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Brandee Nelson, PE Discusses How Women are Flourishing in STEM Careers

Senior Project Manager Brandee Nelson always knew she wanted to work in the STEM field and in a recent interview expressed how she’s now watching the next generation of women (including her daughter) navigate the same life decisions. “It’s funny you ask that, because my daughter is currently trying to figure that out for herself,” Nelson said with a smile.

In her 22 years of experience, Nelson has worked on many residential and commercial developments, where her original considerations of being an architect weren’t far from reality. “I’ve always been interested in Sciences, Architecture initially,” said Nelson. “But it seemed like there was more opportunity in Engineering, and specifically Environmental Engineering when I was in my daughter’s shoes.”

She admits, as a result of her passion for her career, that her kids are probably getting “more detailed explanations than they care for” when it comes to explaining the environment around them. “I doubt there are many other parents pointing out failed catch basins while out on family walks,” she laughed.

But it’s this kind of perspective that makes her job fulfilling. “I can see a piece of property and help my client envision the project before its built. And once we are through all the planning, designing, and construction, we get to actually see and use it as we intended. It’s very tangible.”

Nelson’s experience and expertise in permitting and land development have proved successful as she grows her career with Tighe & Bond and considers her work “full of meaningful outcomes.” She reiterates that “Engineering at its core is problem-solving. And we get to see our real changes in our communities, for the better!”

Her outlook is consistently positive as she’s noticed an increasing trend of females pursuing STEM careers. “When I was in school, my Environmental Engineering program only had about 30 percent women. It’s very clearly a growing field for women,” noted Nelson. While an emphasis on STEM education programs are extremely valuable, support of women once they enter the workplace is just as crucial. Calls for a shift in policies to manage the balance of family and career for all is becoming a  request among employees and many companies are working to make this balance a benefit of employment. “A lot of companies, including our own, have implemented family-friendly policies that help women continue to achieve professionally and be supported to find that balance,” Nelson said of her own experience at Tighe & Bond.

“It’s great to see all the awards and promotions of women. I like to see all the optimism,” Nelson said, acknowledging that there have been challenges along the way. “But there are a lot of opportunities to be successful when you’re passionate and committed to your career.”

Her thoughts on the future of women in STEM careers are equally as upbeat. “The concern about gender is going away. As long as we’re encouraging young people to get into the sciences for the right reason. We need to make sure they’re passionate, and that it follows them as they become young professionals!”

As a parting thought, she shared what she might tell her younger self, “If you’re considering becoming a professional engineer, take advantage of the opportunities to get your licenses early on. That way you can direct your energy toward your career.” Great guidance for anyone entering the STEM fields, familiar with the stresses of professional licensing. Nelson then added “And be patient. Be focused.” Advice that Nelson’s daughter is sure to be repeating while searching for her next big step.