Ana has been with Clark Dietz for seven years. Starting as an intern in 2015, she became a full-time engineer at Clark Dietz soon after graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. Since beginning her journey, she has received her P.E. license, worked in the construction field, and has met many engineers who have provided guidance along the way.
Of course, becoming an engineer and receiving a professional engineer's license is no easy task. Just like many engineers, Ana has faced challenges within the last decade; however, she has also grown as an engineer and as a person through her years with Clark Dietz.
We sat down with Ana and asked her about her time at Clark Dietz, her journey as an engineer, and the challenges she has overcome.
What has your journey as an engineer been like?
"Engineering was not necessarily my first option or something I was eager about doing. My parents did not have secondary education. I don’t even think I knew what engineering was. What got me into this career was that Illinois Institute of Technology was able to accept me and provide me with a large scholarship that made it easy for my family and for me to attend. I think that the logic behind it was that I like math. I speak math. I can understand it, and I challenge myself in it. I knew engineering had a lot to do with math, so I tried my best. I think that sometimes I had to simplify it for myself and learn as I went. I think I didn’t have a lot of options and when it came down to it, I chose engineering because that was what made sense. Civil engineering is a universal career, and it is applicable everywhere."
"What has helped me is that I’ve had people who care about my development as an engineer and have invested their time in me. You know, people that used to work here, people who still work here, and I think that’s what makes it manageable. Because it is challenging. It’s been a beautiful journey, and I respect it, but it’s been challenging at times."
Who has inspired you the most during your career?
"That’s a hard question because I cannot attribute that to just one person. But I think a variety of people. I think that people who have inspired me the most have been my parents because they always show this devotion to their work, whatever it is. My mom is a janitor, and she loves it. She’s devoted to it. My dad is in landscaping and hardscaping, and he loves his job. So, I think seeing the love that my parents have for their career has inspired me to also enjoy what I do and show up to work with a good attitude. To feel prepared, happy, and eager about it. Because seeing them and the reminder where we come from, where there’s not a lot of opportunities, it’s kind of like a constant mirror reflection. Like, 'Hey, you’re blessed.' In addition to my parents, I think of my immediate coworkers, specifically Stacy, who was previously my boss, and Antonio Acevedo. They have really inspired me because I see their work ethic. I see how they want certain things to be done, and I like that they want things to be right. I don’t think they are people who take shortcuts, and I think they have taught me a basis for how things should be done. They have respect for me as a person, a coworker, a mentee, and they really push that healthy balance between work and life."
What has changed for you since becoming a licensed professional engineer?
"Getting your P.E. license is a journey in itself. You need a lot of preparation for that, so I think the process of trying to study for the exam, taking it, and going through the process has really created this mental change in me. It prepares you and helps you realize that there are things that you can find on your own. It creates a stronger backbone. You take yourself more seriously."
How have your engineering skills changed over the years?
"I think that my skills have improved greatly because of working in construction and working on different projects. The more you do, the more you start filling in the picture, and adding color to what you’re doing. It gives you a new perspective, refines it, and it continues to make you more aware. I’m much more aware than when I started, but my skills have improved, grown, developed and flourished. I still have so much ground to cover, but that’s just a part of the journey."
What has been the most challenging part of your career, and how did you get through it?
"The most challenging part has been working alone in a setting like construction. I honestly don’t know how the construction staff do it, but it is very demanding, non-stop, constantly changing, and you must be on your toes all the time. I think doing construction inspection seasons for a few years was a really challenging time for me. It was exciting, exhilarating, and fun because I really do love the challenge and to be challenged. But the construction inspection world can be very tough. When you’re working on a massive project like the toll way and you have five or more people on a team, it’s nice. Smaller teams can be more challenging. How I got through it was that I really had support from Antonio (Acevedo) whenever I had a lot of questions or when I was out there. I really felt like I could call people for help. I also had the mentality that I could not let a project defeat me. Coming to the realization that it’s a challenge, to get through it, and that I’m trying my best was very helpful. I wasn’t going to let the challenge overshadow what I could do and how I was going to respond."
You’ve been with Clark Dietz since you graduated from college. How does working for Clark Dietz fulfill you as an engineer?
"Working for Clark Dietz has allowed me to explore different avenues in the consulting realm in terms of design, public involvement, seeing how the public must be engaged and considered in making these decisions. Clark Dietz has also really opened my eyes to the construction world. As hard as it is, it has a lot of real-life, real-time knowledge that allows you to break things down and really see how things are constructed and how things can go wrong. All that information is really helpful because it allows me to use that in design. Working for Clark Dietz has fulfilled me in such a way that I’ve also built a community here, welcomed new members to the community, and allows me to continue learning and exploring myself in this career. It teaches me that people come and go, and it’s a part of life, but it is important to have fulfillment in your role and what you do."
What are some lessons-learned or advice do you carry with you?
"I think lately, having grace with myself and reminding myself that I am human keeps me grounded. I’m not this unreal superhero. I can’t do everything, and I can only focus on one thing at a time. Everyone has a bad day, so just remembering things like that really helps me to not give myself such a hard time, but to still challenge myself. To still push through, learn, and progress. But again, I guess the big advice is that I am human, and I can only do so much. Tomorrow will be another day. I try to not impose all the pressure on myself because I’m just one person."
If you go back in time and tell yourself one thing at the start of your engineering career, what would it be?
"If I could go back to the beginning or the start of my career and tell myself something, it would be, ''Ana, do not be intimidated. Ask, ask, ask. Just keep moving along.' It’s easy to get stuck on something and feel intimidated when you’re surrounded by people who are older and more experienced than you, and you feel like you don’t know anything. But it’s important to remember that you’re at the start of your journey, and you cannot compare your journey to everyone else’s. Whether that’s in engineering or any other aspect."