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Civil and structural engineers build big all around the world.
Two of the most exciting sectors are civil and structural engineering. You get to build big, and get to do all over the world. You tap creativity, collaboration, and perpetual learning. And the fruits of your labor are the infrastructure that billions use every day.
Here are five woman engineers thriving in these sectors, which are increasingly seeing an uptick in demand for engineers to meet growing domestic and global infrastructure demands.
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Messer’s Akojie Encourages Women to Excel in Construction
Ehiaghe Akojie, a project manager for Messer Construction Company, oversees commercial projects, from project planning all the way through owner occupancy. She ensures the job is completed safely, on time and on budget.
Akojie loves seeing a project from drawing to brick and mortar: “Being able to see a building go from a drawing on a piece of paper to a completed structure is extremely gratifying.”
However, there are myriad challenges between conception and a building ready for occupancy.
“The hardest part of my career was commanding respect earlier in my career. As a woman in this industry, we get overlooked, and many times people will go straight to the male in the room before even acknowledging you as the lead on the project.”
Luckily, Akojie wasn’t alone. “I had a great mentor who has been a woman in the industry over 20 years, and she’s a huge advocate for women in this industry.”
Plus, Akojie had an essential skill set to maximize that relationship and others. “Building relationships has always been a strength for me, and when I couple that with her sound advice and encouragement, I’ve been able to really excel and overcome those challenges.”
Akojie also dispenses advice and encouragement.
“As an African-American woman in a mostly male-dominated field, my advice to women who are majoring in this sector is don’t be afraid or intimidated by construction. There will be times when you feel overlooked and undervalued, but as more women choose this field, we’re making strides to change perceptions of a typical construction project manager.”
Working for Messer also encourages Akojie. “Messer is a huge advocate of economic inclusion and supplier diversity. Building strong relationships with minority and women-owned subcontractors and suppliers not only gives them an opportunity showcase their talents, but also helps us serve our clients better and grow our community at the same time. Messer tracks inclusion on 100% of our projects, and drives inclusion from the top down.”
Messer’s portfolio includes complex, commercial construction projects in the aviation, healthcare, higher education, industrial, and science and technology market segments. The company is located in 10 regions throughout the Midwest and Southeast.
“We pride ourselves on being a local builder with national resources and expertise, and have been in business since 1932,” she points out.
Akojie prides herself on performing under pressure, as well. “The construction industry is a fast-paced industry, and it sometimes can be a challenge to keep up with the demands and schedule of a client as it changes through the course of the project,” she says.
“Juggling that and still maintaining quality and safety on your job site can sometimes create challenging situations, but with the tools available to us like LEAN Construction, it really helps to streamline processes.”
At the end of each day, Akojie revels in the collaboration that produces tangible outcomes.
“The fast-paced and challenging experience is what drew me into the construction industry,” she shares.
“Every day we face challenges that require some level of problem-solving, and I love the fact that you get to put your creative thoughts and ideas together with other people, and create something that’s not only satisfying, but also will be loved and admired by the public.”
Messer is headquartered in Cincinnati, OH. Job openings are posted at messer.com/join-us. Learn more through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Yu Taps Her Strengths to Succeed at Chevron
Weiwei Yu, a facilities engineer at Chevron Energy Technology Company, designs, fabricates, and installs pipeline systems to transfer oil and gas from deep-water reservoirs to floating production units. She’s proud of the work that she and Chevron do.
“Energy is an essential part of our society, and Chevron continually demonstrates that employee and environmental safety is a top priority. Chevron has been dedicated to discovering and delivering affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy that truly has enabled an improved standard of living throughout the world for almost 140 years.”
Yu always enjoys her colleagues and the state-of-the-art science. “I’m honored to work with highly talented people who apply cutting-edge technologies to help achieve these goals in their daily work. It’s my privilege to be a member of the team,” she shares.
Yu is also proud of Chevron’s care for communities near and far.
“In the most recent Thailand Tham Luang cave rescue, Chevron Thailand activated its Emergency Management Command post to provide round-the-clock operational support to the rescue mission,” Yu explains.
“The 34 Chevron colleagues included earth scientists, facilities engineers, and drilling and construction engineers who supported water diversion, [and] diving operations, and studied an option to drill an escape tunnel.”
Chevron also undertook another wet challenge closer to home. “Following Hurricane Harvey, Chevron, its employees and retirees donated more than $6 million to Harvey relief and recovery efforts,” she points out.
Yu follows Chevron’s lead: “I’ve volunteered with large groups of colleagues at the Houston food bank and at local schools, and to distribute school supplies to the area’s most needy neighborhoods.”
Chevron also cares for its employees, notes Yu. “Chevron provides very good benefits to parents, including additional bonding time after a baby is born. There’s also an on-site daycare center, across the street from our downtown building. It took me less than five minutes to check on my older child.”
What’s more, Chevron offers flexible schedules. “After my second maternity leave, I was working on a major capital project in the fabrication stage. It was an intense project with a rapid learning curve,” recalls Yu.
