Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day: An Interview With Courtney Gamble, PE

Courtney Gamble, PE - The Wooten Company

Courtney Gamble, PE - The Wooten Company

How were you introduced to engineering?  I stumbled upon it in my 3rd year of college.

What was your initial impression of engineering/engineers? I thought it was some mystical science for the Stephen Hawkings of the world. “Rocket Science”.  (And I still think that about electrical engineering, I just can’t wrap my head around anything past the V over IR triangle).

What made you decide to pursue engineering after being introduced to it? I was struggling to find the right major in college and was rejected the 1st time I applied to my college’s engineering program because I honestly didn’t have a good reason to sell myself as a candidate for the program. When the professor asked me why I wanted to begin an engineering curriculum my answer was along the lines of “because I have all the pre-req’s for it?” After a warranted rejection I started to research engineering and watching shows on the discovery and history channel about engineering marvels. I learned how cool and also challenging engineering was and how it made so many things in our world possible.  I fell in love with the challenge and the problem solving.

Is there anyone in particular who really supported your pursuit of an engineering degree? Oh gosh I’ve had so many. I’d say my grandma, she’s the only one in my family who knew I was pursuing engineering until late in my 4th year  and she would take all my tearful phone calls after a differential equations test or whenI was generally convinced I couldn’t hack it. She would assure me that I belonged in that program just as much as the next person and not to give up.

What are you most proud of in your career so far? Obtaining my professional license.

Can you think of a girl you can/should “introduce to engineering? I get asked all the time by family friends to talk to their daughters about STEM majors and I’m always surprised how many girls know it exists now compared to my youth. I cannot think of a girl specifically but I never shy away from sharing stories of my profession and how it has become such a thought provoking career that rarely feels stagnant.

What has been the biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?  Leaving the regulatory arena for the private sector. It’s a steep learning curve and it was clear that I had to prove myself to keep my new private sector position. I worked hard, asked a lot of questions and tried to learn everything I could. Eventually I was profitable and had earned my employers trust.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?  Get in the field. So many change orders and lost time can be avoided by doing a thorough pre-design site visit and visiting the site throughout the project. You learn a lot by witnessing the construction first hand, chatting with foremen and operators, and helping solve problems if/when they arise.

Have you ever had anyone say anything negative/positive about being a woman in the engineering world?  I’ve heard both. It’s mostly been positive feedback from men and women I have crossed paths with. In general our profession is highly respected and I’ve been afforded that respect. I have had a few men suggest nursing or teaching as a “better career for women”, but that was all in college.

If so, how did you respond? Kill ‘em with kindness as grandma always said.

Have you ever felt like your work or voice was looked over or underappreciated because you’re a female? Only on isolated occasions working with a few clients or coworkers. I don’t let it phase me. I keep the conversation on the task at hand, maybe speak a little firmer and clearer, and make it apparent (without explicitly saying it of course) that working together respectfully is the best way to reach our goal.

Do you feel like you’ve had to work harder than your male colleagues to get to where you are today? Honestly, no. In my eyes my male colleagues who have reached my same level professionally have put in the same sweat equity that I have.

What advice would you give other women or young girls who are interested in learning more about engineering or becoming an engineer? Engineering is an exciting career with opportunities that can take you anywhere you want to go. You can achieve many goals. Mine was stability/job security. But if yours is to travel, or be able to work from home, or to be a CEO one day, all of these things are possible as an engineer.