Today, we have one of my role models – she’s been like a big sister to me since we met in college. I am so happy our paths crossed in college because we have been best friends ever since – she was even a bridesmaid in my wedding! She’s a fantastic person and I think you are absolutely going to love hearing about what she has done with her engineering degree. Take it away, Kristin…
So my good friend Erin asked if I would write about my work adventures and travels in her blog and I was so excited! Ironically, I am sitting here at Logan Airport in Boston waiting to board my plane to Orlando. I am heading there to teach a seminar and thought there was no better time to write about my journeys. Thanks, Erin for inviting me to be a part of your blog!
It’s inevitable. As I sit in my window seat (you can see so much more of the world from a window seat) another traveler sits beside me, says hello, and after some small talk asks the question “so, what do you do for work?” I answer with “I am a fire protection engineer.”
“A fire protection, what?”
“A fire protection engineer.”
<insert confused look here>
My road to fire protection engineering began at WPI (I met Erin and Ryan at WPI!) when I saw a flyer on the wall in the Civil Engineering building. Simply put, I thought it sounded interesting so I applied for the Master’s program, and the rest is history. Currently, I work at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in Quincy, MA. I started here as an intern in 2006 and signed on as a full time fire protection engineer in 2007. I have been there ever since.
My job is not easy to explain, hence the puzzled look I often get from inquisitive people I meet in my travels. I don’t sit at a desk and crunch numbers on a calculator, I don’t design things, I don’t build things, I don’t even really do math. I like to think of myself more as an information engineer.
NFPA produces and publishes over 300 codes and standards used around the world related to fire and electrical safety. I work primarily with issues dealing with building construction and people protection from fire. I work with the volunteers whose expertise contributes to the development of these codes and standards and I work to communicate the technical issues and safety messages of the codes that I work directly with. Education, information, engineering, safety, fire…..it’s all part of my job. And I love it.
A big part of my job is travel. I travel to the code meetings, to conferences, seminars, workshops, and to industry events to talk fire safety. While most of my travels are within the US, I have had the opportunity to travel to a few international destinations, which I am so thankful for.
My favorite trip, by far (no pun intended) was Dubai in the UAE. I fell in love with this city (don’t worry London, it hasn’t replaced you yet.) In January 2013 I had the opportunity to travel to Dubai for a global fire safety conference. There I gave several presentations on fire safety issues, met with government officials on code adoption issues, and learned so much about fire safety in the Middle East. Above all, I made sure to make time to see such a beautiful and unique country. I actually arranged my travels to allow myself an extra day on the trip to do some sightseeing on my own.
Dubai is home to so many of the world’s biggest and tallest and grandest things. While there I got to see the following record breaking places:
- The Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building
- The Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates – the biggest malls in the world
- Ski Dubai – the world’s biggest (and only?) indoor ski resort
- JW Marriott Marquis Dubai – this is the hotel I stayed in, and it is currently the world’s tallest single use hotel property
- Burj Al Arab – the world’s only 7 star hotel (I did NOT stay here)
- The Palm islands – the World’s biggest man-made islands.
- And more!
My travels for NFPA have taken me to 3 different countries (England, The Netherlands, and The United Arab Emirates), and over 30 different cities throughout the United States. Whether it’s an hour from home, or half way across the world, I have learned that each place has something special to offer its visitors; whether it’s the tallest building in the world or world famous food (I never forget to experience the food.) I would have experienced these things without the opportunity to travel.
I have learned a lot from traveling. In conclusion, I will leave you with some advice and travel recommendations:
- Always make time to explore your destination. When traveling for work it’s often tricky to make time for sightseeing. Do it. You never know when you will have the opportunity to go back. I always make an effort to find a local restaurant, or site that a city is known for. You won’t ever regret it.
- Don’t be afraid to travel alone (just be responsible.) I traveled more miles in Dubai and Amsterdam, most on foot, in the time I had alone then I ever imagined I would have. It was amazing.
- Pick the window seat. From the window seat of the airplane I have seen better views of the grand canyon, Hoover Dam, Chicago, New York City, cascade mountains, lights of the middle east city skylines, and the pacific coastline then I could have ever had on the ground.
- Eat local food. I LOVE food. Some of my favorite memories of traveling are the times I’ve spent at restaurants with colleagues, new and old, enjoying the local food. I’ve eaten the best tacos in San Diego, the best BBQ in Austin…or was it Memphis. I’ve eaten at food trucks, fancy steakhouses, and local dives, and love them all. Food brings people together.
- Be thankful. I had a 7+ hour flight delay out of Dubai, had to spend the night in the airport, got booked on a completely new flight itinerary, and then missed a connection in London to get back home to Boston. It was stressful. But I would do it all again in a heartbeat just to travel and see a new city. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had to travel where I have, even if it is just small town USA. There is much more to this country than I ever imagined. I am thankful for an education that has gotten me to a job where I have this opportunity and thankful for a job that trusts me to travel to and From places like Dubai and get back in one piece.
There are days when I wake up and dread packing my suitcase, or curse at the flight delays or sitting in a taxi in traffic as I wait to get to a hotel. But, as I continue traveling and seeing new places, meeting new people, and seeing the world, I will take these little bumps in the road anytime.