Breaking the Engineer Mold Part 2: Interview with Lauri Stankewicz

An interview with Pie Forensic Specialist, Lauri Stankewicz.Lauri Stancewitcz portrait

Background: Lauri is part of the Forensic Department in Pie’s Colorado office.  She specializes in forensic investigations, repair design, and quality assurance services.  Experienced in numerous areas of building design and construction, she is particularly knowledgeable in the area of building envelope and structural code compliance.  She has over 5 years of forensic engineering experience ranging from soil settlement issues to building envelope evaluations and rehabilitation for multi-family developments.  Lauri holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master’s degree in Engineering and Technology Management from the Colorado School of Mines.

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

Only once I can think of, when a client was being very defensive and disrespectful, calling me out on my age and gender and challenging my intelligence.   I tried being patient and courteous with him, but his opinion was not going to change.  So I then started citing the building code and other references to back my case, which at least got him to be quiet enough so I could finish the job. Not the best experience, but I still left with a smile on my face.  🙂

Do you ever feel unwelcomed at the jobsite? 

Only on a few occasions, and in most cases I wasn’t sure if it was because I’m a female engineer or if the homeowner/client/contractor was just having a bad day.  But in either case, I don’t take it personal, I just tell them what I’m there- to do, I do it, and then I leave.  On one jobsite in particular, I could feel the tension the first few times I worked with a contractor.  But after he realized I knew what I was doing and could make his job easier, he started opening up.

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

I’m not going to lie; there are a variety of physical demands of the job that I need help with, the biggest one being lifting heavy objects like ladders.  I have no problem asking for help in these situations.  I like to see the surprised look on people’s faces when they ask, “So you’re going to climb up that scaffolding/onto my roof/into my crawlspace/into my attic?”, and I say yes!

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

I’d say one advantage of being a woman in the engineering sector is that we bring a different style to engineering.   One example of a different style is in stressful situations, women don’t react the same as men.   Women generally have a way of being more tactful and can keep tempers from flaring.  Being a woman has actually helped me build stronger relationships with others in the industry.

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

Breaking into my career was not difficult at all.   I think getting ahead in your career greatly depends on the company you’re working for.  I have previously worked for a company that didn’t support my skills and goals, so moving up the ranks was impossible.  But if you’re with a company that supports its employee’s goals and utilizes their strengths and skills, then the possibilities are endless.

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