Chastain-Skillman, Inc. (CS) is excited to celebrate International Women in Engineering Day 2022 by recognizing the talented and dedicated women that are a part of the CS team! We spoke with a few of them to hear their stories and insights as women in the engineering field.
Keep reading to learn about the women we interviewed and hear what they have to say about their careers, entering the engineering industry as a woman, and their hopes for the future of engineering:
Why did you choose this profession? / When did you decide to enter the engineering industry?
HL: I chose this profession because I found myself really enjoying my math classes and loved any classes I took that had to do with the environment or water. These college classes got me interested in the importance of water quality and distribution, which led to me wanting to work with water and sewer services.
LL: Math was my favorite subject in school and my father was in the construction industry. I always enjoyed looking at his construction plans. As a result, I took a mechanical drafting class in high school which I really liked. After graduating from high school, I attended a trade school to further my education in drafting. My drafting instructor, who also worked for one of CS’s major clients, suggested I apply for a job with CS, which I did. While working full time as a draftsman for CS, I attended college part time to earn my BS degree in civil engineering and then to obtain my Masters degree.
JS: I think civil engineering chose me. My dad brought up that people who are good at math become good engineers when I excelled in math in high school. I kept my eye on the prize ever since. I was lucky to find out that I enjoyed the work as an intern during college.
KM: When my husband and I designed and built our first home together, I was able to see and experience what it was to take an idea, design it, and literally build it with our own hands. That is where it all began for me and I have been blessed to work in many different aspects of the engineering field from engineering design support, construction inspection, and permitting.
What would you say has been your most rewarding experience throughout your career?
HL: I had the opportunity to travel to Honduras with Global Brigades to help with the design of a water distribution system for a community whose residents do not have running water. A properly functioning and maintained distribution system will be life-changing for the residents, and it was amazing to see this community become one step closer to achieving this goal.
LL: The relationships developed with some of our long-term clients who truly appreciate our help in solving their problems.
JS: The biggest reward is the feeling of earned trust from the engineers I look up to. When they hand me the reigns to their projects and manage them so they can focus elsewhere, I know that they can trust me to get the job done well. It makes me feel appreciated to be acknowledged as someone who others can come to for assistance and management.
KM: I spent many years as an aviation construction inspector and that enabled me to meet some awesome people along the way. My most memorable moment was in 2015 while working as the Resident Project Representative for an aviation project in Lake Wales. There was a single engine plane that got our attention as it was attempting to land due to engine trouble. Unfortunately, it crashed in a marshy area near the runway and there was no way to drive back there, much less land a helicopter. I asked the contractor if he would use his dozer to clear a path and his loader bucket to transport the paramedics into the crash site and then back out to the life flight helicopter waiting on the runway apron. This was a tragic event, but a great example of working together and thinking outside the box to accomplish the task at hand.
What advice do you have for women interested in entering the engineering industry?
HL: Learn to be confident in your abilities as an engineer while acknowledging that you still have a lot to learn. You probably know a lot more than you think you do, but always striving to gain further understanding will help you to develop your skill set.
LL: Although women engineers often face workplace and career challenges that their male colleagues do not, don’t be intimidated by the fact that engineering is a profession mostly dominated by males. Always continue learning and it will make you naturally feel more confident.
JS: If we want the work force to be gender balanced, we should get to the root of what gets you motivated, instead of focusing on the pressures of joining an industry that has been historically gender based one way or another. It may bring some new perspective that had not yet been acknowledged before. I’ve hit a few bumps along the way, but who hasn’t. If you take it easy with a firm dose of authority, you can be a part of a really fun team, even if it is a bunch of “guys”. So, if design and innovation make your spine tingle, engineering is the industry you should focus on, so make an impact!
KM: If that is your goal, go for it!
What are your hopes for the future of engineering?
HL: I hope that the engineers of tomorrow will continue to view the engineering disciplines as the multifaceted entities they are and will keep open minds when considering new or different solutions. I am optimistic that engineering will continue to become a more inclusive and diverse field that listens to more voices than ever before, which will further its impact on the advancement of society.
LL: More people will want to enter the field of engineering to help solve the world’s problems.
JS: Managing more of my own projects. It’s been a struggle, but I’m slowly learning my way and I’m happy to have more opportunities to have projects to call my own.
Additionally, up until recently, my 7yo daughter has always wanted to be a teacher, or a doctor, or a policeman, you know, Barbie ambitions. But now, driving around town, I get to tell her mommy helped with that building, and that park, and so on. And she asks, “YOU BUILT THAT!” “Well, I didn’t build it; I designed it. Mommy is an engineer, and that means I draw pictures and write little notes so that builders know how to build them.” So, the last few times I’ve asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, she says she wants to be an engineer, just like Mommy. So, I hope to build a legacy for her and hope to be able to help her carry the torch!
KM: I would love to see more innovation and less waste. I like the concept of coops between municipalities for alternative water resources and solar farming.