Women Engineers at Gray: Creating Room for Growth
At Gray, we say it often, but it really is our team members who make all the difference. In a business where the margins are slim, and the deciding factor between one company and another can be razor thin, it’s outstanding team members who give us the edge and make Gray stand out above the competition. For that reason, it has always been a staple of the Gray family to celebrate and encourage growth within our teams because we understand that as they grow, the business does as well.
Gray actively supports events that encourage inclusion and intentionally looks for opportunities to promote growth within our team. As a part of that effort, Gray is excited to celebrate and recognize Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, once again.
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day is a worldwide campaign designed to engage younger girls and peak their interests in engineering-related fields. Thousands of industry experts, universities and colleges, and even professional organizations host events (or virtual events in the case of this year) to help make engineering appealing to girls, which only make up about 13% of total engineers, according to the Society of Women Engineers. Conveniently, this event takes place the week prior to Engineering Week which is Feb. 21-27, 2021. Engineering Week is designed to engage the next generation of potential engineers and connect them with professionals within the industry.
We had the opportunity to speak with several women within the Gray family about their career in engineering, how Gray intentionally provides room for growth, and their advice for young women considering a career in engineering.
What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
Sandi Smith, senior electrical designer at Spencer Bristol, a Gray company – I had always thought I would go into architecture, but when it came time in high school to take our competency tests, my results came back overwhelmingly strong in engineering skills. I started researching the options and opportunities and decided to go the route of engineering.
Emily Mathis, director of pre-construction – I think I’ve always just had a propensity for needing to know how things worked, to know how the complex could be broken down into the simple. I think my inspiration came from within myself, with a lot of external encouragement by the teachers, family, and mentors I had around me growing up.
Justine Fulls, automation engineer at Gray Solutions, a Gray company – Video games! These lead me into building computers and ethernet networks, to play more video games. I’m also a naturally curious person, so I wanted to understand how things such as electronics and electricity worked, because it all seemed like magic beforehand.
Jennifer Zielke, senior project manager at Spec Engineering, a Gray company – Math and science were my favorite subjects, and I wanted a job where I wouldn’t sit behind a desk all day. My older brother is an engineer too and helped encourage me to try that path. I also went to a workshop in high school that taught me the difference between the types of engineers to help narrow down which kind I wanted to be.
What is your favorite part about engineering?
Ciara Schehr, estimator at Anderson Dahlen, Inc., a Gray company – My favorite part about being on our engineering team is getting to figure out how the parts are going to be built. I get to figure out what machines the parts need to go on and how they will be made.
Annie Lozano, project manager – Being part of a diversely talented team that works together toward the same goal. There are so many complexities and challenges on every project, having “a village” working together to solve problems is gratifying.
Kendall Stiens, project coordinator – There are always new ideas and new ways of doing things challenging me daily to think differently about so many things in my job and in everyday life.
Julia Goldshtein, design engineer at Spec Engineering, a Gray company – I love all stages of the engineering process. However, my favorite part is to see the product come to life in the hands of the customer. I think seeing something grow from an idea, to design, to practical application in the hands of the customer is extremely rewarding.
How does Gray provide opportunities for women in the field of engineering?
Sonny Johnson, office engineer – I love Gray’s ELG program (Emerging Leaders Group), a group dedicated specifically to employees who are in their first 5 years working at Gray. ELG organizes social events, networking opportunities, and Q&A sessions with distinguished members of Gray’s team and beyond. These events have taught me so much more about the engineering field and what goes into a successful project at Gray.
Amanda Warriner, process engineer at Gray Solutions, a Gray company – Gray has a Groundbreaking Women’s group in which females of diverse backgrounds participate in scheduled lunches, panel discussions, and more to share experiences, provide encouragement and lend advice. Gray provides other opportunities to unite and empower women in the field by supporting Society of Women Engineers involvement and partnering with local minority groups to further the initiative, such as the University of Kentucky Diversity Networking Night.
Anna Zhang, senior project manager – Working at Gray, it’s hard to tell that there’s still a huge gender gap in engineering within the industry. By having more competent women around me, I feel freer to voice my ideas because I know my ideas will be heard and carry as much weight as anyone else—man or woman.
If you could tell one young woman why she should consider a career in engineering, what would you say?
Valerie Rockhill, civil designer – Engineering is such a broad field with unlimited options for growth. This is my second career and, unlike my previous profession, engineering allows you to experience extremely different “days in the life” while remaining in the field and expanding your knowledge base. Engineering allows you the freedom to find which path suits you best.
Emily Mathis – If you can have a part in developing solutions that impact society in a positive way – absolutely do it! There are endless ways to do that and becoming an engineer will certainly provide you a large portion of those possibilities.
Elizabeth Axtell Hunt, manager of project controls – There are endless opportunities for women in engineering. It requires work and commitment, but the end result is a knowledge base that sets you apart from those around you. Engineering doesn’t have to be the end – it can be your career or it can be the starting point for your next path.