Striking a Balance (Source: Stormwater Solutions)
By Lauren Baltas
Laura Casset, P.E., CFM, CPESC, associate, floodplain management and project funding specialist for Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam Inc. (LAN), a planning, engineering and program management firm, has boldly pursued her engineering career, inspiring and mentoring other professionals in the process. She spoke to Managing Editor Lauren Baltas about the challenging and rewarding aspects of her career, ultimately giving voice to the experiences of many other industry professionals, particularly women engineers.
Lauren Baltas: Can you just start by telling me about how your career got started–what drew you to storm water and erosion control or what drew you to engineering in general?
Laura Casset: From a young age, I had an interest in the natural sciences, spending a lot of time outdoors doing creek walks, hunting for bugs–it just was a big part of my childhood, just that desire to spend a lot of time outside. And as I moved into high school, math and sciences were just areas that I really was passionate about and enjoyed. In high school, I met a woman in passing that used math and science in her job, and she got to travel. And I was like, well, what is it that you do? And she said, I’m an engineer. And I thought, if I get to use math and science and I can travel, I’m going to do that. And I checked that box on my application to the University of Texas at Austin, not knowing anything about engineering as a profession other than I would be able to utilize these interests.
At the first firm I worked with–a woman-owned firm based in Austin–we did a lot of land development, and I got to see all aspects of civil engineering. I continued on that path as far as doing land development work, even past graduation, because I’m in the civil engineering world, [with] land development, you’d get to touch everything you get to design–waterlines, wastewater lines, storm water line, site work. So it was just a really good opportunity for someone who didn’t come from a family of all engineers to get a broad exposure to everything that our profession is.
And after several years of doing land development, I started gravitating towards single family residential work, because everything is very personal for me. I was looking for a home to buy at the time, and I was very interested in doing work for residential developments. And even further, I found that designing the detention ponds and designing the storm sewer and ensuring that these homes that someone would purchase, and you know, raise their family in, would not be subject to flooding. It just seemed like a really complex aspect of the work that I was doing, and I wanted to do more of that. And so at that time, I made a career change and moved from land development into water resources, and I’ve been reducing flood risk for Texas, as well as several other states, ever since. It was the best choice I ever made, and it fits me to a tee.
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