Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day - An Interview with Colleen Brophy

Once again we are recognizing "Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day" to close out Engineering Week 2018, and this time we sat down with Colleen Brophy, an Environmental Engineer-in-Training in our Raleigh corporate office to talk shop. 

Colleen has her bachelors degree in environmental engineering from NC State University and she focuses on water distribution, wastewater collection and hydraulic modeling projects here at The Wooten Company. 

Colleen Brophy.jpg

Thank you for offering up some time to chat today Colleen - First question: How were you introduced to engineering? 

"The WISE (Women In Science and Engineering) village at NC State. I started freshman year as environmental science degree and the WISE program had so many resources, programs, and taught me so much about the engineering field."

What was your initial impression of the profession?

"In college we were solving neatly constructed, theoretical problems. Now in this professional world, these became real cities, houses, rivers, pipes, systems, etc. with real problems to solve. It was a little intimidating starting out."

So what made you decide to pursue engineering as a career?

"After a semester of environmental science I realized I didn’t want to be in a lab doing research. I decided I would rather be finding solutions and implementing them which led me to the engineering field."

Is there anyone in particular who really supported your pursuit of an engineering degree?

"Both my Mom and Dad have always supported me in everything I have decided to go after. Growing up they helped cultivate my curiosity in science and kept supporting me through high school and college to pursue science and engineering."

What are you most proud of in your career so far? 

"Passing the FE exam and continuing to work towards my Professional License."

What has been the biggest challenge so far in your career and how did you overcome it?

"It has been very difficult learning how to balance work, personal life, studying, and growing in my career. I don’t know if I’ll ever know if I am balancing everything correctly but as long as I keep trying then I am succeeding at moving forward."

Amen... So what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your career? 

"It’s okay not to know everything. You have so many people and books as references and you should use your resources."

What advice would you give other women or young girls who are interested in learning more about engineering or becoming an engineer?  

"Don’t be afraid to try something, even if it is difficult or scary. I’d say join some STEM programs, Science Olympiad, or even just doing some research online to see if you are interested."

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We couldn't agree more with Colleen when it comes to joining any of the growing number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs offered in schools today, and are proud to be able to give back to this community as corporate sponsors and participants across the Carolinas. 

So as Engineering Week comes to a close this Friday afternoon, we'd like to say Thank You to Colleen, as well as every other engineer who dedicates themselves each day to tackling some of our greatest infrastructure challenges, and for striving to improve the health and welfare of their communities, one project at a time.

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.