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Alanah D. - Field Engineer

"You need to know how to build work before you can estimate it."

What is your occupation and what made you interested in getting into your field?

I chose to study engineering because I wanted to be a part of creating something. Wasn’t sure exactly what, but I knew I wanted to switch out of my current major in business. While studying civil engineering in college I never expected to end up on a construction site. I always thought I was going to be in design. I landed an estimating internship between my junior and senior years. There I learned a great tip, “you need to know how to build work before you can estimate it”. From there I decided to get experience in the field. I landed a field engineering job where I learn something new every day. Superintendents are a great resource of knowledge and also the crews as well. Job sites are full of people to learn from, I love it.

What excites you about your job?

Never-ending learning. From the previous answer, there are so many people to help grow your career by helping you learn. Also as a field engineer, there’s office work and outside work. Sometimes prioritizing time between the two can be stressful, but I like the option of going outside to the site when I’m over the office and going to the office when I’m exhausted from being outside. Oh, and the toys!!! Being a roadway field engineer there’s all the dirt equipment that’s in the job area. When there’s time the operators will teach me how to operate them.

What are some of the challenges you face?

Respect. I was brand new to my job. And those guys out there have experience doing what they do. It can be an awkward relationship if you let it. But, I acknowledge that the crews know more than me in the field! I think now I have a good relationship with the crews I oversee and we both know that each of us brings something different to the table.

Is there any advice you would give to women entering the field?

Go for it! At one point in my job, there were more female engineers than male! I have also heard that women pay more attention to detail than men. Detail is very important as a field engineer, we’re performing quality checks to make sure these crews are building per plan and spec. Also if you’re in college, SWE (society of women engineers) is a great group to join. The support from each other for the engineering field is priceless. And find a female mentor to talk about the challenges that we face. They should have some guidance for you.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

My dad and grandpa were both in the construction industry. I’m glad to be able to be part of the crazy construction life like they were. And super proud that more females are entering the industry.

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