Britney is a good friend of mine. Today I bring her on the show to discuss what she does an engineer, how she got here, and what she’s passionate about. She shares some great resources and talks about being a female in a very male dominate industry (we need more female civil engineers!). It’s a fun episode so check it out!
- PPI – PPI is our partner to help you ace your FE and PE exams. Use our discount code of CIVAC and our link at https://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/ppi to get 15% off any book you order.
- CEA Community – haven’t joined up on our free community? What’s wrong you? J/K. Ok, just go to https://www.ceacommunity.com and join a group of like-minded civil engineers!
- LDS Jobs – if you’re in the hunt for a job Britney mention using ldsjobs.org! Check them out.
- Recommended Book: Britney mentioned this book as a good resource, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt. You can check that out here.
- Facebook Group – Britney also mentioned using the Facebook group A Mighty Girl to learn about the amazing features of women!
CEA Show Notes
Isaac Oakeson: All right. So I have Brittany on the podcast. Thank you, Brittany, for coming onto the podcast.
Britney Ward: Hello everybody.
Isaac Oakeson: As we get going, I think you know, at the beginning of the podcast, I'll definitely read a little bit of info about yourself, but our audience always likes to know how you got into engineering, what you do and maybe what's a typical day for you.
Britney Ward: All right. Do you want me to talk about that before you read the bio?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, well, yeah, go for it.
Britney Ward: All right. So when I was younger, there was a few people here and there that always suggested that I look into engineering as a career. But I wasn't always familiar with what engineering was.
New Speaker: Who was a "few people"?
New Speaker: Some people that lived in my neighborhood or teachers, things like that. So, some of my favorite classes were math and music in high school. And I got a diploma of merit in both subjects during high school. And college, I knew I wanted a science degree. So I earned an associates of scienceDuring my coursework and the classes I was taking in college several of my friends who I had met during classes were choosing engineering as their major. And coincidentally, we just ended up taking the same classes together, them because they knew they went for an engineering degree and me, because I liked what I was learning. After a few classes, I knew engineering was what I wanted to do. So I continued on to earn an associates of pre-engineering. And then I transferred over to the University of Utah to earn my bachelor's degree. And I was actually the first person in my family to earn a bachelor's degree.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow! I did not know that. Why don't you tell us how we met? How do we know each other?
Britney Ward: I'll tell you how we met, cause you might've forgotten. So, I'm met Isaac over at Salt Lake community College. He was one of my friends that was taking those engineering classes because he knew he wanted to go into engineering. And we had a few classes together and we both ended up transferring to the U at the same time. And there was one class in particular that Isaac and a couple of our other friends were sitting together. And so when I walked into the classroom, I was just naturally looking for somebody that I knew from our previous college. And I saw Isaac and our other couple of friends and I just walked over there and sat down by him, and instantly we were a group of friends that worked and studied and went out to lunch once in a while together. And we stuck together all through college.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome. Yeah. We became study buddies with a group of other friends and obviously I think anybody that's in school should gravitate to finding people they can study with. It Would help you out. Big time. So Brittany, what do you do now? And what's a typical day for you like?
Britney Ward: Right now I work for Sandy City. I am their transportation engineer, so I am over all of the signals, the signs, the lane striping. I do a lot of projects and transportation-related projects, development review and planning that way. Utah is actually a really awesome state with exemplary transportation infrastructure and technology which is super exciting to be a part of. And there's a lot of things that UDOT have developed that they're teaching other States across the nation about. For example, their performance metrics that they have programmed into the signals. So I do have a lot of frequent meetings over there, at the UDOT Traffic Operations Center, and at all the multiple jurisdictions around this Wasatch front area, attend those meetings. So we all work together as cities to do the best that we can for those signals and transportation infrastructure.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. That's a lot. Thinking out loud here, how did you know you wanted to get into transportation? Like how did you know that was the area you gravitated to?
Britney Ward: Yeah, so great question. Lucky for me, I was able to have a little bit of work experience in all disciplines of civil engineering. So, even before I came to Sandy, I had a little bit of taste of traffic engineering and that's just the one that I gravitated to and I like the best. My first project, which is one of my favorites that I did, was design that I-15 northbound trailblazer signs. And those are the signs that you see as you approach an on ramp on the freeway that say the travel time to different destinations via I-15. So I designed those signs, which is fun. So yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: Is there a, I'm just, is there a software or something that you use regularly at all?
