I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Stein, PE, a young civil engineer, who works for Kiewit Building Group. Amy’s unique career path has allowed her to live in various places for the past 8 years. In this interview she talks about her career path and her experience working in a male-dominated industry. She also leaves young engineers with some great advice at the end. Be sure to read all the way through!
Why did you choose engineering?
When I was in High School I had applied as a Political Science major at Tulane. Then, my friend’s neighbor, who was in business development at a contractor needed an intern for the summer, so I applied and got the job. I completed all the paperwork tasks they gave me really quickly, so they started to give me actual work to do. The company was construction and architecture, so they had both engineers and architects working there. While I was there I took the time to interview a lot of the employees about their job and thought it was really interesting.
Because of the internship I changed my major to the engineering/architecture major at Tulane. Their program allows you to take both engineering and architecture coursework at the beginning and then you get to choose. After one semester I knew I didn’t want to be an architect. My friends and parents encouraged me to keep going the engineering route.
I never really thought engineering would be my path because I was never the best at math. I always made B’s and it didn’t come natural for me. But with enough practice I did it.
Tell me about internships you had and how you got your first job out of college.
I worked at that same first internship each summer and then took an internship at the City of San Francisco Public Works to see the municipal side vs. the private side for a potential career path. As a part of that internship, I took the Meyer’s Briggs personality assessment, which resulted in an ENTJ and I read on the profile for this personality that people with this personality type should lead construction on a house. I felt like this was the right path for me and I told myself I would pursue this path until it broke me.
When I was graduating, I decided I wanted to try for large government work and live outside of my home state of Florida, so applied for a job based out of Washington DC at Kiewit and got the job there.
What has your career path looked like so far?
I needed a security clearance for my first job, so while I was waiting on that they sent me to a construction site in Hawaii to learn from a project. From Hawaii, I went to DC to do estimating to determine project costs. Over the next few years I went to Kansas City, Massachusetts, Toronto and back to D.C. all for different construction jobs in various project management and estimating roles. The reason for so many moves is because when you are on a construction job, they send you where the job is and when it is over you are moved to the next one.
Talk about your experience in a male dominated industry.
A lot of people have this preconception of what type of person a construction superintendent is and what they look like; I definitely don’t fit the stereotype. I’ve had to self-advocate and lobby to be a superintendent as well as seek out those people that are open minded enough to not just see me in typical “female” office roles. I hope to see women being able to contribute to construction projects more often and in wider variety of field roles in the future.
What advice do you have for young women in engineering?
The worst thing we can do is doubt ourselves. When I have been given positions I do think I can do, I tell myself I can. Don’t be afraid. It is fear that stops people. Anyone can do anything. You just have to be open to learning.