Work-life balance is a topic that keeps coming up in our everyday lives. At the end of the day, we all have not only career goals but also personal goals and family responsibilities. Even though it can sound daunting, today’s guest will show you it’s possible.
Bahaar Taylor is a structural project engineer at Erickson Structural Consulting Engineers in Washington, a 2021 ASCE New Face of Civil Engineering, wife, and mother of two. After getting her degree from Brigham Young University, she got elected as the president of the Oregon Chapter, and that’s exactly when she had her first child!
In this episode, Bahaar explains how she manages to succeed at work without forgetting her family responsibilities, how role models can encourage young people to go for the career they want no matter what (especially young women), how she deals with the negative criticism that eventually comes up on job sites for being a woman, and much more!
Bahaar Taylor (LinkedIn) – https://www.linkedin.com/in/bahaarkalra
Bahaar Taylor (email) – [email protected]
Brigham Young University – https://www.byu.edu
ASCE Oregon Section – https://www.asceor.org
ASCE’s New Faces of Civil Engineering – https://www.asce.org/new_faces_of_civil_engineering
School of PE – http://www.civilengineeringacademy.com/sope
Purple Mattress – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/purple
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Reach out to Isaac – [email protected]
Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: All right! Welcome to the Civil Engineering Academy Podcast, Bahaar. How's it going?
Bahaar Taylor: Going well. How are you?
Isaac Oakeson: I'm doing very well. So I thought it would be nice to have you on our show. It's always fun to have the new faces of the ASCE, which, you know, they kind of publish it out there and we connected through that. But I wanted to connect with you and kind of talk about your journey into civil engineering and being part of that, as well as kind of where you are and where you're headed. So thanks for joining me.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Isaac Oakeson: So Bahar, why don't you tell us a little bit about your own journey into civil engineering? Why this was an interesting field for you, what drummed up interest [inaudible] do it, and how you're liking it.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. So, I kind of got into civil engineering by accident a little bit. I started college as a math major and wasn't really sure what I wanted to do but I knew I liked math and that side of things. And after taking a year and a half of classes, when I started [inaudible] higher-level proofs classes, I realized that I wanted something a little more practical, but still math applied. So I took a few -- I had a semester in college where I just, you know, one class in a few majors that I identified. There was a business class, a film class, because I thought about anime, and then all kinds of -- I took a biology class, and anyway. So kind of tried everything and one of the classes I took was a civil engineering class. And it was just a seminar where we had speakers from different areas and specialties in civil engineering would come to speak to us about what they did. A weekly hour lecture.
Bahaar Taylor: And I remember just in that class, there were so many different things that I heard that I thought, "Well, I could see myself doing that, or this one, or this one". And there's one in particular that really stood out to me. That was a forensic Brooklyn engineer. And I just -- All the projects he talked about, you know, were so fascinating. I wish I remembered who it was. I don't remember. You know, he talked about a project he did for an [inaudible] claim where a car drove on top of a house, and he grabbed the structure, you know, for an [inaudible] or there's a fire on the building, what the [inaudible] or blood -- And then I found a sense of community there and I started taking so many classes and found that I enjoyed it and I was good at it.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome.
Bahaar Taylor: And actually ended up -- After I graduated, I worked at a company for a couple of years where we did meetings [inaudible] projects, and then I switched to -- From that actually I got to do some forensic [inaudible] as well.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. That's awesome. So you just enjoyed math and that kind of took you into this arena. Is that accurate? Did you have a father or anyone else in engineering at all? Any examples there?
Bahaar Taylor: No. In fact, I grew up in India where culturally -- I don't know if you've heard this stereotype, but Indian parents want their kids to be engineers or doctors.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, yeah. Engineer or doctor.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. And so I actually was the opposite, where I was like, "I'm never going to be an engineer or a doctor".
Isaac Oakeson: Oh my Gosh!
