Q
    Why did you choose engineering?
    A
    While I don't personally believe you have to me a math/science whiz to become an engineer... that's sort of how I fell into engineering. Because of my good grades in math and science, I was invited to a week-long math and science camp focused on engineering for middle school girls called Horizons at Clarkson University. Coming from a very tiny, academically-behind small school, this really was my first introduction to engineering. We did projects like drawing a barbie doll to real-life scale, programming robots, and egg drop competitions. I had a lot of fun that whole week and started saying I was going to be an engineer immediately. At that point I didn't realize just how many types of engineering there are. I applied to college as a Biomedical Engineering major, then I switched to Environmental Engineering. Now that I'm in the work force, I'm realizing how many different types of engineers there are JUST within Environmental Engineering. And really JUST within water/wastewater engineering.
  • Q
    Where did you go to school and what degree(s) do you have?
    A
    I have a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.
  • Q
    What kinds of activities have typically been part of your work?
    A
    I spend about 75% of my time in the office and 25% in the field. When I'm in the office, I'm using software like AutoCAD, AutoCAD Civil 3D, and Revit to create drawings for the projects I'm working on. I'm also using Microsoft Excel to perform calculations and organize information about the projects I'm working on. I'm on conference calls with senior engineers to figure out how to handle certain issues that arise during our design. I'm writing reports and memos to clients and project managers.

    When I'm in the field, I'm doing construction inspection to make sure our projects are being built according to the drawings we provide the contractor (construction company) with. Or I'm doing drilling inspection for geotechnical investigations (borings and permeability tests to determine the soil characteristics). Or maybe I'm going out to see what my project area looks like or taking measurements at my project site so I can be sure to show everything as accurately as possible in my drawings and incorporate everything accurately into the design.
  • Q
    What do you like best about being an engineer?
    A
    I love that my field within engineering (civil/environmental) helps me be in the loop about how our infrastructure works and what types of projects are going on to upgrade/expand our infrastructure. I've met a lot of people (adults, even) who don't even know what happens to the water that goes down their sink or toilet. I know exactly what happens - I talk about it every single day at work. Same with drinking water - people turn on their taps and water comes out. A lot of people don't know how it gets there and is magically safe to drink. It's similar with flood protection and stormwater management, which are two other types of projects I work on.
  • Q
    What challenges have you met and conquered in your pursuit of an engineering career?
    A
    (1) Figure Out College: I'm a first generation college student, so navigating the application process, admission process, and just college itself was very challenging for the first year or so. Eventually we all figured it out, and everything worked out just swell.
    (2) Internships & The Recession: I was in college during the recession, so there were almost no paid summer internships, especially if you had no connections to the engineering world (which I didn't have). I ended up lucking out and getting an internship that paid me $500/month, which left me with $50/month to live on after paying rent. That was extremely challenging, but my family worked really hard to make it work so I would have something to put on my resume to try to get a full-time job since I had no connections to the engineering world to help me out.
    (3) Sexism: Haven't conquered this one yet, but I'm working on it every day. I hope you will too!
  • Q
    Please tell us a little about your family.
    A
    I grew up on a very hard-working lower middle class family. When I say "hard-working" I mean they work hard at their jobs, and they also worked VERY hard and sacrificed a lot to put me through college and support me financially through my essentially unpaid summer internships I talked about earlier. I am the first in my family to receive a college degree.

    I am not currently married, and I don't have any children. I'll be sure to update when that changes and reflect on how the engineering world is treating me then!
  • Q
    What are your short-term (1-2 years) and long-term (10+ years) goals?
    A
    Short-term: Hopefully I'll have my professional engineer's license!
    Long-term: Become a project manager for water/wastewater projects and manage a team of engineers.
  • Q
    What (or who) had/has the greatest influence on your life choices?
    A
    I have this thing for going against limits people set for me - what I'm "expected to do" or "capable of doing". I think this really started in 5th grade when we had our first class officer election. I ran for Class Treasurer, and I was the only girl to run for a position. When I didn't win, I put my hand up and said to my teacher, "How can all the class officers be boys when our class is more than half girls?". My teacher responded by saying, "That's just the way it is." That day, I started loading my brain with information about feminism, which eventually led to learning about disparities related to class, race, and other factors as well.

    So maybe it's that moment that has had the greatest influence on my life choices. It's what made me realize that people had preconceived notions of me not only because I'm a woman but because I'm a woman from a lower middle class family living in a trailer park. People didn't expect me to graduate at the top of my high school class, but I did. People didn't expect me to get a degree from a top engineering university where I worked two part-time jobs, was in two honor societies, and made dean's list 7/8 semesters, but I did. People didn't expect me to become an engineer, but I did. People didn't expect me to be living in New York City, but here I am.
  • Q
    What advice would you give to a young woman considering a career in engineering?
    A
    My first piece of advice is to try to shadow engineers in a couple of different fields you're interested in to get an idea of how different they are. That's something I wish I would have done.

    My last piece of advice is to stick with it if it's something you want! College will likely be a challenge, and you'll probably have to put in some long hours every once in a while once you start working full-time, but it will all be worth it. It's a very rewarding career - rewarding enough to make me stick with it.
  • Q
    Any other stories or comments you would like to share with EngineerGirl visitors?
    A
    I have this thing for going against limits people set for me - what I'm "expected to do" or "capable of doing".
  • Q
    Describe something about your life outside of work: your hobbies, or perhaps a favorite book.
    A
    I have some hobbies. I love kayaking, camping, and music. I play the saxophone, volunteer at a cat shelter, and (of course) advocate for gender equality in STEM.