Britney Ward: Yeah, that's a great question. We do. We rely on GIS a lot. We have our streets in there, we use our addresses, our homes. We have personal data in there. I have my signals in there. There's a ton of information that we use within GIS
Isaac Oakeson: Okay, good. I just was curious what kind of a tool you use every day. But, let's dive into this. Is there a lesson that you've learned, whether it was through a mistake that you've made or something you've seen from a distance that you've learned? I there a story that you could share with us?
Britney Ward: Yeah. Yeah. That's a great question. We're always learning every day and always learning from our mistakes. Sofor my situation in particular, and I'm sure we all do this as we often think back to time where we wish we had spoken up to have a different outcome for the situation. So my lesson learned is something related to that, that I have to continuously be aware of throughout my career and probably applies to most of us. During my internship, one day I was asked to head out to the field to grab a bucket of soil sample. I was excited for the opportunity and started to assemble the materials that I needed. Soon in the preparations I realized that I didn't have the needed personal protective equipment, PPE for short,, is what we call it and our industry. Hoping to have additional opportunities like this one in the future, I requested my supervisor to provide me with the needed hard hat. So that was equipment that I was short. He responded by saying to me it wouldn't be a good image for me to have a shiny new, hard hat on because people would think, and judge me as inexperienced. I knew that was the wrong answe, of course. And I wish I would have said something about that, but I didn't. But I still knew that I needed a hard hat to do the work. So, instead I asked: "well, where can I get a hard hat from?" And so we walked over to a storage closet that we had and he rummaged through the stuff and he pulled out an old, gross, disgusting hard hat that was expired and handed it to me. I'm like: "All right". I shouldn't have put it on my head, but I did. It was so gross.
Britney Ward: So anyway, I went out and I did my work and I had come back and that was that. But my mistake and the whole thing, obviously my supervisor made a mistake, but my mistake was not speaking up. Not speaking up about non-conforming PPE and not speaking up about the supervisors, poor contact and not stopping the situation by instead, continuing to head out into the field with that bad hard hat. So, because I didn't speak up, I'm positive there were lost opportunities to build future credibility, lost physical safety protection and lost potential future field experience. If I probably would have shown a little bit more confidence in saying I can get the proper hard hat, then I probably could have built a little bit better trust and that I knew what I was doing and that I was prepared to head out into the field a little bit better. Not saying the company that I worked for was bad or anything. It was just a unique experience. So that company that I worked for was a great company and the people that I worked for treated me really well. So it was a great internship.
Isaac Oakeson: You know, it's always interesting as a beginning engineer because you're trying to like -- I don't want to say fit in, but you're trying to figure out the ropes, I guess. And, as a beginning engineer, sometimes you're just jumping out in the field withoutyou kind of look to the direction of those above you to help you figure out what you're needing, what's required and things of that nature. But you know, if someone above you cares or doesn't care that can really affect things in the future, but obviously safety is a huge deal. Safety where I work is a huge deal and it can get you into trouble big time if you're not wearing the right stuff. So, wear your PPEs.
Britney Ward: Definitely.
Isaac Oakeson: What's something that you are interested in working on today or, or I guess a project that's going on, something that's going on today that you have found fascinating or in working in?
Britney Ward: Yeah. Since I worked for a local governmentthe cool thing about working for local government is that you're invested your whole career and taking care of that community. Once a project is finished, you're still there to see the long-term effects of that project. You're there to identify additional needs, and you're there to continuously plan and make for a better, better area. You know, sometimes at other, like when you're at a private firm, while you care and you work for that project and you stick with it the whole time through once you're done with that project, you move on to a different area. And so while our city leadership might change us as engineers can still be there to continue to plan forthe area and, you know, what's best for it. So my current interests are to ensure the best possible and most efficient transportation resources are being utilized in our community.
Britney Ward: Sandy city is of course on the East side of I-15. And it's already pretty much built out. So we don't see huge, large subdivisions. We see several smaller subdivisions, like, mom and dad, they're getting ready to retire. They want to leave inheritance to the kids. So they'll subdivide their large lot into several different pieces to try to earn a little bit of money and downsize their property. But that comes with its own set of challenges. So we'll often work with areas that demand better and safer transportation areas that are older or that have been there a long time. So, but while they may demand better and safer transportation, they may be unwilling to support corridor improvements through their area, such as sidewalk, bike lanes, trail facilities, water management just because they like the look and feel of the rural world, the way that it is.
