Women in Engineering Day 2024

To celebrate Women in Engineering Day, we asked the incredible women at CobbFendley about their experiences in the engineering world, and their answers are truly inspiring. From breaking barriers to building bridges, their stories showcase the strength, creativity, and passion that drive our industry forward.

Here’s to the women who engineer a better tomorrow!

Years of Experience: Total: 32 | With CobbFendley: 32

Role: President, Chief Executive Officer

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

I am proud of the engineering design and client services I have performed on many great projects throughout the years, but I am most proud of the part I have played in helping others achieve success in their careers.  Specific to women professionals in engineering, I am hopeful that as I have advanced through my career I have broken down barriers in a traditionally male-dominated field by providing opportunities for significant leadership roles, through mentoring, speaking at industry conferences, participating in committees, boards and panels, and serving as President of my company and of the Houston Chapter of the American Council of Engineering.  It is great to see the increased number of women are in the engineering industry since I began my career.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

I would tell them to be confident in their abilities and to “Go for it!”.  Do not let anyone’s opinion or bias affect the career path you want to pursue. Trust that your skills and perspective are just as valuable as the next person’s.  It is a truly rewarding and purposeful industry to be in to make a difference in people’s lives.  Seek out people that will encourage and help you along the way, and do your part by being committed to working hard.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

I believe we can encourage more women to pursue engineering by leading by example. It is especially important to show young women who are passionate about STEM fields that they have a place and are welcome in engineering.  I believe we need to promote STEM careers at an early age through activities and programs that teach problem-solving and demonstrate what opportunities there are in the engineering industry and how much it contributes to our daily lives.

Years of Experience: Total: 41 | With CobbFendley: 9

Role: Vice President, Utility Coordination/SUE/Broadband Department Manager

What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in engineering? 

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a journalist because I excelled at writing. However, one day my Dad approached me and said, “You are great at math and science. I think you should pursue engineering. The field needs more women.” This was in 1977, when there were very few women in engineering. Trusting my dad’s opinion, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up loving it and am grateful for my dad’s guidance that led me to this point.

Can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a woman in engineering, and how you’ve navigated them?

In 1981, I began my career as an engineer. As a black woman, I was one of very few in the field. Many of my peers initially had difficulty accepting that I was an engineer and not in an administrative or clerical role. Despite the negativity, I chose to remain calm and consistently explained that I was indeed an engineer. Over time, my peers began to understand and acknowledge that I belonged in this role just as much as anyone else.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

My advice for aspiring young women engineers is to start as early as possible! Enroll in STEM classes during high school and immerse yourself in gaining as much knowledge as you can to be well-prepared for college. These foundational courses will not only build your skills, but also give you a strong sense of confidence in your abilities.

Additionally, get involved at your university from the moment you step on campus. Join clubs, women’s groups, and professional organizations related to your discipline. These groups are invaluable for networking and finding support among like-minded peers.

Finding a mentor is another crucial step. Seek out professors, industry professionals, or upperclassmen who can provide guidance, share their experiences, and offer advice tailored to your career goals. A mentor can help you navigate challenges, provide industry insights, and open doors to opportunities you might not have otherwise considered.

What do you love most about being a woman in engineering?

I am passionate about challenging the stereotype that women don’t belong in STEM fields like engineering. It is incredibly rewarding to demonstrate that we, as women, absolutely can excel in these fields. Showing that we can succeed not only breaks down barriers, but also paves the way for future generations of women in STEM.

What was your favorite project you’ve completed thus far in your career? 

Years of Experience: Total: 5 | With CobbFendley: 4

Role: Project Engineer

What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

As a Latina woman, I was motivated to pursue engineering by a desire to represent and help my community. As an undergraduate volunteer with Engineers Without Borders, I was given the opportunity to witness firsthand how impactful engineering can be on a community in need. From that moment, I was inspired to pursue a career where my knowledge and skills could be used to tackle real-world problems and make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. Overall, I knew that becoming an engineer would allow me to combine my passion for creativity, problem-solving, and social impact in a way that feels both fulfilling and empowering.

