Engineering throughout the years has typically been a male dominated field, yet nowadays more women are branching out into all sectors of the field including Stewart’s own Structural, Civil, and Transportation practice areas. As a firm that values diverse viewpoints and experiences from all walks of life, we wondered how these accomplished women began in engineering in the first place and what they enjoy about it overall. Stewart is proud to have a growing number of female licensed Professional Engineers in our firm, and here are some of their stories.
Stacey Springer, PE, Project Engineer in Structural Engineering, found engineering early in her childhood. “I sort of fell into engineering. I always played with Legos as a little girl, putting little buildings together. I chose architectural engineering for my college major not really knowing what that was exactly. I knew that I was good at math and I liked to draw, so it seemed like a good choice,” Springer says. “It wasn’t until the summer after my sophomore year in college when I interned for an architect that I got excited about engineering. Once I stepped onto a jobsite and was able to see the ‘bones’ of a building I knew I was in the right major and was excited to put real buildings together,” she adds.
Trina Agnello, PE, Project Manager in Structural Engineering, found her way early in life as well. “My introduction to engineering was from my guidance counselor. She said I was good in math and science, and it would be a good fit since I didn’t want to be a doctor. I’m glad I was listening,” Agnello recollects. “Structural engineering is not always crunching the numbers but solving design or construction problems in a creative way.”
Elizabeth Phelps, PE, Bridge Engineer in Transportation, has described her start into the field as more of a slow build. “I’ve always thought roads and bridges were interesting. I was open to other engineering majors when I started college but liked my civil engineering classes the best,” Phelps explains.
Natalie Carmen, PE, Project Engineer in Civil Engineering, has had a deep experience and viewpoint of what engineering means to her and the world, which ultimately began in her childhood and gradually transformed throughout the years. “My path to engineering started with an identification as an artist as early as kindergarten, and a love of mathematics since I began communicating. Through school I cultivated both of these interests by taking all the math and art classes. Pastels were my favorite medium as an early artist exploring techniques to convey ideas graphically. I chose to take a deeper study of design in college that focused on the built environment; and as a student I was afforded the opportunity to travel to communities around the world,” she reflects.
Carmen goes onto demonstrate the enlightening experience of seeing how her vocation can treat the hardships of the world. “I saw the state of water in different communities and how water systems impact daily life. Two memories stick with me as pivotal in opening my eyes to how my giftings could be used to serve communities. The first was standing on the beach along the east side of the Atlantic Ocean in Accra, Ghana, where society’s trash flowed into the open water and relatedly tap water was not safe to drink. The second was walking up a steep earthen ‘street’ in a Caribbean small town where children were not able to go to school when it rains because the streets are impassible. I identified water system treatment and design as a niche for me to pour my energies into and later found my way to engineering. I still see myself primarily as an artist. My medium has changed to earth form, pipes, swales, concrete, and soil media, but the intent is still to communicate an idea through a designed form. Everywhere I travel abroad and locally, the human attributes that connect us are the strongest imprint. Our dependence on water is just one of the things that connect us – we all need safe drinking water, safe wastewater disposal, and protection from flooding,” she concludes. Carmen’s worldview shows how painful realities can shape our lives and careers.
These wonderful and inspiring women, each with a different take on engineering, have all ended up at Stewart. This makes our second home that much more fascinating and wonderfully diverse. It makes us stronger as a community, and as a firm, when we have the benefit of varied backgrounds and experiences. We are all honored to know a little bit more about the way our coworkers tick and what drives them to do what they do every single day. This is just another facet of our #lifeatStewart.