It's #Engineer Week! Founded by NSPE in 1951, EWeek (February 21–27, 2016) is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers. Learn more here.
All week LaBella will be highlighting our diverse group of engineering disciplines. Today, meet Mary Steblein, a civil engineer. Mary has long been passionate about introducing engineering to women, and tells us a little bit about her efforts for change.
Name: Mary Steblein, PE, CPESC
Alma Mater: Lafayette College
What kind of engineer are you (discipline) and what does that mean in layman's terms?
Civil. Civil is a broad category which includes sub-disciplines such as geotechnical, structural, transportation, municipal, water resource, wastewater, and construction engineering. My focus is on municipal engineering, in particular stormwater design and regulations, with a side of permitting. I help municipalities manage their stormwater programs, review plans to ensure compliance with municipal design standards, and obtain permits/approvals for a variety of projects from agencies such as the NYSDEC, Canal Corporation, US Army Corps of Engineers, and local Planning Boards.
What do you like most about being an engineer? I specifically enjoy being an engineer at a consulting firm because no two projects are the same. My day-to-day tasks are always varying, and I’m generally working on several projects at a time. It’s never boring! I get to use my problem solving skills, communication skills, people skills, and design skills.
What do you like least about being an engineer? Usually, telling someone I’m a civil engineer leaves them with nothing else to say. It’s just not a profession enough people know about!
Tell us about work that you’re proud of.
I'm proud of my work with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and my general outreach to girls related to engineering. On February 4th, I spent the morning at the Young Women’s College Prep charter school for their 4th Annual Cool Women / Hot Jobs career day. I spoke as part of their Engineering/Science panel, to encourage 9th and 10th grade girls to consider engineering as a potential profession. Throughout two panels and lunchtime table topics, I was able to go into more detail about what skills one might need as an engineer, and emphasize the need for problem-solving, not just “being good at math and science.” I was rewarded by one young woman telling me during lunch that now she’s considering engineering instead of the medical field, now that she knows more about engineering.
Given that only 11% of the engineering workforce is women, it’s a natural group to target, to ensure they are armed with the right information to make a career decision. As an active member of SWE, my recent focus has been on supporting our collegiate members. I’m currently the Society’s Collegiate New Section / Group Coordinator, meaning I help groups charter, or form interest groups, at their schools. SWE has nearly 18,000 collegiate members – in turn, these members help with outreach and education of more potential engineers, and having a group like SWE at their institution helps support them throughout their time in an engineering program.
What advice would you give someone thinking of becoming an engineer? What does the future hold for engineering?
There will always be a need for civil engineers – we’re the second oldest discipline after military engineering (according to Wikipedia, at least). Too many engineers are retiring and not enough are entering engineering programs. If you’re interested in engineering, find an engineer to talk to, research online, or come shadow an engineer at LaBella. If you like to solve problems, it’s a rewarding career option, with a lot of possibilities. An engineering education can help you in many fields.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? As my co-workers will tell you, I love to bake. I find that baking is very similar to engineering given the necessity for precision. I also love traveling, photography, working with NextGen Rochester, visiting wineries & cideries in the Finger Lakes and WNY, and spending time with my husband, extended family and friends.
What do you like about working at LaBella?
I love working at a Rochester-based company; I previously worked for an international consulting firm, and I couldn’t always go visit the sites we were working on, or observe construction, or see the end result. More importantly, LaBella is a company that values employee growth, and that has been instrumental in my own development over the past seven years.