“My supervisor offered me flexibility regarding working location and time, and Chevron’s 9/80 work schedule (eight 9-hour days, one 8-hour day, and one extra day off in a 2-week period) also contributed to a better work/life balance.”
Chevron can help balance a life, but sometimes a young engineer must regain her own internal balance.
“I was not very confident when I first joined Chevron: there were so many things that I did not know. This sometimes made me reluctant to share my thoughts during meetings, and I worried that people would think I was not smart enough,” Yu reveals.
So she turned to her strengths. “By working on diverse jobs throughout the years, I identified my own strengths. These gave me confidence to ask questions and to push myself to take opportunities that would allow me to learn and grow further.”
Yu realized that growth comes from errors, as well. “Use your setbacks to grow. Focus on how to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. I found that it really drains my energy when I keep asking myself why I made a mistake, and it doesn’t change anything. Focus on lessons learned and move on.”
If you’re graduating and want to move into Chevron’s 51,000-strong, worldwide workforce, then take the time to learn more about Chevron.
“I highly recommend students spend time to know Chevron as a company and tailor your resume,” Yu further advises.
Headquartered in San Ramon, CA, Chevron’s job openings are at careers.chevron.com, and learn more about Chevron through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Stantec’s Maahs-Henderson Speaks Up & Gains Success
Theresa Maahs-Henderson, a project manager for Stantec, designs projects for transportation infrastructure, and provides services to clients that include environmental documentation, technical studies, roadway design, construction document development and permitting.
She’s one of 175 employees in St. Paul, MN and of approximately 22,000 employees working in more than 400 locations across six continents. Stantec is global, but feels otherwise, according to the project manager.
“I love that each office has a community-minded focus. I’m working on local projects that require intimate knowledge of the area and the community that the projects will eventually serve,” she shares.
“I love walking a trail with my kids or driving with them across a bridge or down a new or improved roadway, so they can see projects I worked on first-hand.”
However, not all her work is close to home. “I’m also working on a few larger projects with team members across the U.S. and Canada so we can bring specific expertise to meet the project needs. This gives me the opportunity to connect with people from our other offices, which makes a large global firm feel much more connected.”
Maahs-Henderson has reached a point in her career where she can advocate for young engineers, as was once done for her.
“My career did not really start to accelerate until I had someone within Stantec with enough power and stature to recommend me for roles that were a step-up from where I was at the time,” she points out.
“I was not always confident that I was ready for these challenges, but the person recommending me was.”
However, as you seek an advocate, serve as your own advocate, too, she recommends. “Don’t be afraid to ask for opportunities.”
And if you’re not given a requested opportunity? “Even in that situation, you have made it clear where you would like to be and where you think you deserve to be,” she answers.
In addition, to be chosen for opportunities, determine where you’re weak and work on that, Maahs-Henderson further advises.
“I started out as a fairly stereotypical engineer. I enjoyed the technical aspects of my work and found public speaking quite terrifying. I thought that the people who looked so comfortable presenting were just naturally charismatic,” she says.
Maahs-Henderson soon realized she would have to acquire the “charisma” she saw in others.
“As I started presenting at public meetings and internally on corporate initiatives, it became clear that this was going to be a skill that I needed to develop,” she recalls. “Turning down opportunities to get in front of groups would stunt my career growth.”
So Maahs-Henderson acquired the missing skill set. “I took public speaking training, which was helpful, but the real turning point was when I discovered that these charismatic people were also nervous from time to time, and that it was perfectly okay to feel nervous. If I was well-prepared and knew the material I was presenting, then I was going to do just fine.”
It also helped to focus on the core of the task, she adds. “Rather than trying to say things exactly the right way, I focused on the general points I was trying to share. I recently had an opportunity to speak at a national conference about a project of which I was particularly proud and enjoyed it.”
You can also acquire confidence through Stantec’s employee resource groups (ERG).
“Stantec’s ERGs are supported by leadership, who often participate in the ERG meetings and events. It’s a great way to break down the intimidation that newer employees can have of leadership and increase communication, which is beneficial to everyone.”
Headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with more than 400 locations globally including the U.S., Stantec’s job openings are at stantec.com/en/careers, and you can learn more via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube.
Turner’s Jones Inspired By Past & Builds the Future
Yeshim Jones, a project manager for Turner Construction Company, manages construction projects throughout the preconstruction, construction and close-out phases. As such, she does the work before the work that the rest of us see.
“People usually equate construction to inconveniences like road shut-downs, noise, smell, reroutes and more, but construction involves other things like sales, estimating, budgeting, engineering, preplanning, problem-solving and so on. Before we actually get to mobilize on site, a lot of work has already been done,” she explains.
All of that preconstruction makes actual construction deeply pleasing to Jones.
“When I walk a job site and see workers building structures, that gives me a sense of satisfaction because that’s the end result of many hours preparatory work!” Jones enthuses.
The preconstruction and construction require Jones to interface with many professions, which Jones loves.
“There’s also a lot of interaction with my project team, subcontractors, architects, engineers, end-users and community. I get to know and build relationships with many wonderful people and learn new things every day,” she notes.
