STEMxm Episode 3 –
Interview with Jessica Rodriguez-Gomez, Transportation (Civil) Engineer
(Fair warning – there’s some dogs barking in the background at one point in this episode)
Jessica Rodriguez-Gomez graduated from the University of Texas El Paso where she earned a BS in Civil Engineering in 1985 and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering (with a focus on Transportation) in 1991. In 1985, she was the only female graduate in her class major. Jessica has over 30 years of experience in transportation, primarily with roadway design. Jessica started her career working for TXDOT, where she worked as the only female engineer in the district for years. She currently works as a Senior Project Manager for Freese and Nichols, Inc.
Something I want to highlight here is what Jessica described about her background at the beginning of the podcast. Neither of her parents went to college. She has an older sibling who went to college ahead of her, but he studied music. The reason Jessica went into engineering as a major is because her guidance counselor pointed out her strengths in mathematics and science and therefore, suggested Engineering as an option to her. This is incredibly poignant. Guidance Counselors, Teachers, and Parents can have a huge influence on a young person’s path. Also, for any young person reading this, I want to remind you that you have it in you. You can accomplish academically what you set your mind to.
Another important highlight from this episode – Finding out what you don’t want to do is just as important as finding out what you want to do. Jessica highlighted this with respect to earning a Masters degree – better to learn through some work experience before finding a specialty area that you earn a focused, research degree in.
Towards the middle of the episode, Jessica described her perspective on the difference between working for government and working for a consulting firm. For a little more insight into this you can also check out the short video I made about job options in Engineering here.
Things Jessica said to try and learn (or classes to take) while you’re still in school:
- Business Basics
- How and engineering budget is put together
- How to put together a construction schedule
- Classes on Project or Construction Management
- At a consulting internship – ask to listen in on marketing calls/meetings
You can also learn more about the sub disciplines of Civil Engineering (like Transportation) careers by visiting the Occupational Outlook Handbook.