Breaking the Engineer Mold Part 3: Interview with Senior Forensic Engineer, Nicole Ellison

Nicole Ellison portrait In our continuing series centered around our female Engineers, we present an interview with Nicole Ellison, one of Pie Consulting & Engineering’s Senior Forensic Engineers.

Do you ever find yourself trying to over-prove your competence /technical aptitude? 

Yes, more so as a young engineer. My guess would be that both young male and female engineers find themselves having to prove themselves early in their careers.  My recollection of these events is with contractors.  I remember being on site early shortly after graduating college, and a contractor asking me how old I was. I think in this industry, you sometimes have to fake confidence until you find it.

Do you ever feel unwelcomed at the jobsite? 

Yes, again I have had a couple experiences with contractors who do not want me on site. They don’t want any engineer on site telling them what to do.  But I have a job to do and so do they. Most of my experiences on a construction  site are  good, where  I am treated with respect and even kindness. My first job out of school was working for a testing agency testing concrete  for new building construction.  I can remember many times where the workers on site would carry the concrete buckets for me or clear spaces for me to work.

What are the misconceptions about the physical demands associated with your job? 

Except for my first job as a technician testing concrete, the physical demands are very minimal, for example climbing a ladder or scaffolding. Most times I am an observer.

What do you feel are the advantages of being a woman in the engineering sector? 

I see myself as an equal to my male engineer counterparts and have been treated that way in return; no advantage or disadvantage.     

Did you experience any difficulty in breaking into your career? Is it hard to get ahead in your career? 

I think getting in to engineering is based on the economy and supply and demand. I was lucky, when I graduated in 1995, there was a need for engineers, so I found a job relatively easy. I think each of us has a different meaning of  what it means to get ahead or to be  on the top. I have been very fortunate in my career, hard work and determination has been vital in getting me where I am today.

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