Coffee Break: Celebrating Women in Engineering with Katie Bradley

Trang Vu By: Trang Vu

This blog post is part of our week-long Women in Engineering celebration! Join us in thanking women in civil engineering for their dedicated work and in welcoming future women engineers to the AEC industry.

 

June 23, 2021 is International Women in Engineering Day and what better way to commemorate than by celebrating one of our many talented woman engineers? Katie Bradley is a Project Manager in our Land Development division in our Charlotte office. She’s a travel junkie with passion for designing subdivisions that future families can enjoy and grow. I love getting to know our engineers and learn about the things that make their jobs worthwhile and Katie is a great example of a bright engineer that has a zeal for community enrichment. So, it would only make sense for us to meet at Community Matters Café, a project that Katie worked on, to talk about her experience and women (engineering) role models.

As much as I love hearing about the innovative designs that our engineers are working on every day, I also appreciate that they have a life outside of our Timmons Group walls! So, to kick off this Coffee Break session, I asked Katie to tell me about one thing that her coworkers don’t know about her and her answer definitely took me off guard!
 


 

Katie: I once roasted a marshmallow on a volcano that had just erupted the day before!

Trang: How cool is that?! We’re definitely going to need some back story here, Katie….

Katie: Well, while I was in college at Virginia Tech, I went to Guatemala as part of an information gathering trip for Bridges to Prosperity. We went to meet with the community and evaluate the site of a future pedestrian bridge that would be built across a stream that frequently flooded, limiting access to schools and medical facilities. While we were there, we had one day for sightseeing and we went on a guided hike up a volcano that had erupted the previous day. Fortunately, the lava was barely moving but was still hot enough to roast the perfect marshmallow!

Trang: Bridge design experience too, anything you can’t do?! Also, who just has s’mores supplies at the ready? I’m sure you guys had planned for that but that sounds so cool, and hot at the same time! All puns aside, it’s International Women in Engineering Day and I wanted to ask you about your women role models and what inspires you to be an engineer every day.

Katie: Early on in my career, I watched a TEDTalk that Sheryl Sandberg gave and, soon after, read her book, Lean In. She discusses how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers and some of the chapters did, and still do, resonate with me. In a traditionally male-dominated field, it is encouraging to know that the pressures that I feel and issues I face are common to many other women in the workforce. Reading books such as Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, and Presence by Amy Cuddy sparked my interest in organizational behavior and is part of the reason I decided to go back to school part time to earn an MBA. I still have a couple years left but, so far, I have really enjoyed learning more about the science behind human behavior in organizations and trying to incorporate what I’ve learned into how I work.

Trang: I will say, Timmons Group has been really great at creating a workplace for women to feel empowered. With women-led initiatives like Women in Design, there is a safe place for women to gather, bond, educate, and discuss the positives, as well as, the plights, of being a modern working women. Speaking of solving problems, as an engineer, what really excites you about the work that you do?

Katie: At the start of a project, I enjoy the puzzle of laying out a site and determining the best way to balance developer requests, municipal requirements, and good design practices. I also love that when one of our projects is finished, it is a place that you can go visit. Especially since most of my projects are nearby, it is so fun to drive by and point out a project that I worked on! Working in residential, it is especially rewarding to design a neighborhood that people will someday call home.
 


 

Trang: Funny, since I do that as well, the drive-by-pointing! Our firm works on some really cool projects and many of them shape the landscape of the communities around us, literally! It’s particularly hard for me to see a project that we worked on, completed or in construction, and not say “we did that” or snap a quick pic. Projects like healthcare facilities, animal shelters, breweries, parks, educational facilities, I could go on! Our project portfolio enriches a lot of aspects in a person’s life and that’s really something to be proud of. What has been your favorite type of project to work on?

Katie: My favorite types of projects are ones where we are given the freedom to be more creative when laying out the street network within a subdivision. Sometimes a developer comes to us with a vision for an existing property and sometimes they come to us and want us to show them how they best make use of the land. 

Trang: I understand the need to have a plan, but I appreciate the trust that your client has in you, knowing that you’re providing sound and creative designs for their projects. Building that kind of trust takes time and experience and I’m sure many of our young women engineers can aspire to build that kind of trust with their future clients. We talked about inspirational women already, so who is an inspirational woman engineer to you?

Katie: It’s not really just one person, I’m really inspired by the next generation of women engineers. It seems like more and more women are going to school for engineering and it is encouraging to see the industry changing. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to work closely with a more experienced woman engineer and I hope that I can be a mentor to younger women engineers as they progress through their careers.
 


 

Trang: I think you are already a very valuable asset to younger women engineers, like our summer interns! There’s always a pioneer and in this case, you are it and you’re paving the way for the younger generation of engineers that will eventually look to you for guidance and wisdom. If you could impart one piece of advice on a young woman engineer, what would it be?

Katie: Be your own advocate. One of the statistics that sticks with me is that men will apply for a job when they meet 60% of the qualifications and women will apply for a job if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Initially, I found that surprising but soon noticed that I had a tendency to hold myself back from pursuing opportunities because I didn’t feel perfectly qualified. If you see an opportunity that you want to pursue, don’t hold yourself back.

Trang: Preach, Katie! I feel like that relates of all women, no matter the profession. If you won’t advocate for yourself, you can’t expect others to do it for you. Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy week before heading out on vacation and chatting with me for this blog and thanks for being an inspiration to the younger engineers of our industry!
 


 

Quick Fire Round:
Favorite 90’s song? I Want it That Way by the Backstreet Boys
Favorite summertime activity? Planning and going on trips. I love visiting new places and finding fun things to do and restaurants to try.
Favorite mode of transportation? If I have to travel long distances, I definitely prefer to travel by air.
Spirit animal? Cat
Future travel destination? Utah – I would love to visit the national parks there.

 

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