Those relationships can feel like family, too. “During the course of a project, our project team goes through a lot of ups and downs, laughs, tears and long hours: We simply become a family.”
Jones has her own family, and Turner has had her family’s back.
“What I love about Turner and my job is the flexibility it has given me. Throughout different phases of my life, my priorities changed. When I first started, I was in the field at job sites, which was fun,” she elaborates.
Then others tugged at her sleeve…literally. “When I had my kids, being in the field was not the right fit for me due to demanding and unpredictable hours. When my kids were young, I was able to move to the preconstruction department, which gave me a more predictable schedule,” she states.
However, Jones wanted to return to the “fun” field when she was able. “Now that my kids are older, I’m able to work at job sites again. Being able to work for a company that’s so flexible, and can offer different positions, is one of the things I like about Turner.”
Jones supervises six colleagues, and she’s achieved by connecting.
“I highly recommend being involved in an industry organization that you’re passionate about. This means more than just attending to the events. It means becoming involved in it,” she believes.
“Networking in this industry is the key. The relationships you make throughout these organizations are priceless.”
Jones has sought connections, and Turner wants to facilitate the same thing.
“Turner invests a lot in its people,” she points out. “Training is offered on technical subjects, as well as on soft skills and personal coaching.”
Jones also has some personal coaching advice for other women engineers: “Attitude is the key. Be positive! In construction, no matter how well you plan, there’s always something that’s unforeseen. That’s the nature of the business, so you can’t let that throw you off your game.”
An eye for history further helps keep Jones on her game.
“Most of us are amazed with the historic structures and buildings. We ask ourselves how they built these structures,” Jones observes.
“As my team and I build new buildings, I wonder if people in the future will wonder about our buildings. I know they’ll benefit from the buildings that we built, and that gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. I simply love building the future.”
Turner is headquartered in New York, NY. Explore open positions at turnerconstruction.com/careers, and learn more through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Pascoe Pushes Herself & Exceeds Expectations at Jacobs
Chloe Pascoe is one of 77,000 Jacobs employees in more than 40 countries. It’s a deeply diverse workforce by design.
“Diversity of skills, knowledge and perspective are important to Jacobs. We’re much more likely to find a better way to address a client’s challenge with a diverse team of people with different backgrounds and perspectives. It encourages creativity, collaboration and innovation,” she underscores.
Specifically, Pascoe is a project controls apprentice, one of many professions at Jacobs.
“Alongside employees with a wide range of engineering backgrounds, Jacobs also recruits professionals as diverse as animators, data analysts, ecologists and economists,” she elaborates.
They’re all joined by Jacobs’ cultural values. “We look for people who will support our culture of caring and promoting safekeeping and well-being in and out of the workplace.”
And what does Jacobs seek in its hires? “Jacobs looks for self-motivated individuals with a passion to advance and grow their capability in an environment that nurtures professional development,” Pascoe answers.
“The employee’s talents, expertise and capabilities create value for our clients and contribute solutions to some of the most critical issues and projects of our time.”
Some of those projects are as diverse as Jacobs’ workforce.
“We’re playing a lead role in programs around the world including being NASA’s largest non-original equipment manufacturer services provider, working on everything from design and build to launch and maintenance, including on-going support for the Space Launch System and Orion deep-space exploration program,” she notes.
Partnering with NASA is part of Jacobs’ grand plan. “Jacobs is much more than a traditional engineering and construction provider,” explains Pascoe.
“As a global technical professional services leader, Jacobs is a unique force across the sectors it serves, delivering complex, sustainable projects and programs focused on critical issues such as access to clean air and safe water, civil and national security, and safeguarding mobility.”
Just as Jacobs does, Pascoe pushes beyond traditional boundaries and exceeds expectations.
She’s also been able to soar past her own goal and expectations. “Exceeding my potential helps me in becoming a good role model for others. Throughout my apprenticeship, I’ve consistently surpassed expectations by mentoring students and apprentices,” Pascoe shares.
“My personal highlights and achievements include being a mental health champion at Jacobs, being voted the Jacobs Future Network regional chair, creating an accredited work experience program, STEM activities, and starting my project management degree earlier than anticipated.”
Pascoe has experienced the power and potential of apprenticeships, too.
“Expanding the portfolio of apprenticeships and raising awareness is paramount for students and graduates. When joining Jacobs, I volunteered for the role of work experience coordinator.”
The role has been a difference-maker for her: “I developed the week-long program, which achieved a 240% increase in attendance in eight months and a 58% increase of school distribution. The program has sessions in numerous disciplines, increasing the students’ knowledge across the industry.”
And Pascoe also believes in the power of STEM: “I’m also a STEM ambassador, participating in events across schools to help inspire future talent.”
Plus, she keeps pushing herself to support others. “I’m chair of Jacobs Future Network - a cohesive network of graduates, apprentices and early career professionals that aims to promote continuous career development,” she points out.
“Meeting on a regular basis gives us the opportunity to share ideas to benefit the company and community. We also connect peer to peer, attend continuing professional development events, social activities [and] charity events, and join committees, as well.”
Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Jacobs posts job openings at jacobs.com/careers, and you can learn more through Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
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