Ever since I was young, I was always curious about how things were working together. How was this designed? How did this part work with that part? I wanted to understand the ‘how’ of everything I saw. I have a few family members who are engineers, so the idea of growing up and designing machines was not new to me.
Luckily, the high school I attended granted students the opportunity to attend different academies (STEM, business, visual and performing arts, biotech and health sciences, etc.). Once you chose the academy you were interested in, your classes were structured around that specific interest for the next four years. I knew I was interested in math and science, so taking the STEM courses seemed to make the most sense. Within the academy, I took an engineering course which further increased my interest in the engineering field.
During my senior year of high school, I interned with a local architecture firm in Denver, Colorado. During my internship, I visited the firm twice a week, and sat in a variety of roles. I learned from many different people about each step in the design and construction process. During this time, I met Robert Rody, the office’s architectural engineer. After a few sessions with him, checking things out on site and within a model, I realized that I was less of a visual person. Meaning, I was not as interested in what the building’s exterior looked like, but what was inside and ensuring everything worked together properly and efficiently.
Knowing that about myself solidified my choice to attend University of Colorado, Boulder and earn a degree in architectural engineering with a concentration in mechanical systems for buildings. College was definitely a challenge, and I was forced to step back and consider all aspects about my time at Boulder. Because I helped pay for my college and would need to work multiple jobs in order to do so, I broke up my four years of college into five. By doing this, I was able to take a lot of stress off of myself and put my focus on my school work.
Like most college experiences, mine was not a walk in the park. However, the challenges I faced made me learn more about myself, and the way I process and apply information. Having classes with various types of engineering students (aerospace, biomedical, mechanical, etc.), I realized that we all have different strengths, and everyone processes information differently. Likewise, the typical female engineering stereotypes were pushed upon me. The fact that I was in a sorority seemed to worsen the stereotypes. However, as difficult as some of my experiences were, they made me stronger, grow a thick skin, and speak up for myself.
All the late-night studying was worth it. The experiences I had and the relationships I formed have made me into the person and engineer I am today. I wouldn’t trade one second of my college experience for anything. Because of it, in my three years with Southland, I have been able to travel for various projects, and experience more than some do in their 25-year careers.