Embrace Your Inner Nerd! (Krista – Civil & Environmental Engineer)

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I am very happy to have the wonderfully talented, Krista, on the blog today! She is a great example of someone who has pursued a career in engineering while maintaining her passion and  involvement in acting! I’ll go ahead and let her take it away…

Hi, My name is Krista Forti and I am a NERD. I am an engineer by day and an actress by night!

Photo 1 - wedding pic

Growing up I enjoyed math, science, problem solving, as well as singing and acting. I was the nerd who asked for extra algebra problems because it was so fun! I was also the nerd who was part of every single theatrical production at school. What can I say? It’s definitely a weird combination. When all my classmates graduated high school, many decided to pursue theater and acting in New York City. Not me!

Photo 2 - pigtails

One of the reasons why I decided to become an engineer is because I wanted a dependable job. Thinking back on it, this doesn’t seem like a real great reason. But at the time, it was extremely important to me. While my spontaneous friends were willing to spend (or have their parents spend) $50,000 a year for a theatre arts degree, I wanted to pursue a career that would provide a stable future; one where I wouldn’t have to depend on my parents, spouse, or friends. One where I wouldn’t have to work as a bartender between auditions just to afford housing. Going straight to New York City was a huge risk for me, and one that I was not willing to take.

Photo 3 - orange outfit

But why else did I want to become an engineer? It really came down to one moment in my life when I realized engineering could be fun. The moment was a simple conversation I had with my parents on the way down to the Outer Banks for our summer vacation. There had been recent article that was published in a local newspaper that stated that arsenic was found in the drinking water in the Outer Banks. The article urged vacation-goers to buy bottled water in lieu of drinking the tap water. This fascinated me. Who cleans the water? Who is responsible for making sure the tap is safe? Isn’t arsenic dangerous to drink, and shouldn’t someone work to eliminate the source of the arsenic instead of simply telling residents and vacation-goers not to drink the tap water? With all of these questions racing through my head, I was told that these are the types of problems that engineers solve. Hey, this could be fun, right?

Since that moment I graduated high school, attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil & Environmental Engineering. So here I am today, living outside of Boston with my wonderful husband, and working for an environmental consulting firm. And guess what I do? I am a water and wastewater treatment design engineer. In other words, I work with local municipalities and design treatment plants. Ok, I’m going to be straight with you. I intended to work in the water field, but somehow wastewater became a lot more interesting.

Photo 4 - pumps

So I am essentially a poop engineer. Go ahead and laugh! But the best part about my job is the ability to grow and learn about so many different types of engineering. Wastewater treatment design involves using a variety of skills such as mechanical engineering, chemistry, biology, management, construction administration, cost analysis, etc. Furthermore, I get to work with mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, structural engineers, and instrumentation and controls engineers. My everyday job involves a lot of office work where I am sizing equipment, performing plant hydraulic calculations, and designing pipe layouts for a new building. However, I also get the opportunity to visit wastewater treatment plants, attend town meetings, and witness equipment testing. These outings are my favorite part. Let’s be honest. I am a people person and a hands-on learner. I learn from going to the treatment plant to understand how equipment operates. My clients (municipalities) collaborate with me regarding their project needs and expectations . I love building strong relationships with my clients so that they will continue to work with us on future projects. Working as a wastewater treatment engineer and consultant , I have the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and work with a variety of different people. This makes ‘going to work’ a little bit more exciting!

Photo 5 - clarifier

So what about the dreamers that went to New York to pursue acting? Some of them made it, some of them are still trying, and some of them pursued different careers. But me? I’m an engineer by day, and an actress by night! Musical theater is one of my passions, and I have been performing in the Boston area for the past three years. Do I get paid? No. Do I need to get paid? No way! I continue to perform on stage because it’s fun, and its considered one of my favorite sports! I don’t have to worry about auditioning for every single opportunity because I don’t rely on auditions to survive. I can rely on my own schedule and audition for the shows that I am interested in. I see it as the best of both worlds. I am able to continue progressing in my career as an engineer, continue crunching numbers and solving problems, but I can also continue my passion for acting.

Photo 6 - wedding scene

So what do I have to say to all of you aspiring women out there? First off, don’t be afraid to be a nerd! Embrace it! Just because you major in a technical field or pursue a technical career does not mean that you have to neglect your passion for painting, or soccer, or sky-diving, or broadcasting, or whatever your passion may be. Don’t be afraid of what makes you happy. Your future is in your hands. Sheryl Sandberg says it best in her novel titled Lean In. We should never hold ourselves back “by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.” So do me a favor, follow your inner-nerd, and lean in.

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