Civil Engineering is a broad field of work that supports a variety of industries. The seemingly endless opportunity is what initially drew me to civil engineering as a career choice. My undergraduate studies spanned from hydrology and hydraulics to structural courses and even transportation. This diverse coursework helped prepare me for interviews with potential employers of all backgrounds and eventually landed me an internship in a Public Works department of a consulting firm my junior year.
Working in the Public Works group was an exciting time. I had an opportunity to dive into multiple projects at different phases of design and construction. I was being exposed to real challenges in a rapidly growing City. As I began to think about a full-time position, the same vast opportunity turned into intimidation as I tried to find my niche.
Towards the end of my internship, I was assigned to the permitting phase of a new wastewater treatment facility. While these facilities are critical infrastructure investments to our public health and environmental sustainability, exposure to physical plants and processes is often obscure by design. I enjoyed the assignment but quickly realized that my single course in wastewater treatment would need some (a lot) of supplementing.
The project manager I worked for once I was hired full time was the President of the Water Environment Association of Texas (WEAT) professional organization. One day early on in my career, she asked me to accompany her to a Section meeting which included a technical presentation on aeration technologies and practices for wastewater treatment. I remember sitting in the audience, recognizing only a fraction of the terminology, and feeling slightly overwhelmed. The time came in the presentation for Q&A and I realized through the discussion not only how complex this sector was, but also the collaboration needed for project success. I listened to the engineers discuss past projects and areas for improvement and I was hooked.
After that initial invitation, I became an active member in WEAT for a couple years before serving on the Public Outreach and Communications (PCOC) and later the Scholarship Committees at the Southeast Section and State Levels. Being involved as a member granted me so many opportunities to connect with technical leaders within the wastewater industry as well as my colleagues. My efforts with the PCOC expanded my exposure to wastewater operations and process design, while my service on the Scholarship Committee gave me the opportunity to engage with aspiring engineers as well as established engineers who were pursuing higher education.
I will always be grateful for that little nudge to get out from behind my desk and become involved with a network of engineers. My exposure to WEAT is what guided me in my early career and gave me the confidence to work on wastewater projects. It is also what ultimately inspired me to return to the University of Houston to pursue graduate studies in Environmental Engineering.
As I reflect on my career to date, I credit my involvement in professional organizations and my desire for continued learning for my current position. Getting involved within your industry and seeking mentorship opportunities in and out of the office is the biggest piece of advice I would offer to those young civil engineers feeling overwhelmed and even intimidated with the direction of their careers.
We, as engineers and as trusted partners for our clients, are facing so many unprecedented challenges. From supply chain issues and rising construction costs, to updated regulations and design criteria, it is becoming increasingly important to develop the new group of young engineers into tomorrow’s industry leaders.
EHRA recognizes the benefits of developing its young engineers and actively invests in opportunities for continued growth and learning. EHRA is unique in that there are so many technical backgrounds across several practice areas under one roof. Leadership carves out time and makes mentorship opportunities available through various internal teachings and collaborations.
These initiatives resonate with our guiding principles of keeping it fresh and working together as one team. Engaging young engineers in the holistic design process allows for true understanding of the complexities we face and offers an opportunity for fresh perspectives and design ideas.
The Young Engineers Program at EHRA, which I currently lead, offers a space for team members to connect and learn from each other while developing their soft skills in addition to their technical skills. Creating this collaborative space is so important to me because I understand the value and direction it can bring to a young career. I am honored to have this opportunity to serve as a mentor and resource in any capacity I can.
I am grateful to serve as Assistant Project Manager on the Facilities Team at EHRA where I continue to learn from those around me and make every effort to contribute to the growth of younger engineers. I am confident that EHRA is prepared to meet the challenges of engineering a legacy in our ever-evolving industry, and I look forward to being a part of it.