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February 23, 2022

Engineer Spotlight: Michelle Madrid

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Tell me about yourself, your schooling, career path.
I’m from Albuquerque, New Mexico and I studied at the University of New Mexico and received a bachelor’s in civil engineering. While in my sophomore year of college, I started an internship with a consulting firm and continued my internship until I graduated. After graduating, I received a full-time position there as a civil engineer. I moved to Chicago four years ago and accepted my position with Donohue as a civil engineer working on site design and improvements for wastewater treatment facilities, drinking water, sewer and storm water projects.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
Even at a young age, I’ve always liked problem solving and was very inspired by a lot of women engineers that are in my life, including my mom and older sister.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
I like that every project is unique and has its own set of challenges to figure out. There is always a variety of different things to work on and you’re never doing the same thing day to day.

Tell me about the most challenging project you were involved with and what you did you fix it?
To me, the technical aspects of a project are typically not the most challenging part. There are always technical issues to solve, but that’s what we’re good at as engineers. The challenging part, especially on multi-discipline or complex projects, is  getting everyone to come together and to coordinate on what needs to get done to reach the end goal. Good communication is key!

Where were you in life 5 years ago? 10 years ago? What do you wish you knew back then?
Ten years ago, I was just getting ready to graduate college, and five years ago I had just received my engineering license. Looking back at that time, you think having that degree means you can go out and do the job, because that’s what you went to school for and learned about all those years, but really you’re just getting started and have so much more to learn. I wish I knew not to sweat the small stuff because you’re never going to know everything and you’re going to make mistakes, but that’s ok. The important thing is that you learn from those mistakes and you almost always have opportunities to fix it next time. This is an ever-evolving career and you will never master everything.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Ask as many questions as you can and don’t be afraid to ask senior engineers for advice. If you don’t understand something, just ask; everyone is there to help you along the way. You’re not bugging anyone by asking, because that’s the only way you’re going to learn. You have a limited time to pick some of the senior engineers’ brains before they retire, and if you don’t ask, you’ll lose that source forever.

What do you do for fun?
I love to cook and bake French and Italian cuisine. To try to counteract my cooking and baking, I like to run, but only long enough for it still to be fun.

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