Using Environmental Compliance & Engineering Expertise to Aid Clients
Celebrating Women Making an Impact in the AEC Industry
By Regina Sibilia
Staff Engineer Melissa Wilson focuses her work on environmental compliance and industrial wastewater treatment. She works with clients, helping them understand the permits they need to follow and how to keep their facilities in compliance with rules set down by organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In addition, she works to assess a facility’s water chemistry to better advise clients on how to optimize their use of water or how they can cost-effectively remove any water pollutants.
She found herself in this current role at Tighe & Bond after working as an environmental consultant. She began looking for a role that would allow her to use her environmental experience combined with her background in chemical engineering and industrial wastewater.
“Combining these two paths doesn’t seem like they would be connected but in reality, they mesh well. In order to understand the permit requirements and what a client’s facility is doing you have to have a strong background in engineering,” explained Melissa. “Engineering allows you to break down complex issues into smaller pieces since the answers aren’t always black and white. This is a skill you can take with you to any focus in this field.”
Growing up in the Chicago area, Melissa was looking to explore the Northeast and found her home at Tighe & Bond two years ago. But her family back home can be credited with exposing her to the opportunities waiting for her in a STEM career. Both her parents and two of her four sisters are engineers. Melissa remembers growing up and completing hands-on 4-H programs with her dad as her mentor guiding her through electrical wiring and soldering to complete their projects.
“I was lucky to have parents that pushed me to understand different aspects of STEM. They always told me to ask questions about it whether it was asking my sisters or my teachers. They really instilled responsibility in me and told me that I could pursue this line of work. My mother continues to be my role model. She started her electrical engineering career in the 1980s when it was typically uncommon for women to enter such a male-dominated field. Her accomplishments motivate everything that I do.”
As Melissa pursued her college degree, her chemical engineering program was about 50-percent women something that she notes is a rather large shift from the norm. It’s a change that just in the first 5-years of her career she can see slowly taking hold.
“I can see a shift coming but I think it takes a while for the next generation to see women in leadership positions in the engineering industry. It takes time for women to get in those roles, for other women to see their work, and then for the next generation to follow in their footsteps. But it also helps that there are now a lot of STEM programs to motivate girls to let them know that they can do this too.”
Melissa has taken the motivation she used to pursue her engineering degree and channeled it into continuing her career growth. Instead of looking up to just one role model, she looks to everyone she works alongside to learn from their unique skills and approaches to managing projects. But even as she focuses on moving her career forward, she stresses that when pursuing any career – in STEM or not – it’s important to have coworkers who foster other’s success.
“I really enjoy my work because I get to have a real impact on infrastructure and people and work with a supportive team. It’s not about what I’m doing it’s the effect of it. For example, if I can help modify a treatment plant for operators so they don’t have to clean out a tank as frequently or make it safer by preventing them from entering the confined space, then it’s a nice feeling to know you’ve affected them in a positive way.”