Welcome to CDM Smith.

Wisdom From Women in STEM

In celebration of Inter­na­tional Women in Engineering Day 2018, we met with five of the brightest female engineers, project managers and planners at CDM Smith to learn about their career journeys and industry perspec­tives.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields?

"I believe it is very natural to feel safety in numbers, so being a minority group often makes it difficult to propose ideas that get the support of the larger group. At the same time, overcoming that challenge means learning how to communicate to others without allowing our differences to become an issue."
- Jennifer Humphreys, AICP, Senior Trans­porta­tion Planner

"It’s a struggle trying to find your voice at times...I feel like I need to be confident in my technical abilities and knowledge on my projects to earn trust and respect of the people I am working with."
- Colleen E. Heath, PE, Envi­ron­men­tal Engineer

"It’s always important to listen, but it’s harder for women to learn when it’s important to speak up and be assertive. And even harder to know when you should not back down. Navigating that gray area is tough."
- Karen Kelley, PE, Senior Water Resources Engineer, R&D Coordinator

"I think it is important for every young lady to have access to STEM programs in early elementary school. STEM isn’t always promoted as part of the curriculum in elementary schools and I think there is opportunity to reframe what is being taught."
- Krista Goodin, AICP, Senior Trans­porta­tion Planner, Project Manager

It’s always important to listen, but it’s harder for women to learn when it’s important to speak up and be assertive.
Karen Kelley
Jennifer Humphreys Jennifer Humphreys
Our industry is full of opportunity and exciting challenges. There are no limits to the opportunities you can pursue.
Colleen Heath Colleen Heath
Find a good female mentor. There are a lot of trailblazing women out there who have paved the way for women in STEM...
Colleen E. Heath, PE Envi­ron­men­tal Engineer

Are there any barriers you have personally encountered in your college experience and profes­sional career?

"The under­grad­u­ate college I attended was 70-percent male and 30-percent female. The gender ratio was a barrier in and of itself. Women were very outnumbered, which meant we had to work hard to be taken seriously. However, I see this as both a barrier and a building block—it was empowering to be part of the demon­stra­tion that women in STEM can and will succeed."
Jillian C. Vandegrift, Envi­ron­men­tal Engineer

"My early college career in engineering was very trying. There were not many women in my classes back then and the social structure was such that my male coun­ter­parts had a lot more academic support than I did. After taking a break, I decided to change my thinking and just go for it, and I went back to school. It was difficult, but the second time around, I wasn’t afraid to ask for help when I needed it."
Karen

"I have been very fortunate to have run into very few barriers in pursuing a career in STEM. If anything, I’ve enjoyed many oppor­tu­ni­ties for growth and development with CDM Smith and that has resulted in extensive loyalty for my employer. I recognize that this is a somewhat uncommon situation, so I am very thankful for the oppor­tu­ni­ties I’ve been given."
- Jennifer

I have been very fortunate to have run into very few barriers in pursuing a career in STEM...I recognize that this is a somewhat uncommon situation, so I am very thankful for the oppor­tu­ni­ties I’ve been given.
Jennifer Humphreys

What advice do you have for young women starting careers in STEM fields?

"Find a good female mentor. There are a lot of trail­blaz­ing women out there who have paved the way for women in STEM when the ratios between men and women were even lower...​It is incredible learning how they balance their profes­sional and personal lives. Although it can be hard, always try to stay confident and remember that you’re deserving of the things you’ve achieved."
Colleen

"I think it is important to raise younger children to not have expec­ta­tions of what's considered 'male' and 'female' careersthere has been major headway made across the country with the younger generation, but more can be done. My advice is to have a strong voice and not be afraid to contribute to the conver­sa­tion."
Krista

"Confidence is key! Don’t hold back; be vocal, be proud and present yourself as a leader right off the bat."
Jillian

Although it can be hard, always try to stay confident and remember that you’re deserving of the things you’ve achieved.
Colleen E. Heath
Karen Kelley Karen Kelley
There has never been a better time to be a woman in STEM. I work with many incredibly impressive young women engineers and they inspire me every day.
Krista Goodin Krista Goodin
My advice is to have a strong voice and not be afraid to contribute to the conversation.
Jillian Vandegrift Jillian Vandegrift
[It's] empowering to be part of the demonstration that women in STEM can and will succeed.
Diversity_womens_forum Diversity_womens_forum
Diversity, Inclusion & Equality
As our business has grown globally, we are committed to an inclusive workplace where everyone is valued for his or her ideas, experiences and contri­butions.
Carlsbad employees Carlsbad employees
Join our team!
Our employees are the heart of our company. As an employer of choice, we provide careers in a challenging, progressive and inclusive work environment.