Can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a woman in engineering, and how you’ve navigated them?

As an engineer who is passionate about both technical design and project management, I have been advised by other women in the field to avoid being steered toward roles that may stem from unconscious biases or assumptions about my abilities or interests as a woman. To navigate this, I advocate for myself and assert my interests and career goals. CobbFendley has created an inclusive environment where all project engineers have equal opportunity to pursue their preferred career paths, whether technical or managerial or both.

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

In my engineering career, I am most proud of projects where I have been trusted to lead design and plan coordination. I am also proud of the relationships I’ve built with mentors and colleagues who have supported my growth and provided guidance throughout my early career.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

I believe highlighting the diverse opportunities within engineering and painting a more accurate depiction of what engineering really is can help inspire more women to pursue it as a career. Typically, when I get asked what I do as a career, I am met with a lot of surprise and/or confusion. I think many people envision an engineer as a man in a hard hat and safety jacket surrounded by machinery on a construction site. Engineering is so much more than this, and I believe there is a place for anyone who is interested in it. Although I find myself wearing PPE on a construction site more often these days, this makes up such a small percentage of my overall experience. There are so many other sides to engineering that I am passionate about – the research, modeling, design, and creative side.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

For young women aspiring to enter engineering, my advice would be to believe in your abilities and not be discouraged by challenges or stereotypes; instead, view them as opportunities to prove yourself and never underestimate the value of your unique perspective. As a young woman in the field, I believe we can bring fresh insights and diverse ideas to projects, contributing to more creative and inclusive solutions.

What do you love most about being a woman in engineering?

What I love most about being a woman in engineering is the opportunity to challenge expectations and demonstrate that gender does not determine one’s capabilities or interests. I also appreciate the intellectual challenge and the opportunity to make a tangible contribution in my community.

Years of Experience: Total: 24 | With CobbFendley: 15

Role: Vice President, Municipal Department Manager

What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

I was inspired to become an engineer when taking calculus in high school. Then I was fortunate enough to obtain a scholarship through the civil engineering department at Lamar University. It required me to declare civil for at least two years. I had the option after that to change disciplines, but by then I was hooked!

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

I am proud to have helped open a new CobbFendley office in Conroe, becoming the municipal Department Manager, and helping to grow CobbFendley’s utility district client base.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

It is our job to talk to the young ladies in our lives about engineering fields and job possibilities. I have two daughters who know a lot about what I do at work because we talk about it at the dinner table, and we drive by my construction sites. I also talk to their friends about being an engineer. We have to make design and construction sound fun! I have been giving an end-of-year STEM presentation to a Title I school that my mom works at, telling them how I became an engineer, and showing them photos of my projects. It is also fun to participate in junior high and high school career fairs in your community. I also believe that social media is a great tool to let other females know what my job entails.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

Focus on your strengths, whether it is math, problem-solving, or working in a team. Build your communication and presentation skills as well as technical skills. You do not have to be a math wizard to be an engineer.

What do you love most about being a woman in engineering?

Engineering has allowed me to grow professionally more than I ever could have imagined!

What was your favorite project you’ve completed thus far in your career?

My favorite projects are elevated water storage tanks because construction is fun to watch, they are easy to design, and they become recognizable community icons. I saw one of my elevated tanks on an insurance commercial and recognized it because it has the name of the City painted on it.

Years of Experience: Total: 16 | With CobbFendley: 16

Role: Principal, Project Manager, Utility Design Group Lead

What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

 I was actually an architecture major in college, but after a year in the program, the artsy, subjective side of structure design made no sense to me. Where was the math and practicality? When discussing my concerns with my academic advisor, they suggested I likely belonged across the street in the Civil Engineering building. I switched majors, and here I am.

