#INWED22 – Celebrating the Inventors and Innovators: An Interview with Sheesley + Associates President & Owner

International Women in Engineering Day is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry.

Today, we are celebrating the outstanding achievements of women engineers throughout the world by highlighting our President and Owner of Sheesley + Associates, Jennifer Sheesley, P.E.

Jennifer Sheesley, P.E., President & Owner of Sheesley + Associates stands at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pittsburgh International Airport – Terminal Modernization Project with her father, and fellow Sheesley team member, David Rose, P.E., RLS, M. ASCE.

In this interview, Jennifer talks about her journey to becoming an engineer and some of the milestone moments that led her to the purchase of Parker Surveying, transforming it into Sheesley + Associates in 2018.

  • How did you decided you wanted to be an engineer? Did you go into college knowing that? Or did something help you decide?

My dad played a huge role in my decision to study engineering.  From a very young age, I was full of questions about any type of construction we would see.  The firm he worked for at the time, Michael Baker International, had an ‘Engineering Explorer’s’ club for middle school and high schoolers that I participated in, and my involvement in that only grew my desire to become an engineer.

  • How did your professional career begin once you were finished with college?

When I graduated from college, I started working for a Sharp Paving, which was a local excavation and paving firm in Indiana, PA.  Following that, I worked for two years at a biomedical engineering company, before starting my civil engineering career with LR Kimball (now TransSystems) in Ebensburg.  I worked there for four years until my first son was born, and then part time until my daughter was born in 2003.  After the birth of my daughter in 2003, I was able to subcontract for an engineer locally in Indiana that allowed me the flexibility to be with my three children while continuing to pursue my career. 

In 2008, I expanded my contracting business to Parker Surveying, as they needed an engineer to develop the increasing number of Marcellus gas well pads that were being developed all over Western PA.  That relationship grew, and in 2011 Parker hired me on staff full time to lead the engineering department and be Vice President of the company.  This led to me purchasing majority ownership in the firm in 2014 and sole ownership in 2018.

  • What has been one of your favorite projects to work on? And why?

My favorite aspect of my job is conceptual planning and master planning – figuring out what is possible on a new site, or an existing one that meets the needs of my clients.  This then allows my team to move forward and make the concept a reality.

  • Why do you think it is important for women to be recognized in the engineering industry?

I think the recognition is important to encourage young women to pursue engineering and feel confident that they can be successful in this industry.

  • What was the first project you ever worked on as an engineer?

The first real engineering work I did was as an intern with Michael Baker.  I managed all the soil analysis testing for the Wabash tunnel project in Pittsburgh, and I also worked on slope stability analyses on various other projects.

  • What is something you wished someone would have told you about engineering when you were in school?

That it’s OK that you won’t know everything when you graduate – that’s why there is an experience requirement for licensing! We are learning everyday on the job. Engineering and Construction are constantly changing and evolving.

  • How do you keep yourself motivated in your role as both a business owner and a female engineer?  

I am very passionate about work-life balance.  Growing up, as a little girl, I had a poster of a beautiful Clydesdale horse that read “some of us weren’t cut out to follow the crowd”.  I take a lot of pride in ‘not following the crowd’ – my path was different than my peers, but it was MY path, and I wouldn’t change a thing.  As a business owner now, I still prioritize balance for both myself and my employees – and I think that makes everyone happier and ultimately more productive.

If you or someone you know is looking for an engineering role within the industry, check out Sheesley + Associates LinkedIn page to view the roles that we are currently hiring for in Pittsburgh and Indiana, PA.

https://www.linkedin.com/company/sheesleyassoc

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