McCORMICK TAYLOR CELEBRATES INTERNATIONAL WOMEN IN ENGINEERING DAY

In celebration of International Women in Engineering Day on June 23, we interviewed some of our engineers about what it means to them to be a woman in the industry and how they work every day to shape the world. Click here to learn more about International Women in Engineering Day.

Christine Alizzi, PE | Water Resources Engineer III

What sparked your interest in engineering?

My dad sparked my interest in engineering. He is an excellent carpenter and watching him design, draw, and build items as a child made me want to have a job where I can create things that solve problems for other people.
 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

My advice for studying engineering is to never be afraid to ask questions or participate in discussions. As engineers, we are constantly learning and seeking out new information. No one knows everything and by asking questions, you can learn new ideas, tips, and tricks. Engineering is a collaborative field and works best when people communicate effectively.

christine alizzi

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Farzana Atique, PE | Transportation Engineer II

What sparked your interest in engineering?

My father is a civil engineer. He has worked for the roads and highway departments in Bangladesh and Malaysia. In my childhood, I visited many of his road and bridge projects, which increased my interest not only in engineering but also specifically in transportation engineering.
 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

It is a rewarding job when you see the completed work and how it benefits the community. Don’t be afraid to share your opinion because you may have the best solution to a design problem, but no one will know about it unless you share.
 

Have you worked on a particular project that you would say has helped shape the world?

I have worked on several community-based projects through the Transportation Enhancement Program in Delaware. I got involved by doing streetscape projects in Wilmington and rural areas. These projects gave me insight into different communities in cities and rural areas of the U.S.

 

Is there a woman in STEM history you look up to?

Marie Curie.

farzana atique

Catherine Chia-Calabria, PE | Senior Manager,
Structural Engineering

What sparked your interest in engineering?

When I first got to college, I did not intend to study engineering. I wanted to study computer science. After enrolling in computer science, I found that it did not really interest me. I looked through the course catalog for something else to study and came across Introduction to Engineering. I had no idea what engineering was, but I was intrigued by the words and decided to give it a try. It has been a wonderful experience ever since.
 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?  
Never be afraid to try. If you don’t at least give it a try, you could be missing something wonderful. You can always change your mind if you don’t like it. If it doesn’t work for you, find something else. You have to love what you do because you will be doing it for a long time.   
 

Is there a woman in STEM history you look up to? 
I admire all the women who paved the way in a man’s world and who believed in their own abilities such as Marie Curie, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Sally Ride.  

catherine chia calabria

Susan Guisinger-Colón, PE, LEED AP | Assistant Director, Transportation Engineering

What sparked your interest in engineering?

My love of science and math in high school. I originally thought I would have a career in environmental engineering working on clean water initiatives. However, my life path ultimately led me to transportation.
 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

Follow your passion and always continue to learn new things. Ask questions and participate in discussions. Strive to be your best and have confidence in your abilities – people will respect you and listen to what you have to say.
 

Have you worked on a particular project that you would say has helped shape the world?  The projects I work on have helped shape local communities. I would like to think that I have had and continue to have an impact on ensuring the safety of the traveling public through contracts where I have assisted municipalities with the management of their roadways and bridges.

susan guisinger colon

Click here to learn more about Susan.

Emily Hoffman, PE | Manager, Traffic Engineering

What sparked your interest in engineering?

I had always enjoyed math, but I found theoretical math boring. Being able to use math to bring an idea to life drove me down a path toward engineering.

 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

There is no such thing as a stupid question. In engineering, you are always learning, both in school and in the workplace. Asking questions can be very effective in uncovering problems or prompting yourself and others to think about a solution differently. Second-guessing yourself is normal but no one has all of the answers, no matter how much experience they may have. Your perspective can impact the course of a project.

 

emily hoffman

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Jeannette Quirus, PE, PTOE | Director, Traffic Engineering

What sparked your interest in engineering?
My dad being an engineer was really what showed me the career path. It was pretty simple actually – I was good at math and science, so engineering just seemed like the next step. I didn’t think much beyond that. I went into civil engineering specifically because I like how the projects are visible to the public and affect nearly everyone.
 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?
Seek help and advisors early in college. Some of the classes will be difficult, but there are many resources to help you. Don’t wait until you fall behind. Also, be sure to support other women as you advance in college and in your career.
 