Isaac Oakeson: Is that a resource issue, is that a money problem? They just don't have the money or--
Britney Ward: I mean, we can always apply for funding and grants. I think it's just a mindset issue. And sometimes it's kind of interesting in Sandy we're a piece of Swiss cheese and all those little holes are Salt Lake County parcels. And so we have to work with the County who has a different idea of how development should go, cause they're a little bit older type of community. And so when we own, or we have a roadway where the residents along there are dividing their park parcels and creating and generating that higher traffic the same time they don't want to develop. And we have to work with the County to do that as well. It makes it a little bit more difficult. So a lot of times too, because of those old County parcels we're limited by the roadway geometrics and right away needed to do those projects. And so those projects get really, really expensive really quickly cause right away is pretty pricey to purchase or sometimes the houses are built so close to that roadway that, in order to put those improvements in, we'd have to take the whole property and the whole house. So that can get pricey pretty quick.
Isaac Oakeson: Sounds like a lot of teamwork and a lot of cooperations going on to try to make some of these improvements.
Britney Ward: Yeah. Definitely.
Isaac Oakeson: That's a lot of stuff going on. No, that's, that's great. Thanks for sharing that. I want to ask you a couple of quick questions. You can answer them long or short or whatever you want to do, butWhat was an obstacle that you faced when you became an engineer, whether that was school FE, PE, career, boss. And specifically, maybe I can bug you as a female in this industry, which feels like it's mainly male-dominated. I'm pretty sure that's the case, but has that ever been an issue? What's your take on that kind of stuff?
Britney Ward: Yeah. Great question. I went to school with you, so obviously,ou've seen this and it's an obstacle that I chose that I kind of went through with you. But maybe you didn't have the same experience as I did of course. But I paid for my education by working full-time and going to school full-time at the same time. And that was really hard. I didn't take out any student loans or borrow money from my family. I did get a few hundred dollars scholarships here and there, but it was only enough to pay for a semester or two of books.
Isaac Oakeson: I didn't know that.
Britney Ward: What's that?
Isaac Oakeson: I didn't know that.
Britney Ward: You didn't? Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: No. That's awesome.
Britney Ward: Yeah. Thanks. So just before I transferred over to the U for my last two years of school, I met and married my husband and then the summer before my senior year as when I had my first child. So you remember hiking up and down those big hills with me.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. The University of Utah has some large Hills, you gotta hike up and down and not fun. I'm sure when you're pregnant.
Britney Ward: No. So that was tough, being pregnant, going to school and working full timeAnd then having a new baby to take care of through my senior year. The first, the first comment I got was actually from one of my teachers. And it kind of threw me off and she was a tough teacher. It was a second level class, so a little bit harder. And one day I went and talked to her after class and I'm like, why is your class so hard? Why are you so strict and hard on me? I don't get it. And she said: "Brittany, I'm harder on you because you are a female. And that's what it's going to be like in the real world. And so I just want you to learn that now." I was like: "what? So don't you think you should be a little bit nicer to me then, cause you know, it's going to be tough?" So, that's the first strange comment that I got. And of course I've had other situations throughout my career. Like those who probably should have supported me didn't and said that I should have quit school and my career because I was married and have a child. But of course I didn't listen to them. I knew what I had to do and knew what I wanted to do. And had support from my immediate family, my husband, my parents, and my sisters. They really help. They helped take care of my baby and my senior year for me. And of course I had the support of the angels on the other side as well. And with their health, I knew I had to finish school and accomplish my goals
Isaac Oakeson: It's amazing that you were able to juggle and finish. I do remember going through that a little bit with you just seeing what you were going through. Remember when we had an exam. I can't remember if it was construction or structures. I can't remember. Steel. And we got that result back from an exam and you went straight down and talked to them about it was awesome. That's funny. So yeah. I mean, I, I'm always interested in hearing about your experiences and I think going through school, especially when you're pregnant, having kid and hearing all these different opinions about what you should and shouldn't do has probably helped you become who you are and had a bigger drive in your life.
Britney Ward: Yeah. Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: How about this? What's the best advice you've ever received or just some good advice in general?
Britney Ward: Yeah. Great question. So I have pretty awesome parents who always taught me to work hard and that I could become whoever I wanted to become. And all I had to do was work for it. And I think that's really what helped motivate me to work hard and don't let anybody stop me because I knew I could be what I wanted to be. So this ethic has always been a part of me even through my career and working. People know me as a hard worker and, and being thorough. So that's the best advice I would say, just work hard even though it may becomes tough. That's the word tough, but it will always pay off if you work hard.