Bahaar Taylor: I wanted to fight the system. But I loved it. My dad is a very art-oriented person---he's a photographer. So none of that at all in my family.
Isaac Oakeson: That's interesting. Wow! So, okay. And now fast forward to today, what are you doing now for work? I know you're also a mother, so you know, as a female engineer, you balance a lot of family and career stuff going on. So what's going on in your world with that?
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. So since I graduated, I've worked full-time as a structural engineer. I have two kids now. I have a boy who's two and a little bit years old and I have a newborn eight weeks old.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. So I'm currently on a maternity leave. And I will be going back to work as a project [inaudible] at the port of Long Beach.
Isaac Oakeson: It sounds like maternity leave is very generous, which is nice to see companies doing.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. I think Washington -- It's a state of Washington program, and they have one of the most [inaudible]
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. Cool. So I guess, what are the challenges you see women have in engineering and what would you say to encourage women to follow a path in engineering if that's the route they'd like to go?
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. I think one of the challenges I've seen is having someone to look up to that, I guess, looks like you, if that makes sense. And [inaudible] interesting, you know, I grew up in India, so I have a different culture and background as well as being a woman in engineering. And so, I've always appreciated if I can see a woman in leadership and, you know? That could be me. I think it helps me to know that there are women that can do that. I've had some interesting experiences at job sites sometimes when I'll go out. Because, you know, when I design projects, I also go out on site visits on site. And I've had sometimes comments where -- You know, I've had a contractor say, "Oh, you're too pretty to be up here" or something like that. Like, just kind of make you feel like you don't belong there. But I will say for the most part, I've had positive experiences on a construction site, you know? They're respectful and they recognize that, yes, I don't look like what they expect an engineer to look like, but [inaudible]
Isaac Oakeson: Sure.
Bahaar Taylor: You know.
Isaac Oakeson: I'm sure all that stuff comes out, especially when you're working around crews. So that's probably something that needs to be worked on. How do you balance family, raising children---you have a brand new kid? How do you balance that with work life for women that maybe want to have a family or maybe are in it right now?
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. I think I have been really fortunate to have supportive family. My husband is also a civil engineer. But from the get go, he's been really supportive of me wanting [inaudible]. You know, we've never felt like one of our careers was more important than the others. When we graduated, we moved to Seattle because that's where he got a job, and then I found a job thereafter. And then I got an opportunity down in Vancouver, Washington, Portland. And so he quit his job so that I could come here and do this.
Isaac Oakeson: Really?
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. So we moved down here and he -- It was the opposite where I had a job and he didn't, and he looked for something and found it here. So he's always supportive. You know, with the kids, we try to share that 50/50. So there's no -- You know, with our kids, we both do bedtime or we both -- We both share the responsibilities equally. Somethings are, you know, "mom can do". But in general, we try to share that equally. And you know, if someone needs to take the kids to a doctor's appointment, we'll either [inaudible] take grants. And so that has been really helpful. And then I also have family support and my mom helping watch the kids and his mother. So my mother-in-law [inaudible].
Isaac Oakeson: Well, that's great. We just had a new baby boy, so I definitely understand the challenges of family and career and stuff. And it gets a little wild, but you kind of just make it work.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great you guys have that all figured out.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. We'll try to stagger schedule, you know? One person go to work earlier, one can stay at work later. Things like that.
Isaac Oakeson: Got you! Well, tell me a little bit more about how you became the face -- Well, you came into the Oregon ASCE and your leadership position there. And I know you probably had kids by then, so you had to balance that kind of stuff too. So tell us a little bit about that.
Bahaar Taylor: Sure. So I started with ASCE when I was in college. Actually, the seminar that I talked about, that was an ASCE seminar back in college in that class that I did. And BYU, the university that I went to, has I believe still, but at the time that I was there, we had the largest student chapter of the ASCE. And that was kind of the sense of community that I was talking about when I started going to that seminar. And I ran for president as a student for the student chapter. And so I was the president of the student chapter there and just got really involved with ASCE when I was in college. I went to the conferences and, actually, my first internship in structural engineering was through someone that I met at a conference of ASCE when I was in Arizona.
