Get in Over Your Head: A Conversation with Chief of Engineering Pam Lovasz

Far East District
Published Aug. 23, 2020
Pam Lovasz is Far East District Engineering Division Chief.

Pam Lovasz is Far East District Engineering Division Chief.

From growing up as a little girl who loved earth science and collecting rocks to becoming Chief of the Far East District’s Engineering Division, Pam Lovasz has made a career of doing what she loves and asking for what she wants.

Pam says she knew exactly what she wanted to do after attending her first Geology 101 lecture in college. Suddenly her love for everything under the ground was explained and her future defined. However, graduating as a geologist didn’t send career opportunities knocking on her door. Instead her extensive job hunt required her to move to San Antonio, Texas where she worked under an engineer in the private sector.

Upon realizing the lack of professional credentialing available for geologists in Texas at the time, Pam returned to school where she obtained her Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering specifically to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam. This exam is required to become a professional engineer in the United States. Now, instead of facing an extensive job search, Pam was recruited straight from campus into the private sector where she would work for 11 years.

Lovasz would leave the warmth of California for the freezing temperatures in Alaska to obtain her first position within the U.S Army Corps of Engineers where surprisingly enough, the chief of engineering and construction was a woman. One of the interesting reasons for Pam’s swift introduction with her new chief was her request for superior qualifications within her GS-12 position, which allowed her to begin as a step seven instead of a step one. Her chief had to meet the woman who negotiated her salary with the government right away.

“When I was hired, I have to admit the Corps treated me very well,” said Lovasz. “I just want to tell you that the first time I asked for a raise was when I was that geologist back in San Antonio, Texas. I came in early that day, pacing back and forth in front of my boss’ office, and nervous – nervous to ask for more money but I wasn’t going to take no for an answer and got a 22% raise.”

This current chief of engineering says, “That is why I encourage everyone, especially women to always be brave enough to ask for what we need and what we want.” She explains career growth and mobility as, “the willingness to accept new challenges. Get in over your head,” she says. “You’ll figure it out.”

These words have seemingly guided Pam Lovasz’s career. She also credits the men within the Far East District who have seen her work and taken a chance on her.

“We don’t just do this on our own. It takes the men and the women to make a promotion possible,” she says as she speaks of her promotions within the Corps. From GS-13 to GS-14 where she made the challenging move from the geo-tech division to the design division to the application that made her the first female chief of engineering in the FED’s 62-year history, Pam Lovasz has followed her own advice.

“It’s about having a good reputation and being active in your Community of Practice,” said Lovasz. “Apply for those jobs that are challenging and pay attention to your selection official when you are interviewing for a position because you are also interviewing your boss. That’s important to remember because when I look over my career, it’s not always been sunshine and rainbows for me, but I think I’ve dealt with a little fewer of the issues because I’ve always been willing to get in over my head and ask for what I want.”