Isaac Oakeson: Very good. That's good advice. How about a personal habit or something that's contributed to your success? You feel like as an engineer, as a female engineer, what's helped you? A habit?
Britney Ward: So to really never stop learning. There's always things to learn and know. It's an exciting world up there. You may specialize in one area, but that area does depend on other areas of civil engineering. So you can learn anything from everybody, you know, including your neighbor or contractor, your boss, or a field technician. You know, even those guys that are just starting out and you're in your senior position, you can learn from them as well.
Isaac Oakeson: I totally agree. I work a lot with crew members that are actually building transmission lines. And often times these people know more about this stuff than you do. So, to come in as an engineer and think that, you know, it all is a big mistake. I would learn from everybody that you can in, in the industry that you're in, because they all have something to contribute. There's all re you know, there's many reasons why they're there too. And you can all learn from each other. That's good advice. What about someone you look up to? Who do you look up to and why?
Britney Ward: Well, a particular person doesn't come to mind. I mean, like I said, you can learn something from everybody. Everyone has an example to follow. Everyone has good in them. There's a Facebook page I follow that's called a Mighty Girl and they always share amazing stories about women who have accomplished great tasks and their determination behind them. That's the most recent story that really had an impact on me and touched me was about a girl in India. She was nicknamed Lina murdad. She's 15 and she biked over 700 miles across India with her, with her father on the back of her bike. Her name is (India Name). I probably completely botched that Anyway, they're among the millions of the impoverished migrants. Sorry. So they're the among the migrant workers facing starvationdue to the strict coronavirus lockdown.
Britney Ward: Yeah. They lived in crowded areas with poor sanitation and in order to survive, they had to go home. They had to get out of those crowded areas and go back home where they knew they could find food and resources they needed. So this 15 year old girl used the last of her money to purchase a bicycle for her journey home. She cycled almost a hundred miles a day. And so just on her way home, since they didn't have any money, she and her father survived off the generosity of strangers. What got her home, she said in the story, what got her home was the only thought in her mind was that she had to make it home. Her father couldn't bike or walk or anything cause he was recovering from a recent vehicle accident. And so that's why she rode with him on the back of her bike.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. That's amazing. So what is that resource again? What's the, what's the group? The page.
Britney Ward: So the Facebook page has called A Mighty Girl. They just focus on women breaking glass ceilings. It's amazing.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. That's awesome. Yeah, we'll share that as a, as a resource with everybody our audience. So that's a good place to go. Is there any other resources or even books that you might recommend to our community?
Britney Ward: Yeah, sure. Yeah. I have a couple of both. So as civil engineers, we may have a few job changes. There may be times when we're super busy and projects, but then all of a sudden that work comes to an end. We may find ourselves looking for another job or looking to continue work at our current firms. One of the resources that I found useful between jobs was on LDS jobs.org and in particular their career workshop. And I do have a link I can give you Isaac.
Isaac Oakeson: Sure. Yeah. We'll link it on our little show notes we produce for this and I'll put that as a resource for people.
Britney Ward: Perfect. Yeah. So the guys there, they're professionals, they really know their stuff and what they're doing. They teach you things on how to really truly job search, write a resume interview, and a lot more. After I went through that help in that class, I learned job searching is a skill set all on its own. So even as a professional job seeker, they have resources for you. My favorite tip that I learned from them was to spend as much time during the week searching for his job for a job as you would working if you were employed. So when I was looking for jobs, I spent 40 hours a week job searching and they gave you enough tools that 40 hours a week was eaten up pretty, pretty quickly.
Isaac Oakeson: I haven't had to look for a job for a while, but the job that I have had, I felt very blessed to have, but yeah. I do think when you're in the midst of looking for a job, you do definitely need to take the time to do that. And that becomes your job to find a job.
Britney Ward: Yeah, exactly. Let's see, you asked about a book too, right?
Isaac Oakeson: I did. What do you have for us?
Britney Ward: So I recently read a book titled Traffic: Why we drive the way we do and what it says about us. And it's written by Tom Vanderbilt, you can purchase it on Amazon. And it gets about 15 bucks. Tom shares some interesting perspectives that both us as traffic engineers and the general public might have. And then he relates those two perspectives together and discuss them. And he's actually traveled around the world just to research those particular topics. And he goes through a whole slew of them. It's a very boring book that will put you right to sleep, but it's super interesting and you learn a lot. It's pretty technical, so that's why it's pretty insightful as well.
Isaac Oakeson: It's a good engineering book then.