Bahaar Taylor: It just kind of was a big part of my career, you know, on my undergraduate experience. And so I decided I wanted to keep with it after college. So when I was in Seattle, I was involved with the younger member group that they have. And then when I moved to Vancouver -- We're in the Oregon ASCE. It's in Washington, but Southwest Washington, including the Oregon ASCE. And so I started there with a younger member group and then I got elected as the president-elect for the Oregon Chapter. And actually while I was president, it was when I had my first kid. So I remember, I think he was maybe a couple months old and, you know, taking him to board meetings and he would play the floor while we were having meetings. You just make it work, you know? So I had him, and then just this past year, I'm wrapping up a year as the past president, because it's a three-year term.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay.
Bahaar Taylor: So it just always has been, you know, a big part of my professional experience.
Isaac Oakeson: What are some of the challenges you faced in being in that position? I mean, in terms of what you did, in terms of helping ASCE. What are some challenges that you see?
Bahaar Taylor: Like, with ASCE specifically or --
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. Or engineering, or getting memberships, or whatever challenges you faced?
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. Well, I think membership is always something that we think about, you know. That's top of mind, beause we trying to think of how to get people involved and engaged. I found that some of the types of activities and things that people relate to are those where they can volunteer in the community. And that's probably my favorite type of activity with ASCE, is when we kind of get out and give back to the community. And I love doing that in the form of habitat for humanity, where we get out and help people build homes, or I like working with students K-12 and kind of encourage them [inaudible], especially, you know, women that -- I guess I talked about how I like being able to see women role models, so I try to pass them. Just, you know, be like, "this could be you and you can" -- You know, give them the confidence because I've been in engineering classes where I've been the only female or one of two, or, you know, always a minority. So it helps to be able to see that there are others like you doing that.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great advice. I'm glad that you're able to do that and get into a leadership role. Definitely need to see more women doing those things. So that's awesome that you were able to balance that. In your current work or in past work, what's been a favorite project you've personally worked on?
Bahaar Taylor: Probably one of my favorite projects was -- It was a little different from what I normally do. Most of my work has been with buildings, a lot of existing building renovations. This one was unique because it was a bridge actually in Kauai, Hawaii. And it was --
Isaac Oakeson: They didn't have to twist your arm to go look at that one, I bet.
Bahaar Taylor: Well, I've been fortunate to do quite a few projects in Hawaii. Fun Site visits.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. Schedule those up.
Bahaar Taylor: Yes. So this project was a -- There's an existing bridge and they were building -- You know, an older bridge so they were building a new bridge right next to it [inaudible] this one. And so my part wasn't in the design of the new bridge, but rather the process for demolition for the existing bridge. And because they needed like large frames and equipment to demo the bridge, they actually had to strengthen it just to get the cranes on. The bridge that they were about to demolish, they needed to strenghten it first to get the [inaudible] there. And so my role was to design the strengthening for the bridge that they were about to demolish.
Isaac Oakeson: Awesome.
Bahaar Taylor: So very interesting, because I worked with moving loads, and you know, which is different from what buildings normally see.
Isaac Oakeson: Sure. Wow! That's great.
Bahaar Taylor: And just had to try to figure out creative ways because this is not -- You know, something that we would put on for a matter of days and then it would be demolished. So you design something that's efficient and [inaudible] too much money. It ended up being a really successful project and everybody was really impressed because it ended up having less than a 16th of an inch of deflection on that bridge. So it was just a great project all around.
Isaac Oakeson: That's so awesome. It's fun to see when projects come together and they work well. So that's great. Tell me a little bit -- So you're the 2021 ASCE New Face of Civil Engineering. How did that come about real briefly? And how has that been a help to you? What has come from being part of that?