Is there a woman in STEM history you look up to?
Sally Ride as the first woman astronaut really inspired me back then. I wrote my college essay on her! She made me believe it’s possible for women to be key players in science and engineering fields. A saying I heard early in my career is, "If you don’t see it, you can’t be it." It helped me to see women in that field and made me see that it was possible for me to do something similar. While I did not follow her to space, I do have a successful career in engineering!

jeannette quirus

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Jen Okulanis, PE | Traffic Engineer III

What sparked your interest in engineering?

I have always enjoyed math and science, so engineering was a natural fit for me. I also love solving problems!

 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

In a male-dominated field, you will find yourself often being the only woman in the room. Just know that you deserve to be there and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and ideas.

jennifer okulanis

Dawn Schilling, PE, AICP | Senior Project Manager, Environmental Services

What sparked your interest in engineering?

My father was a math and chemistry teacher and my uncle is a civil engineer. They both sparked my interest, combined with the fact that I had an affinity for math and sciences. To be honest though, when my father and uncle encouraged me to be an engineer, I didn't know what an engineer did. However, it worked out very well, and I have enjoyed an interesting, flexible career that has taken me down a lot of different paths.

 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

I suggest job shadowing and interviewing engineers to get an idea of what they do on a daily basis. If I had been required to complete meticulous and detailed designs for my entire career, I probably would not still be an engineer. There is a lot of flexibility in the field and understanding how others have navigated their careers will help young students who are considering engineering to select the best educational path and courses.

 

Have you worked on a particular project that you would say has helped shape the world?

I have worked on a wide variety of projects during my nearly 30-year career. From interstate and highway reconstructions and widenings to bridge replacements, railroad projects, and corridor studies, they have all helped shape the world in some way. The opportunities I have had to teach for PennDOT and nationally for the Federal Highway Administration’s National Highway Institute have also helped to shape the future of the industry in Pennsylvania and the country. 

 

Is there a woman in STEM history you look up to?

Rachel Carson, who is a biologist from Pennsylvania that was a leader in the environmental efforts of the 1950s and 1960s. She also worked for and became Editor-in-Chief for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Her work helped shape the future of what we do and indirectly led to the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). I have worked with NEPA my entire career, which is one of the flexible paths that I mentioned. Early in my career, I had the opportunity to work as an engineer who was the intermediary between environmental staff and engineers. That opportunity opened up a lot of paths from NEPA compliance to planning work and public involvement, which has added a lot of interest and variety to my career.

dawn schilling

Amy Sokalski, PE, PTOE, PTP | Manager, Traffic Engineering

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

Don’t underestimate the significance of getting a well-rounded education in addition to improving your technical writing. Report and proposal writing are essential aspects of engineering, and being able to clearly explain your work is an important skill to learn. Taking courses in subjects such as English or history can also provide a different perspective than engineering classes and contribute to your overall personal development.

amy sokalski

Ashley Tracy, PE, PTOE, AICP | Senior Traffic Engineer

What sparked your interest in engineering?

Starting from elementary school, my Uncle Greg would tell everyone that his niece would go to Penn State and become an engineer someday. I took it as a funny compliment because I did not know any engineers or what an engineer did. When I started college, I figured I’d try some engineering courses to see what all the fuss was about. I loved the challenge, and here I am today! Those little nudges of encouragement were all I needed.
 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?

Explore the different types of engineering because there’s something to suit any interest. And remember that engineers don’t have to be BORING. You should continue to work on your other passions – like art or music, for example!

ashley tracy

Michelle Varrella, PE | Transportation Engineer II

What sparked your interest in engineering?
My dad worked briefly as an inspector with an engineering firm just before he passed when I was 9. When he started, he brought some work home and showed me what his new job was about. That memory stayed in the back of my head until I went to a career fair in high school and the engineering section caught my attention again. I never looked back from there!
 

Do you have any advice for women who are considering studying engineering?
Go for it! Ask questions, don’t give up when it gets hard, and be proud of your accomplishments every step of the way!

michelle varrella