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.
Title: Mechanical Engineer III
Company: Syska Hennessy Group
Education: Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Iowa
Professional Credentials/Accreditations: State of Illinois Licensed Professional Engineer (PE)
Organizational Affiliations: ASHRAE, Professional Women in Construction, 7x24 Exchange Intl.
What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in technology?
Growing up, I’d always been drawn to a STEM career, given my mother is a mechanical engineer and my father is an architect. I originally started in the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) consulting industry working on health care and large-scale building projects, and I enjoyed the complex designs. As my career continued, I was given the opportunity to work on critical facilities design and jumped at the opportunity to learn something new. Once I saw the additional level of redundancy and challenges the systems for these facilities require, I never looked back. I had realized this industry is somewhere I can learn something new every day and grow as an engineer. Additionally, the technology/critical facility industry is one that is continuously improving and has a strong impact on the world, which is something that I would like to be a part of.
What inspires you to do what you do?
Being an engineer and part of the team that designs critical facilities has allowed me to grow as an engineer and as a person. The coordination required and various people I work with on these projects pushes me to contribute to each overall goal and build relationships along the way. I am inspired by my team who always brings forth new ideas and works together to overcome challenges at every site. I am also inspired to keep pushing to improve the diversity in this industry through my involvement and have more women become engaged in engineering especially around technology. I hope for the trend of seeing women on projects to continue in order to provide role models for future female engineers, like my mother was for me.
What role does sustainability play in your life?
Sustainability is incredibly important on our projects as we design the critical facilities. As the industry continues to grow, we need to emphasize sustainable solutions within the building systems as a way to improve and maintain our planet and its limited resources. The data centers I've worked on all pursue LEED and utilize designs that minimize the need for refrigerants to reduce the impact of the mechanical systems on our environment.
What is the most fascinating thing you have learned while working in this industry?
The unceasing development in data center design as technology is constantly evolving. These changes in technology means the facilities must be designed to keep up and epitomizes the idea of continuous improvement. I have learned that there are endless solutions to address these challenges, and we must always be capable of pivoting our design. No idea is too big nor too small throughout the design process, and you can prioritize factors to come up with an approach that is the best overall solution.
What’s something unique about you personally?
I am passionate about giving back and am always willing to try new things. Despite a lack of experience in running, I am a four-time finisher for the Chicago Marathon and am registered to run again this year. I always run the Chicago Marathon through a charity in order to support their cause. For 2022, I am running for the Ronald McDonald House (RMHC), which is also a charity where I currently volunteer. RMHC provides affordable housing and community support for families with children undergoing hospital treatment.
What’s something unique about you professionally?
Prior to my current career in engineering building consulting and design, I originally pursued biomedical engineering. I wrote an honors thesis in college about bone morphology and worked at a radiation positioning equipment company before switching to HVAC. That being said, I am very pleased with my decision to pursue a career in MEP consulting, given it has led to my current position and team.
What’s your most admirable quality?
My most admirable quality is my willingness to learn. I strive to be the best person and engineer I can be and work to continuously ask questions and for feedback from others.
Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion important to you?
Diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) are important to me because I believe everyone should have the opportunity to meet their full potential and provide their insight across all platforms. As DEI continues to improve in the technology industry, it will open doors for future engineers, become a gateway for fresh perspectives and ideas, and provide equal opportunities for people from all backgrounds.
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?
I believe the design we are doing on the facilities side of the technology industry has huge potential for growth. As new systems and approaches are implemented, engineers will be able to take lessons learned from those projects to continue pursuing optimal built environments while improving sustainability and efficiency. The facilities can also be designed to accommodate new requirements as the technology within these building continues to develop.
I believe diversity can continue to be improved in the technology industry given the lower number of women I see and work with on projects. While the industry has taken great strides, there is always room for improvement.
When you imagine the future of the technology industry, what does it look like?
I see the future of technology continuously developing. Technology holds such a major role in all aspects of our lives from day-to-day tasks to the communication and direction of entire countries, and it will only continue to grow. I believe technology that is considered advanced in this day and age will become widely available to the general public and facilities will further expand to developing areas as a way to increase lines of communication. The future of technology is endless, and, as it progresses, numerous concepts will be executed, tested, improved upon, and reimplemented in a constant evolution.