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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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It's A Woman's World

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.

Holly Walla
Senior Engineer, Portland Water Bureau

What is your role at the Water Bureau?
I manage the Engineering Transmission Mains Program. I oversee six engineers and an engineering technician that designs distribution and transmission mains.  We have a variety of projects from contract packages, crew work and service and hydrant installs. We also work with Development Services and have many interagency projects. My group designs approximately 30,000 feet of main every year and works on approximately 200 services.

How long have you worked in this field?
I have worked at the Water Bureau for 8 years. Before that I worked at Bureau of Environmental Services for 17 years and designed storm water facilities and stream restoration projects.

Who has been your greatest professional inspiration?
I admire all the women that came before and paved the way. The Water Bureau has many amazing women engineers. It is a hard profession for women to be in and I know the women before me have made it easier for me. I hope I can do the same for the women after me. 

What advice would you offer to someone starting out in your field?
I was told in college that women shouldn’t be in engineering. In my first job, I was asked to answer the phones when the receptionist called in sick. I’ve made coffee, bought cards, gifts and was asked to decorate. The advice I’d give to someone starting out is to politely decline to answer the phones. I’d also tell them to get a variety of experiences early on.  Try out different fields. Work for a consultant. Work for government. It will all help you later in your career and give you more flexibility.

What does it mean to be a women in engineering?
Women in the engineering field are smart but they are also a tough and tenacious bunch. I’ve been lucky to work with some amazing men and women at the City of Portland. 


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