Today we have Andrea sharing her experience about how she has helped clean up the world, got her MBA, and now works in an entirely different industry! She’s a great example of how you can use your engineering degree as a foundation to do just about anything! I’m excited she’s on the blog today as she is a good friend from college and we had the amazing chance to travel to the other side of the world together while working on projects for school, but I’ll let her take it from here…
Engineering opens up opportunities. Are you a curious person? Are you always trying to figure out how things work? Or how to make things better? Do you like numbers and spreadsheets? These are the things that attracted me to the engineering field and are essential building blocks to any career based in critical thinking. I’ll share with you my experiences in engineering and business and how I’ve seen my technical background as a critical cornerstone to my career.
I went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and majored in Civil and Environmental Engineering. During my junior year I had the opportunity to travel to Australia and New Zealand, with none other than the author of this blog – Erin!
This international experience really drove my curiosity to explore new places and since then, I have travelled to Thailand, Italy, Brazil, Turkey, and Cyprus! While these trips haven’t been related to my work, I surely wouldn’t have taken them if my undergraduate experience hadn’t spurred my interest in learning more about the world around me.
While I haven’t travelled internationally for work, I have had the opportunity to extensively travel the North East and work at various project sites to clean up pollution. Over the years, I’ve been based near New York City and Providence Rhode Island – two places with excellent restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife!
I loved working as an environmental engineering consultant. I knew I was cleaning up the world and making it a better place every time I put on my field clothes.
My engineering role included a mix of office and field work. In the field we tested materials to figure out what pollutants were present and where they were located. Then in the office, we researched the history of the site – what types of businesses were there and what type of chemicals were used. Using the information from the field and from research, we designed a strategy to clean-up the site. Back in the field, we implemented our designs and cleaned-up the earth!
This is a wetland that was contaminated from a nearby business. We dug out the polluted soil and replanted the area with trees and plants. We witnessed baby deer playing in the area when it was restored (wish I had a picture to share – it was really cute!) In this picture, we were checking out some of the nearby wells to gather data.
This is a picture from a landfill where we were installing a system to contain the naturally forming (but dangerous) gas that is generated as trash decomposes. It’s difficult to tell in this picture, but the landfill was one of my favorite spots to visit – there is surprisingly a lot of wildlife!
These pictures are from one of the coldest days that I’ve ever worked in the field. We were installing wells but the driller’s equipment kept freezing and breaking, so we had a lot of downtime. Luckily, we were working inside an air museum and there were a lot of interesting things to check out! One of my favorite things about working as a consultant is that you get to travel to a lot of unique job sites and learn about new things.
In addition to all the fun we had at work, my company and coworkers also did a lot of activities together on the weekends.
Despite having all this fun, I realized that my quest for learning wasn’t over and I decided to go back to school. I enrolled part-time to get my Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Bryant University. I knew that at some point I would want to go back to school but had a difficult time deciding between a masters in engineering and a masters in business. In the end I made my MBA decision because I could see the tremendous amount that I could learn and grow by studying a new field.
Learning about business was truly intriguing to me. There was so much complexity and ambiguity. When we turned in our tests, unlike engineering, there was no “right” answer. You had to analyze the case, determine your recommendation, but then also articulate and argue your point. It was fun! I found that my technical background helped me to create a sound base for my arguments as I was always comfortable diving into the data to help in my analysis. However, I had much to learn from my peers in marketing and public relations on how to present my ideas to gain support.
I was able to use my new business knowledge in engineering consulting, but realized that I wanted to focus on building my new skills. I took on a new role as a business consultant in a different field – the insurance industry. Why would they hire an engineer in an insurance company? They were looking for structured thinkers who could solve problems creatively, learn new material quickly, and communicate effectively in a team. And these are exactly the building blocks that I had to work with. Engineering really opened the door for me to take on these new challenges!
The business consulting role is both exciting and challenging. Our team uses advanced analytics and big data to improve business processes. Although engineering experience was not a requirement in the job description, I see every day how my approach and technical nature shapes the work that I do and it provides me with a unique and effective perspective when approaching problems. Though I miss some of my days out in the field, I don’t mind being inside when it’s below freezing!