28 May 2024

Designing a Better World

I find it commonly asked, “Why civil engineering?” For many reasons, my answer is, it simply fits. Having been born and raised in one of the country’s most densely populated cities, no one understands or appreciates transformative transportation infrastructure more than a native Houstonian. Although gifted with an appreciation of the industry, my decision to pursue a career in civil engineering stemmed from my strong desire to help people and make a tangible impact on their daily lives.

I was first influenced by the teacher of my first drafting class in high school. I took the course by chance, simply because it sounded interesting, but quickly found myself thriving with the skillset. Recognizing my abilities, my teacher encouraged me to explore engineering. Through research and exposure to various engineering disciplines, civil engineering stood out among the rest, and I became more and more invested. The idea of creating lasting infrastructure that could significantly improve people’s lives resonated deeply.

I was actively involved in Model UN in high school. That carried over into college at Texas A&M where I reversed my role into a leadership and mentor position for the organization. I was fortunate to have also participated in Engineers Without Borders, which allowed me to travel to Nicaragua and work with a small village to discuss clean water practices and chlorination methods. The experience was eye opening to a completely new perspective on how others live and underscored the vast impacts infrastructure can have on communities. Witnessing the living conditions in a remote village, where small homes lacked nearby restrooms, highlighted the importance of our work in improving public health and infrastructure.

As an Assistant Project Manager on EHRA Engineering’s Public Infrastructure team, I primarily focus on roadway design. I have been practicing transportation design for more than seven years now and am currently engaged in two roadway projects. I find that the most fulfilling aspect of my job is the tangibility of the results, but starting a project from its conception is particularly rewarding. I have a passion for design, and being a part of a project from the beginning allows me to provide more input toward finding the solution and see my own ideas come to life. I get to see how things came to be, where they started and the history behind the infrastructure itself.

One of the biggest challenges in this field is balancing creativity with practicality. Projects must meet client expectations, budget constraints and numerous external factors related to a particular tract. The challenge lies in making an area better, while also making that improvement cost effective. Finding innovative solutions within these parameters often feels difficult, but in the same sense, I enjoy being a part in finding the solution.

The goal I have for myself is to continue helping people through my work in civil engineering. In conjunction with helping and improving the lives of others, I am also continuously working to improve myself. In both my personal and professional life, I greatly enjoy and am committed to learning and expanding my knowledge. I have found creative outlets and new challenges in modern calligraphy, baking and even most recently in the drums! Some may view transportation design as limiting, but I believe there are always new discoveries, new designs and new solutions to be found or created.

Embracing this mindset of continuous improvement has also led me to take on such leadership roles within the industry. I have the drive to show others that I can do this. I am not someone that you can underestimate, and although there have been challenges that I have faced personally, I have never let them discourage me. I am proud of the accomplishments and contributions I have been fortunate enough to create up to this point in my career. From traveling to a third world country to introduce the impacts of infrastructure to being one of merely a handful of STEM individuals selected to help teach a Technical English Course at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, I have been presented with incredible opportunities that have led me to both career-and-life-changing experiences.

For young professionals entering this field, my advice is to stay curious and always ask questions. Understanding the 'why' and 'how' behind processes and decisions can deepen your knowledge and passion for your work. Passion is crucial, as it fuels your engagement and motivation, creating a sense of personal investment and pride in your contributions. Secondly, find yourself a mentor. Whether it be a person’s attitude, work ethic, etc., find the person you are inspired to emulate; ask them questions and let them be your role model in the industry.

I chose the path of civil engineering many years ago and have never looked back. Every step I have taken has reinforced my commitment to this field, and I look forward to continuing to learn, grow and contribute to meaningful projects that improve the lives of the communities around me.