The Portland Water Bureau is celebrating Women’s History Month by recognizing the women on our staff who have made a mark on their chosen profession through hard work and talent. We share with you a series of stories about women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) field who embody that achievement. We tip our hat to your achievements, and to all of the dedicated women who work to provide Portland with clean, safe and high-quality drinking water.
Senior Engineer, Portland Water Bureau
What is your role at the Water Bureau?
As a senior engineer, I lead the Water Quality Monitoring and Optimization Section in the Water Quality Group (Operations Division). My group's mission is to monitor and improve water quality throughout the distribution system.
How long have you worked in this field?
I have been in the drinking water industry for over 13 years. After receiving my Master's in Civil Engineering, I worked at the East Bay Municipal Utility District, a large drinking water utility in California, for approximately 8 years. I left EBMUD to come work for the Portland Water Bureau, where I have been for the past 5.5 years.
Who has been your greatest professional inspiration?
My parents. They instilled in me at a very young age a belief that I could do anything I put my mind to, and that even though I was a girl, I could love math and science. In terms of what initially inspired me to go into water, I remember right after the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 thinking to myself that I wanted to clean up water when I grew up. That or be an astronaut. I ended up being afraid of heights so water it was!
What advice would you offer to someone starting out in your field?
Be respectful of others regardless of their position, and always be open to learning.
What does it mean to you to be a woman in your field?
When I was hired at my first job, I was one of two engineers who were women in our division (out of a group of about 30). Later, when I was working on water projects in developing countries, the locals were always shocked that a woman (me) was leading a team of engineers. These experiences just made me want to work harder to be seen as a great engineer, not just a great woman engineer. My work is very important to me, so it means a great deal to me personally to be a woman in what was traditionally a male dominated field.
What else do you want to share about yourself and your work?
I think that everyone should have access to clean drinking water, so over the years I have devoted quite a bit of my free time to water related projects. I volunteered for over 5 years with Engineers Without Borders, where I led teams that designed and built water supply, treatment, and distribution system projects in India and Fiji. Currently, I am the Vice-Chair of the National Inorganics Research Committee, and our work is devoted to education and furthering research in regards to inorganic compounds, such as metals, in drinking water. I am also quite passionate about voter education and issues related to women's rights, and I served on the Board of the League of Women Voters in San Francisco for over two years working on these specific issues. In my down time, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family and two raucous dogs.