Can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a woman in engineering, and how you’ve navigated them?

As a young engineer, I frequently would get comments, particularly in meetings outside of the office and in the field. “You don’t look like an engineer”, “You’re too pretty to be an engineer”. I had no idea how to navigate those comments. Sometimes they felt gross; I felt overexposed and offended. Sometimes I knew the comment was an attempt at a compliment. Either way, I just smiled, not knowing how to respond, died inside, and brushed them off. We started a Women’s Luncheon in the office, and I had the opportunity to talk with all of our Houston Women Engineers, and I was offered the advice of preparing some canned responses to these types of circumstances, maybe veiled in humor, that would gently or overtly expose the offense of those statements. I was reminded it’s not my responsibility to make men feel comfortable, so if they made me uncomfortable, it was ok for them to feel it back, respectfully, of course. In other circumstances, I’ve encountered, what I perceived at least, push back, opposition, or hesitancy in the office working with some co-workers who maybe didn’t know how to take direction from a woman. In some of those circumstances, I’ve just pushed through and proved myself with my skill and consistency.

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

 I’m proud of earning the trust of difficult, demanding, and sometimes unreasonable clients. I’m proud of some of the ways I’ve brought people together inside and outside of the office to communicate, get on the same page, and coordinate efforts. I’m extremely proud of some of the programs within CobbFendley that I’ve been part of developing. I’m also very proud of my efforts to protect and support our profession and our professional license.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

Representation matters. Commercials, movies, TV, and social media need to depict women in engineering and STEM fields.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

Do it. Be curious about the world and how things work. Ask questions. Participate in experiments and STEM projects. If you want to learn something or fix something or make something, research, make attempts, fail, and keep trying, keep learning. Engineering is problem-solving, and women are incredibly equipped to navigate difficult situations and solve problems.

Years of Experience: Total: 19 | With CobbFendley: 2

Role: Senior Project Manager

What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in engineering? 

 Civil engineering is a wonderful career.  Every project I work on has a positive impact in the community.  We provide clean drinking water, safe transportation, and much more. 

Can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a woman in engineering, and how you’ve navigated them?

As a working mom, I have had many obstacles.  The most frustrating obstacles are handling other people’s opinions like negative words from clients, contractors, or previous employees.  I found my best response is to keep my head up, work hard, and just continue to be successful.

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the positive comments that I receive from clients.  I have been fortunate to build great relationships with most of my clients.  They see and appreciate the extra steps that I take. It is really appreciated when the clients recognize the extra effort.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

We need to encourage more engineers, female and male.  I attend high school and junior high career days.  Civil engineering is one of the best-kept secrets for a great career!  Who wouldn’t want to provide meaningful improvements for our community and get paid well at the same time? 

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

Just do it!  There are so many options with a civil engineering degree. 

What was your favorite project you’ve completed thus far in your career? 

Port Houston Bayport Entrance and Exit Gate.  This was the largest port project at the time.  I learned so much from the design team, Bill Abbott and Roger Hoh.  This is still the largest design project I have completed. 

Years of Experience: Total: 11 | With CobbFendley: 10

Role: Principal, Project Manager, Municipal Team Lead

What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in engineering? 

My parents, both were civil engineers and I loved watching how excited they were when we saw one of their projects. It was so fun seeing the difference we can make in our communities as engineers.

Can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a woman in engineering, and how you’ve navigated them?

I have had a hard time pushing through the imposter syndrome and the thought that engineering is a boy’s club. Once I started opening my eyes more and pushing through, it was so much more apparent that engineering is for everyone, and I have just as much knowledge and experience as those around me and I deserve to be in my position.

