Diversity, equality, and inclusion is more than just a goal for the technology world — it’s a necessity. That’s why Mission Critical hosts the annual Women in Technology contest. As the demands for data generation, consumption, sharing, storage, processing, and more continue to grow and cybercriminals become increasingly more threatening, it’s clear that the industry needs more people to collaborative on innovative solutions to consumer needs, sustainable connectivity, and cyber safe infrastructure.
Women from all over the world in a wide range of technology sectors, including data centers, health care, and food processing, were nominated for their admirable contributions to the industry and the people who rely on it.
As Rebecca Ellis, president of Questions & Solutions Engineering Inc. and one of this year’s winners, so matter-of-factly put it, “If technology is to benefit all people, then all people need to be represented in the development and application of that technology.”
And, with that, Mission Critical is excited to introduce you to the 2022 Top 25 Women in Technology.
Company: Questions & Solutions Engineering Inc.
Education: Master of Science in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota (attended Northwestern University freshman and sophomore years)
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: Professional engineer in 18 states, Certified Commissioning Provider (Building Commissioning Association), Building Commissioning Professional (ASHRAE), and Commissioning Authority (AABC Commissioning Group)
Organizational Affiliations: ASHRAE, Building Commissioning Association, AABC Commissioning Group, U.S. Green Building Council, and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
Achievements/Awards: Engineered Systems' 20 Women to Watch Award (2108), and the Minnesotan on the Move Award - Finance and Commerce (2001)
What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in technology?
I decided on mechanical engineering between my junior and senior years of high school and then fell in love with the built environment when I took my first university class in building energy systems. I entered the design/construction industry in the late 1980s, exactly when digital technology was first being applied to building systems in a very big way. Technology was the “next big step” for building systems, and I embraced the challenge of marrying traditional mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems with the power of technology in a practical and maintainable way.
What inspires you to do what you do?
The opportunity to solve problems for clients and the responsibility for the livelihoods of a full company of engineers and their families.
What role does sustainability play in your life?
Sustainability, especially in terms of energy and water conservation, has kept my career interesting. With buildings contributing to 40% of the planet’s global warming emissions, every small step in efficiency we make in designing smarter new buildings and retrofitting existing building systems holds the potential of contributing to a consequential reduction in the human environmental footprint.
What is the most fascinating thing you have learned while working in this industry?
Technology typically outpaces people’s ability to apply it effectively to existing systems. Early on, technology resulted in previously discrete, individual systems being integrated for improved performance and efficiency. That was challenging enough, but, now, whenever a new technology is introduced to those integrated systems, someone needs to understand the entire organism and how it works. The impact on the entire system needs to be taken into account in order to avoid creating unanticipated problems at one end of the system while presumably resolving a known problem at the other end.
I find systemwide understanding, especially when the details are contained in a “black box” of technology, to be a rare skill set. One of the keys to advancing technology in the built environment is human training and development.
What’s something unique about you personally?
I am one of four siblings, all of whom are engineers.
What’s something unique about you professionally?
I can write and speak publicly, in addition to performing technical engineering analyses.
What’s your most admirable quality?
My ability to explain technical concepts to nontechnical people and then help them understand how the science can be applied to explain the root causes of their problems and inform solutions to those problems.
Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion important to you?
If technology is to benefit all people, then all people need to be represented in the development and application of that technology. On a personal level, it’s just more interesting to work with an open-minded diverse group of people.
What aspect of the industry do you think has the most potential for growth, and, on the other hand, which aspect do you think needs the most improvement?
The most potential for growth may be investing in our human capital. Although the need for additional technology developers will always be there, new technologies will often need a user base with the skill sets to get the most benefit from applying those technologies.
The industry needs the most improvement in the areas of diversity and inclusion (see previous question). There will be measurable growth in new technologies for every currently underrepresented group that is given a meaningful place at the technology development and funding table.
When you imagine the future of the technology industry, what does it look like?
I’d like to see a future where more time is spent applying new technologies to solve real problems (global warming, hunger, social injustice, economic inequities, etc.) in a meaningful way than is spent developing the technology in the first place.