Bahaar Taylor: Well, so ASCE just has -- You know, I've been part of our local chapter. So as part of the local chapter, you know, we talked about who might be good for that. And we decided to -- You know, the chapter [inaudible] an application for nominating someone for that. And so [inaudible] and they picked me. I mean, they look into a lot of, like, your background and, you know, giving back to the community and volunteering, things like that. It's about that.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great, So, what has come of that? What's some benefits that you have seen being part of that?
Bahaar Taylor: Well, I think recognition has been one of them. They're going to have a big -- ASCE has a gala in October, and I'll get to go to that and receive the award. So I guess I have not technically received that award yet.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. But it's going to go in your office wall or home, soon.
Bahaar Taylor: It's actually been an interesting thing where -- So I recently applied and, you know, I will be starting a new job at the end of my maternity leave. And I didn't see anything about this, but when I was interviewing, I guess they looked me up online and they found that, you know? So it was interesting coming to the interview process because they already knew something about me and a little bit about my background and were impressed with that. So being, I guess, [inaudible] experience.
Isaac Oakeson: That's awesome.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah, it's been good. You know, right after that award was announced, I had a lot of people reach out to me just on LinkedIn and other things to kind of connect and -- It's nice to be able to get to know. And then, you know, I was able to talk with a few of the other New Faces, people that won [inaudible]. Also to form those connections with other engineers and people that have similar interests and goals, professional goals.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I hope it does really well for you and helping you boost your career and getting it on a resume, and that's the thing that's a really cool thing. I imagine if people want to do that, they could probably go to the ASCE site and try to fill out something to become a New Face of Civil Engineering.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. There's a college edition and a professional edition for anyone. So they choose 10 people each year that are professionals and then 10 people that are in college. So even college students can both fill that out and get that.
Isaac Oakeson: There you go. Get on it guys. Get out there, check out things. That's awesome.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, I appreciate you jumping on with me. I think you've shared a lot of fun tips. It's fun to hear people's journeys into civil engineering. We definitely need more women in leadership. Is there any last piece of advice that you would have for anyone that's interested in civil engineering? You know, as they start looking this way?
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. My thought with civil engineering, I feel like it is -- You know, one of my favorite things about, it is just seeing in reality things get built that I've essentially designed, imagined, drawn on paper, and then just getting out to site and being able to see it is very satisfying, very rewarding. You know, if it's something that you want to do, I've learned -- You know, sometimes I think people get intimidated by the math or thinking that it's hard. And it is challenging, but I've learned that, when you break it down, there's no a problem you can't figure it out, you know? There's a lot of things I don't know, but there are resources out there to figure them out. And so when things are hard, I've always had that mentality. Like, you know, "I don't know how to do this, but I know that I can figure it out". And that's helped me kind of tackle.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. And there's always people willing to help. Iit's a tight-knit community. If you're part of ASCE, I'm sure there's tons of people there that are willing to help you as well. So people are willing to help you.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: Well Bahaar, what's the best way for our audience to connect with you if they had questions or wanted to reach out to you?
Bahaar Taylor: My email is probably the best way to reach out to me. Do you want me to just say it?
Isaac Oakeson: Do you want to share it? Or we can put it in the show notes, whatever you want to do.
Bahaar Taylor: It's just my name. So [email protected]
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. And that's B A H A A R. bahaar.taylor. T A Y L O R. And I'm sure you're on LinkedIn probably.
Bahaar Taylor: Yeah. There aren't a lot of Bahaar Taylors around, so.
Isaac Oakeson: Got you. Thanks for jumping on with us today. Thanks for sharing your journey. Thanks for talking about being a new face of engineering, women in engineering, family life things, all of that. Those tips are good for people to know someone's done it before or is going through it, that people aren't alone in going through these kinds of things. So I really do appreciate you jumping on and sharing all your wisdom with us. Thanks, Bahaar.
Bahaar Taylor: Yes. Thank you. Thank you.
Isaac Oakeson: All right. See you next time.
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