Orange County Branch Newsletter

September 2015


ASCE OC YMF Women in Engineering Panel

By: Elizabeth Ruedas, ASCE OC YMF

In an event that drew over 50 attendees, ASCE OC YMF featured the 2015 Women in Engineering Panel on July 21st. The theme of the evening was “Career Advancement and Overcoming Challenges.” The panel consisted of a diverse group of highly-experienced women representing different fields within civil engineering, as well as both the public and private sectors. Kirsten Zeydel, PE, SE is the president of a one-woman structural engineering firm, ZO Consulting, Inc.. Sherry Nour, PE, a Practice Leader in Transportation with Kimley-Horn Associates, focuses on creating solutions for our highways. Rossana D’Antonio, PE, GE serves as an Assistant Deputy Director for Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, where she is responsible for directing the technical design of all public infrastructure facilities. Through an interactive format with the audience, the three well-respected, female professional civil engineers shared their experiences and answered a multitude of questions on Career Advancement, Work/Life Balance, Leadership, Overcoming Challenges Women Face in the Industry, and Finding Your Passion.

Career advancement was the first of five topics to be discussed. As the name suggests, this session included questions related to growth within the civil engineering profession. Sherry spoke on the importance of having a plan and finding a company that is able to accommodate your personal goals and visions. In addition to having a mentor for career advice, Rossana discussed the importance of having an advocate within your company to vouch for you and your talents when opportunities arise. Kirsten finished this round by speaking on the necessary skills that one must have in order to thrive in industry and own your own company.

We then made a segway to the topic of work and life balance. The discussion began with Kirsten, as she described how owning her own company has made spending time with her two young children much easier. She said that being a mother has made her a better engineer because she learned how to prioritize and allocate her time more wisely. Sherry then shifted the discussion away from children by discussing the importance of finding an outlet and pursuing productive hobbies that you are passionate about. Soon after, Rossana spoke about her experience with attending graduate school and working full-time. She gave advice on choosing the right program and taking classes that enrich and enhance your knowledge. This sparked a great conversation between audience members that wanted to share their own advice and experience.

Ways to differentiate yourself and to stand out as a woman engineer in a big company initiated the leadership sub-topic. Rossana spoke on the importance of having a strong presence, whether it be at a meeting or at an event. She advised the attendees to ask at least one educated question before a meeting is over. This not only encourages you to be better prepared for your meetings, but it also shows your boss that your presence and input are valuable to the team.

Overcoming challenges that women face in industry was the next sub-topic that we transitioned to. This discussion ranged from ways of projecting your confidence to techniques that can be used in order to have your ideas heard and recognized.  Several challenges that the panelists faced on their journey to becoming a leader, such as generation gaps and discrimination, were also addressed. More importantly, however, the panelists explained how they overcame these challenges and gave advice on how we could all do so as well. The panel also gave examples of ways that we can encourage more women to pursue leadership roles within the industry.

The event concluded with an open conversation about finding your passion. The panelists and audience shared anecdotes related to the unexpected changes in their careers. In an effort to encourage learning outside of the event, Elizabeth asked the panelists and attendees to share books and short films that have had a positive impact on their career. A list of the books and videos that were recommended is provided below.

Lean In  by Sheryl Sandberg
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
True North by Bill George

Special thanks to the panelists, those involved in the 3-month planning process and those who attended the event!

Interested in getting involved in next year’s Women in Engineering event?! If so, contact Elizabeth Ruedas.

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