Alumni Profile: Nicole Perry, Civil Engineer Supervisor for PennDOT Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Meet Nicole Perry
Job title: Civil engineer supervisor
Employer: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Degrees earned: Associate of Science in civil engineering technology, Community College of Allegheny County; Bachelor of Science in civil engineering technology, Point Park University
Graduation years: 2003 and 2008
Hometown: Carrick, Pa.
Now living in: Whitehall, Pa.
What inspired you to study civil engineering technology?
When I was in middle school, my algebra teacher signed me up for a summer program at Carnegie Mellon University that focused on women in engineering. The program was for two weeks and we did activities that simulated the different areas of engineering. The civil engineering activity was very tedious. We were to make a stable bridge out of popsicle sticks. The finished product was, at the time, amazing. Ever since then I always knew I would go to college and study engineering.
What made you choose Point Park?
I chose Point Park for several reasons. I attended CCAC for three years to obtain an associate's degree in civil engineering technology. Point Park was willing to take most of my credits from CCAC, whereas, every other university was only willing to take a small percentage. Also, I always worked full time and needed to arrange my school schedule around my work schedule. Point Park was very accommodating and I was able to attend evening and Saturday classes. Lastly, I grew up and resided in the south hills area of Pittsburgh and did not want to have a far commute. Point Park was a 20-minute drive each way or sometimes less.
How did you land your current job as a civil engineer supervisor?
I worked at PennDOT while I was attending Point Park. I was hired in 2005 as an entry-level engineer technician. From there, I was promoted to transportation construction inspector. When I graduated from Point Park, I applied to be a civil engineer trainee and landed the position in June 2009. After one year as a CET, I was promoted to a civil engineer supervisor in the field as a construction project manager. Just this past August, I made a lateral move into the district office located in Bridgeville, Pa. as the finals department manager.
What are some of your key responsibilities in this role?
Currently, I oversee the final process of construction projects. I am the last person to touch a construction project before it is filed away. I assure that all proper and legal documentation have been received and that all payments made to the contractor have the correct paperwork to justify them. I assist field personnel on various things ranging from engineering questions to IT issues to "operator errors" to publication referencing. My department is highly involved with teaching training courses and assisting with meetings and workshops. We review the documentation, safety, maintenance and protection of traffic and labor compliance on current construction projects and oversee the contractor to assure all of their administrative activities are in order and following PennDOT's regulations.
What were some of your favorite experiences at Point Park?
One of my favorite experiences was when I had an assignment from Professor Reed to make a paper boat that was to be of a specified size and weight, of specified materials and that could float with a specified load on it. At the time, I was extremely frustrated with the project as I failed at several attempts to pass all of the specifications. I think it took me four tries but eventually I succeeded and it was such a rewarding feeling. Another experience I enjoyed was a COPA course I took one summer where the majority of the classes were held outside. The class was refreshing because it was so different from my other classes.
How has Point Park prepared you for your career field of civil engineering?
Point Park has prepared me for my career in many ways. One way is that Point Park taught me the basic fundamentals in the field of civil engineering. Attending college while working full time taught me useful time management skills. Without these skills, I would not survive in the fast-paced industry of civil engineering. Point Park has also assisted me in effectively communicating with others. Lastly, Point Park provided me with a network of good people who I still communicate with on professional and personal levels. Many of my classmates work with me at PennDOT.
What are some of your future career goals?
My future career goals are to obtain my engineer in training (E.I.T.) and professional engineer (P.E.) certifications. I would like to continue my employment at PennDOT and am confident that I can learn and grow there. I learned a few years ago not to plan the future of my career based on where I feel comfortable at the moment. I am open to change and unfamiliar territories and believe it is necessary for personal growth and development. I intend on seizing opportunities when they come to me and look forward to seeing where the path takes me for the next 30 years or so.
What advice do you have for females who are pursuing careers in engineering?
Set your goals high and don't stop until you reach them. There will be times when you will feel discouraged and possibly consider giving up. Push yourself; strive to overcome, because it can be done. Don't be intimidated. Have confidence in yourself, your knowledge, and your skills. Your future will be your proof that it was all well worth it because there are endless opportunities for women in the engineering field. The sky really is the limit.