Women in Engineering: Loving her first job and making a difference
Editor’s note: For Women in Engineering Day on June 23, Denver Water is highlighting some of the outstanding women engineers that help deliver clean, safe water to 1.5 million people every day.
Viviana Verde, a mechanical engineer who joined Denver Water about two years ago, knew when she was young that she wanted to be an engineer.
Historically, engineering has been a male-dominated profession, with women representing close to 14% of the workforce, according to a 2019 U.S. Census Bureau report. Some Denver Water employees are involved in programs that encourage women to enter the field, and to encourage young girls and women in STEM careers.
Knowing many women may not know about the opportunities that exist in the industry, Verde shared her thoughts about women in engineering.
What’s your favorite thing about being an engineer?
I love the opportunity that engineering has given me to work with a team to tackle a problem together.
In other careers, I don’t think you get the same amount of collaboration. I think Denver Water is full of intelligent people with great ideas, and it has been a privilege to work with them on various projects and learn how to look at things from different perspectives.
Also, I love that there is nothing routine about my job. Each project has a unique set of needs to be addressed, especially when it comes to infrastructure projects. Nothing beats creating a design and seeing it come together in real life as it gets built.
How did you get into this industry?
Growing up, I was always interested in math and science, and just getting to know how things worked, which is a fairly standard origin story for most engineers.
My dad is a mechanical and structural engineer. I thought his job was the coolest thing in the world when I was a kid, which planted the seed for my own path in this industry. Seeing what he designed inspired me to start young. By the time I entered high school, I knew I wanted to go into engineering and took any classes that were available.
Meet Katie Ross, an engineering manager at Denver Water who advocates for more women to join the industry.
My interest in machine design is what set me on the path of mechanical engineering, along with the fact that mechanical engineering is really versatile. With my parents encouraging me and pushing me, I attended Colorado School of Mines, got my degree in mechanical engineering and was hired at Denver Water one month after graduation.
I wanted to work at Denver Water because I wanted to have a job that I knew would help people and the environment, which Denver Water is an excellent blend of both.
What would you tell other women and girls about engineering?
I think one of the best things I ever did was finding a strong group of women who had my back. I don’t think I would have made it through my degree without the support of all the friends I made in my sorority and other women’s groups on campus, along with working with female faculty and staff members.
Having a community of people going through the same things as me was a big contributor to why I was able to stick through the tougher parts of being an engineer. I was able to look to other women as mentors and role models as I figured out what direction I wanted my career to go in.
I still talk with many of these women regularly and they are some of my dearest friends. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and their support.
Are you a mentor?
I have been helping tutor some of the girls at my local high school when it comes to calculus and physics, along with talking to some of the physics classes with other alumni about different paths that are available in engineering.
I didn’t realize that there was more to mechanical engineering than aerospace, so I’m excited to help girls learn that they have options. I want to join one of the more formal mentorship programs — such as the Society of Women Engineers or being an adviser for my sorority — when I finish my master’s degree and have a little more free time outside of work.
Read more stories about Denver Water employees who work to deliver clean, safe water to 1.5 million people every day.
Why is it important to you to support women in engineering?
I think it is so important for young girls to understand the endless opportunities they have in front of them. All I wanted when I grew up was to see other women in STEM, so now it’s time for me and the other women around me to provide representation for young girls.
Also, I think it’s so influential to support all types of women who are entering STEM careers. It has been so common that women feel like they need to tone down their femininity to blend in with the boys and be accepted.
Join the team at denverwater.org/Careers.
I think the new challenge for women in engineering is carving out a space for young women and girls to be themselves while also being engineers, rather than having to “toughen up” and be one of the boys.
I’m so excited to see this next generation of women come in and shake up the industry. They are going to do some amazing things.