Britney Ward: Yeah. Like one discussion that he draws attention to as the lane merge like on the freeway and he points out, you know, like there's some people that get so frustrated at those people who merge last minute, but in actuality, they're very helpful to keeping the traffic moving.
Isaac Oakeson: I know. Actually, bringing that up. When I was driving, I was always taught that you do go, you know, you go in that lane as far as you can tell, you have to merge because it does keep it moving. But you know, people that end up flipping on their blinker, like way, way before you've stopped all the traffic that could be flowing freely up, up to that point. But that's a good point. Here's a fun question for you. Thanks for recommended that. We'll take that recommendation and also link it in the show notes as well. But if you had all the resources and all the knowledge in the world, what's something you would like to be a part of? It could be civil engineering-related or otherwise
Britney Ward: Yeah. Good question. Probably the development of new transportation technologies. And also I'd probably want to go to outer space one day, but that's probably not going to happen
Isaac Oakeson: Hey. It's happening now. They're getting ready;.
Britney Ward: That's true. Maybe I could live on the moon my last few years of life. Yeah, exactly. But yeah, like I said, UDOT and the state of Utah is moving forward so quickly in transportation infrastructure and technology, and that we're really helping other States around the country as well. So I love being part of that and involved in it.A ctually one thing that they're developing over in California is called the Hyperloop. I don't know if anybody's heard of that before.
Isaac Oakeson: I've heard of it. You probably now more detaisl about it.
Britney Ward: I was at a conference once, a women and transportation society. They're pretty awesome group to be harder than involved with as well for both men and women. The lady, I don't remember her name, but she was over a development team for this Hyperloop. And she went and spoke to us about all the cool things that they were doing with it. Basically what it is, it's a train inside of a vacuum tube that can go just about a hundred or that can go just about 800 miles per hour, which is awesome. I think they could make it across. I think it was like half the United States in 30 minutes. It was so fast.
Isaac Oakeson: That's amazing. And is this also developed by Elon Musk's? I believe he's involved with the one of these.
Britney Ward: He is, yeah. Hes's helped fund it. I don't think he's the one that started it and there was another company that started it, but he's pretty heavily involved in the development of it now and funding it. It's a pretty cool investment for him to be in.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, good stuff. Good resources. Good things to talk about. As we close here, do you have any last piece of guidance or also a best way to get ahold of you if people had questions about of this?
Britney Ward: Sure. So I've mentioned WTS, women and transportation society just a second ago. So I'd say get more involved in your engineering community. There's a bunch of different local engineering chapters. Some of the ones that I'm involved in is ITE, Institute of transportation engineers. American society of civil engineers. The American public works association. Those who are involved in APWA are usually typically government employees, but if you're working for a private firm, you know, that's a great place and opportunity for you to network there. Throughout college, actually me and a couple other ladies were in the university of Utah ASCE chapter. And so we put together some events there as well. So that was fun. We made a cool t-shirt that said: "We put the you and me". It was kind of fun.
Isaac Oakeson: Does your work pay for all of these groups that you're part of? I was just asking if they help to pay for those things.
Britney Ward: Yeah. So they pay for my memberships, they pay for the conferences I go to. If there's a new book that I need, hen they'll, then they'll purchase that for me. They pay for additional education, the classes that you want to take, they give you a tuition reimbursement, if you get good gradesAnd also pay for you to take the FE and PE exams. Lots of course, but then if you continuously fail it, then they'll pay for the one where you end up passing. So that's
Isaac Oakeson: A lot, a lot of benefits from, you know, as you get into an engineering company, whether it's a government agency or not, a lot of places will help pay for you to keep moving forward. So that's really good to know.
Britney Ward: Yeah. A lot of the places offer, you know, a lot of these organizations they'll offer scholarships as well, conferences, design resources, education. And even if you have just a general engineering question, there's forms there that they have with professional engineers that are ready to help you.
Isaac Oakeson: That's fantastic. Well, thank you, Brittany. I think you shared a lot with us. I think it was fun to doAppreciate you jumping on the podcast with me. It was fun.
Britney Ward: Yeah, no problem. And if you have any other questions or you want to reach out to me or talk more about any of these other topics, you can email me. My email address is [email protected] And Sandy is spelled out.
Isaac Oakeson: Perfect. Okay. If you're okay with that, we can link that to, so I think it's fantastic. Thanks for jumping on. And we'll get this sent out to everybody and it will be a good time. So thanks for joining me.
Britney Ward: Thanks. Bye.
New Speaker: See you.
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