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

Interviewing for and securing a new client that has led to multiple large projects. It was especially rewarding because the client selected CobbFendley based on reviewing my resume and interacting with me.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

Leading by example. Some women see engineering as overwhelming and too difficult to break into, but if they can see more women succeeding and being proud of the work we do in engineering, I believe they will be more encouraged to pursue it.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

Figure out what pushes you internally and pursue a path that you can use that passion toward. For me it was being able to make a difference in my community, I design water and wastewater treatment plants to help serve communities with safe water and it helps drive me to work hard every day.

What was your favorite project you’ve completed thus far in your career? 

Years of Experience: Total: 20 | With CobbFendley: 16

Role: Principal, Senior Project Manager, Municipal Team Lead

Can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a woman in engineering, and how you’ve navigated them?

 I feel like there’s a general underestimation of women in the civil field, especially among older generations in the workplace. I interact with a lot of developers, contractors, and “good old boys” who assume I don’t know what I’m talking about, or doing, when they first interact with me. Having to prove my worth rather than be granted the seemingly automatic respect given to my male peers can be frustrating.  It’s less of an issue with younger people as the older members of the workforce age out/retire, but it still happens enough that it’s noteworthy.

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my work as a consulting engineer for several municipalities in North Texas.  Whether it’s through doing development plan reviews to ensure standards are met as required, or by completing my own design projects, I’m proud to be positively contributing to the communities around me.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

Through WTS I’ve joined in annual visits to a local girls’ STEM middle school, participating in classroom Q&A sessions about what I do as a female engineer and how I got here while offering advice and answering any questions the girls may have.  I love to interact with young girls on that level and share my passion for what I do, hopefully guiding them to continue their interest in science-based careers.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

There’s no such thing as being “too smart” or “too strong.” Be yourself, speak up when applicable, stand tall, and let your knowledge shine.

What do you love most about being a woman in engineering?

Years of Experience: Total: 8 | With CobbFendley: 8

Role: Associate, Project Manager, Municipal Team Lead

What motivated or inspired you to pursue a career in engineering? 

My brother actually inspired me to make the transition to engineering. I struggled with an ED in college to the point where I had to withdraw from the university, and my brother sat me down for a heart-to-heart conversation. I was pursuing pre-med at the time with a lifelong dream of going to med school to become a doctor. Clearly, that was not working out. He helped me identify my goal was to help people, and he told me that I should consider engineering because I can still help people as an engineer.

Can you share some of the obstacles you’ve encountered as a woman in engineering, and how you’ve navigated them?

There have been some interesting moments. The main thing to note as a woman is that I’ve received snide comments about my ability to physically do things as a woman. More personally, maternity leave has been an obstacle. As the breadwinner of my family (my husband is a stay-at-home dad), I’ve had to make the sacrifice of coming back to work after 8 weeks instead of 12 weeks because I can’t afford not to. I appreciate the strides CobbFendley has made to extend maternity leave so that future women don’t have to make this sacrifice.

How do you believe we can encourage more women to pursue careers in engineering?

We just have to keep spotlighting women doing the cool things and projects that they’re working on. I think continuing to share updates and stories on social media will be the way to encourage more women to consider this field.

What advice would you offer to young women who aspire to enter the field of engineering?

What do you love most about being a woman in engineering?

What achievements in your engineering career are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of the team that we’ve built. Every person on my team plays such a critical role in our success, and I can honestly say that we do care about one another and our personal lives and growth.

One project in particular, the CR 404 Waterline Relocation for the City of Hutto comes to mind immediately. This was an absolutely critical line for Williamson County to get relocated because it involved Samsung’s purchase of their now very well-known move to Taylor. My team was tasked with designing, to completion, almost 3 miles of waterline design in 1 week. We made it happen! Now, before this could eventually get installed, there would be two redesigns, once due to Samsung purchasing a wider plot of land, and then another due to material unavailability of DI, and having to redesign to HDPE entirely. But even through these changes, our team came through. We recently held a ribbon cutting and it was so cool to see the Governor, the President of Samsung Semiconductor, and other officials talk about it.

I’m also proud of juggling a family along with my career. You can do/accomplish both.

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