Engineers Week 2017
Follow Your Passion
Growing up in India, it was anything but normal for a girl to show an interest in engineering. Noopur Jain’s father is a retired professor in civil/structural engineering, and she knew from a young age that she wanted to put her passion for math to use and follow in her father’s footsteps.
As a Statewide Engineering Manager, she works on all engineering aspects of California High-Speed Rail with a special focus on complex structures, including the design of bridges, viaducts, tunnels and other infrastructure for the project.
Noopur’s favorite quote from Isaac Newton, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges,” aligns with her work and her passion for bringing communities together. “As an engineer on the high-speed rail project, I help find innovative engineering solutions that allow us to connect communities throughout the state.”
As a female engineer, Noopur points out that young women often face difficulties choosing between family and career. “There is nothing extraordinary about me,” she observes. “Don’t underestimate yourself. With hard work, dedication and support, you can find the right balance and achieve anything you want.”
“Your personality and your interests define what you will become, not society.”
Melissa de la Peña
There’s an Engineering Field for That
Growing up, Melissa de la Peña enjoyed building things, and had an affinity for math and science. Add to that siblings that were all engineers, and her career choice wasn’t a difficult decision. She is the Project Manager for both the Burbank-Los Angeles and Los Angeles-Anaheim segments of the California High-Speed Rail project.
“Being an engineer is a bit like being a detective,” Melissa explains. “You find problems and investigate ways to improve quality of life in your community through technology and infrastructure.”
As a young woman, Melissa noted that many of her classmates were male, traditional for the field of engineering. “High-speed rail is different in that there are a growing number of women working on the project,” she says. “It’s important to keep your point of view. You have a unique and valuable perspective, so make sure your voice is heard.”
Melissa encourages all young people to investigate their interests and learn about the various engineering disciplines.
“Find what you have an affinity for. Engineering includes many different areas like civil, electrical, transportation and mechanical. Think about what you enjoy doing, and there is probably an engineering field for that.”
Transforming Travel in California
Road trips are a way of life for many Americans. As a young man, Mark Chang’s trips helped to instill a love of travel and transportation that would lead him to pursue civil engineering in college. As the Southern California Early Investments Project Manager for California High-Speed Rail, he helps expand travel options for all Californians.
As an engineer, Mark reviews various elements of project planning and design including alignments, grade separations and stations. His expertise allows him to see what works in a location and to consult with a variety of stakeholders to help advance the project.
“This is the largest ongoing transportation project in the country,” says Mark. “High-speed rail will change the way we move around the state, provide a new high-quality travel option between Northern California and Southern California, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lead to job growth in the state.”
One of Mark’s ongoing assignments involves working with Los Angeles Metro and other agencies to prepare Union Station in downtown Los Angeles for high-speed rail. “We are coordinating travel between high-speed rail and local transportation services,” he explains. “We have a real opportunity to make substantial improvements in downtown Los Angeles, resulting in a more active and vibrant community.”
Making Dreams a Reality
Gladys Guzman found herself inspired by the rich history of colonial architecture in Mexico. While attending a career day in high school, she sat down for a presentation by engineer Benjamin Camarena. After hearing about his challenges as a Latino coming from a field-working family, she saw herself reflected in his experience and was inspired by his passion.
Following her dreams, Gladys is now a Senior Transportation Engineer based out of Fresno, working to bring high-speed rail to California. “Being part of the nation’s first high-speed rail is a privilege I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams,” she expresses. “This will be the first in the nation, but it won’t be the last. This will serve as a model for the entire nation.”
As a woman, Gladys is well aware of the struggles she faced. “I was the only female in most of my classes,” she points out. “I had to work twice as hard to prove myself and be taken seriously.”
“With great challenges comes great satisfaction. Work hard every day, and you can destroy any stereotype and be sure that women have a fair opportunity.”
Building in His Own Backyard
Terry Ogle’s father was also his fifth grade teacher. The classroom featured a bulletin board of construction sites, and he constantly reminded the class of the need for construction engineers. This planted a seed with Terry that he would grow into a career as an engineer.
As a Director of Design and Construction, Terry currently helps oversee construction in the Central Valley section of the California High-Speed Rail project. After more than 25 years with Caltrans, he joined the pioneering project of bringing high-speed rail to the state.
“Living in Fresno, this project is in my backyard,” Terry reveals. “Fresno was suppressed by the freeway system. High-speed rail helps to bring Fresno back to being a metropolitan area.”
Terry enjoys the magnitude of this undertaking. “This is a once in a lifetime project,” he says. “High-speed rail is the Bay Bridge of the Central Valley. This is the biggest project in the state and on the West Coast, and it’s one of the biggest undertakings in the country.”
As a father of four daughters, Terry encourages girls to pursue careers in engineering. “In a predominantly male field, we have a great need for women. I encourage everyone to pursue their passions, especially when it comes to math and science.”
Responding to the Community
Gary Kennerley came from a family of farmers, and his father was a geologist. Growing up, he knew he wanted to build something physical rather than just building a bank account. Now, his impact is seen in projects including the improvements to Doyle Drive in the Presidio in San Francisco.
As a Project Manager for California High-Speed Rail, he is able to help deliver high-speed rail to California in an efficient manner.
“Being an engineer, what I really do is help the team discover ways to complete the project in a better, faster way for less money,” notes Gary. “We’re making this dream a reality. I am part of the biggest infrastructure project in the country, working to provide a more sustainable travel option than cars and planes currently offer.”
Kennerley is fully aware of the impact this project has on the daily lives of Californians. “I am able to make a difference by engaging with the community and local stakeholders,” he explains. “They are interested in the project, but many still want to know how it will impact them directly. I have the opportunity to listen to and address their feedback and concerns.”