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Posted 3/27/2013

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By Jennifer Aldridge
Europe District

WIESBADEN, Germany -- Women of different race, educational background and age make the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District a diverse and colorful workplace. These women use their intelligence, imagination and tenacity to contribute to and further the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. During Women's History Month, in March, the nation celebrates the advancements of women past and present.

Engineering in Europe caught up with three distinguished women here - a project manager, architect and engineer - to find out how they chose a STEM career, their thoughts on the future of their field and their advice for today's students.


Tammy Cinnamon, senior project manager and professional engineer

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Cinnamon: I'm not sure I grew up knowing what I wanted to be so much as what I didn't want to be. I didn't want to be a teacher, nurse or librarian like other little girls.

How did you become a professional engineer?

Cinnamon: After working with Japan District in construction contract administration I was encouraged by male engineering colleagues to pursue a degree in civil engineering. So I did.

What is your educational background?

Cinnamon: I have an associate degree in chemical engineering technology with an emphasis in plant processes and a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from the University of Tennessee.

How has your career benefited from being a professional engineer?

Cinnamon: I think that people recognize that I take my work seriously and they respect my professional integrity.

Is engineering a portable career field?

Cinnamon: Yes! I have been fortunate to work in many different locations - Japan, Alaska, Europe and the U.S. I have also worked in many areas within my field - surveying, structural design, technical design, construction and project management.

Would you suggest students today pursue engineering and STEM-related fields?

Cinnamon: Absolutely!

As you know, there is a shortage of science, technology, engineering and math professionals in the U.S. How can we attract students, especially female students, to engineering?

Cinnamon: We have to show them that engineering today is not the engineering of the past. Bioengineering is a new discipline that focuses on advancing human health and promoting environmental sustainability. These are exciting and challenging areas for the future.


Jean Swalley, supervisory architect

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Swalley: As a kid, I spent my summers mapping out the woods next to our neighborhood and building tree forts with my friends. By the time I was 12, I'd already latched onto the idea of pursuing architecture because, based on my fuzzy understanding of the word, it represented what I loved doing.

How did you become a professional architect?

Swalley: I've always been interested in the built environment, and growing up I had a strong aptitude for math and science. However, I also have an artistic bent. For me, architecture was the perfect career field for blending my artistic side with the technical.

What is your educational background?

Swalley: I earned a Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Science in civil engineering, and a Masters of Science in library and information science.

Did you have mentors to guide you?

Swalley: Although I had friends and family who supported my choices, I can't say I had a mentor. I would encourage young people starting out their career paths to actively seek out mentorship. Many professionals welcome the opportunity to contribute our experience and perspective to those finding their way.

Is architecture a portable career field?

Swalley: Absolutely. Architecture relates to many different fields and has been a great jumping-off point for me. I've worked in facility and site design, community development, computer graphics, green building and Building Information Modeling, or BIM.

How can we attract students, especially female students, to architecture and engineering?

Swalley: As a young girl, I didn't feel a stigma with being interested in things boys traditionally liked. Unfortunately this doesn't seem to be the case for many girls today who, despite having the aptitude, shy away from STEM and other male-dominated career fields. To support girls in considering STEM fields, we can introduce them to the concepts at a young age in fun and interesting ways. Even more importantly, we can recognize when girls place arbitrary limitations on themselves and help them to work through self-imposed barriers.

I would say to any girl, or boy, exploring career paths to forget about traditional roles and expectations. I would also add, like any career path, there will be obstacles, setbacks and disappointments. Don't be deterred when things become difficult.


Susan Kil, Stuttgart Resident Office project engineer

Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Kil: As a child of Asian parents, I was guided toward engineering, medicine or law.

What is your educational background?

Kil: I have a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Old Dominion University.

Has engineering been a portable career?

Kil: As a 10-year military spouse, that would be yes! I have been able to work fulltime in both private and public sectors through moves from South Korea, Hawaii, Alabama, Washington, D.C., and Germany.

Who were your mentors?

Kil: In most of my engineering classes, there were very few female students. We quickly became great friends and we took an active role in the student engineering organizations such as American Society of Civil Engineers. We continue to support each other, especially now as we balance work and family.

Would you suggest students today pursue engineering and STEM-related fields?

Kil: Yes. I would also suggest they keep broad prospective. Engineering is very important, but in our field, so is writing and project management.

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