We are rising seniors at School of the Holy Child in Rye, New York, selected to participate in a 2-year program focused on engineering, architecture, and design (EAD). The program exposes us to different engineering and design disciplines and culminates with the opportunity to design a senior thesis exploring a topic that has interested us during our studies.
We were introduced to Altieri when Kari Nystrom visited our class, talked to us about her career, and introduced us to the field of architectural engineering. We were intrigued to discover how this area of engineering (which neither of us knew anything about) engaged our interests in electrical engineering and gave us a brief look at mechanical engineering jobs. At the conclusion of her presentation, Kari mentioned that Altieri has summer internships for high schoolers. We jumped on the opportunity and here we are! We are seeing firsthand what electrical and mechanical engineers do and are learning how to use the technology these professionals utilize every day!
Caroline: I have decided to pursue engineering because of how it is teamwork driven and allows for the intersection of creative thinking and science. At Altieri I am working with load calculations to measure and place appropriate mechanical equipment for the firm’s MIT Metropolitan Warehouse project. Jacob, a mechanical engineer, walked me through all the different functions of Revit; the software allows me to size the radiators and put them in their corresponding rooms, and enables me to take the next step of adding, moving, and deleting piping as necessary. What advice would I give to young women? Be open to engineering; don’t be afraid to pursue it! Personally, I have gained inspiration from my volunteer tutoring job – seeing the students I mentor gain confidence in STEM subjects encourages me to work even harder toward my engineering dream.
Riley: I discovered my passion for engineering through the EAD program. I’ve learned that engineering can allow me to express my creativity and love of math all at once! At Altieri, I am working on electrical plans, specifically fitting outlets to a line with the standard code. I have been using the NEC 2020 Book for wiring sizes for generators with specific amps after Vini, an electrical engineer, showed me how to find wire lengths for each amp of the generator. I have been inspired by the women in STEM around me, specifically my teacher, Ms.Budill. Consistently, she has encouraged me to try my best and never give up when something gets hard. To any young women wanting to pursue a career in engineering I would say, never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.
I am a senior electrical engineer here at Altieri. It has been almost a year since I joined the firm and found talented engineers and designers with core values that match my own. I am really pleased to be part of a firm that continues to grow and strive for the best. I am proud that my colleagues have voted the firm – not once but twice – a Connecticut Top Workplace!
So, how did I get here?
I was born in Taiwan as my family’s middle child. My parents were divorced when I was young and unfortunately, our family was separated. My aunt, who had already immigrated to the United States, adopted me to give me a better education and future. I was 13 and remember being ecstatic to immigrate to the US. Today I can say without any doubt, that it was truly a life-changing experience and an opportunity I am so grateful to have been given.
When I started school in the US, I stayed behind a grade level to learn English and catch up in school. Although my interest was in Chinese Language and History, I found myself excelling in science and math. Like most young people I did not know what my future held, but I knew I wanted to study engineering as STEM was my strong suit and I understood that it would likely mean both job and financial security for my future. When I was applying to college, I stumbled upon Architectural Engineering, a degree and field that many people don’t know much about. Combining my goal to be an engineer with my love and appreciation of architecture (inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s work) seemed a perfect fit for me. Ultimately, I graduated from The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) with Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering, specializing in electrical engineering and lighting. For the past 20 years, I have worked as an electrical engineer designing power distribution, lighting, and fire alarm system in buildings. Every day I learn and develop skills, not only technical, but in other key areas such as navigating client relations, project management, and construction administration.
Going back a bit…
After graduation, I began work as a junior designer in a New York City firm. I moved up the ranks to engineer and eventually associate/senior level engineer by asking ‘stupid’ questions and learning from mistakes big and small. As I was growing professionally, I was also starting a family. In those early years, I juggled both, and not always very successfully. I worked to advance my career while devoting myself to being the best mother I could be to my young family – 3 children under the age of 5. I voluntarily cut my hours to be able to see my children in the mornings and evenings, I had ‘mommy brain’ at work, and it was difficult to stay on top of all the projects. I was so stressed and overwhelmed that I lost track of my certification renewal date and actually lost my Lighting Certified (LC) certification. Once my children were older and I left NYC for a firm closer to home, I was able to devote more time and focus on my career. With my husband’s support, I studied on weekends, took the LC exam again to get re-certified, then continued studying for my Professional Engineering exam and obtained my PE license. It took me a little longer, but with determination and hard work, I was able to achieve all my career goals while raising my beautiful family. I guess I wanted it all!
Being a woman engineer in the building/construction field dominated by men can be challenging. Architects, owners, contractors, and sometimes even peers are skeptical of your capabilities and knowledge, and assume you lack real field experience. Working hard, listening, observing, and constantly learning has enabled me to speak and present myself confidently, earning respect and trust from colleagues, partners, and clients. I enjoy being challenged, solving problems, and brainstorming with peers. I have learned that one of the most important skills in this field is effective communication and that collaboration leads to success. Nothing gives me more satisfaction and pride than seeing a project develop from a concept into a beautiful, finished building because of successful team effort.
I find great satisfaction in mentoring young engineering hopefuls. I have been mentored and supported by so many people throughout my career, especially by my former supervisor who, lucky for me, was a woman engineer with the same Architectural Engineering degree. She taught me not to be afraid of asking questions and that it’s ok to make mistakes because this is how we learn and grow. The value of introducing our field to aspiring engineers – particularly young women – is significant and essential. Right now, we have two young women interns in our office for the summer, exploring architectural engineering and being put to work! (Read their blog post for more on how they got here and what they are doing.) It is our responsibility to encourage, inspire, and support our next generation of woman engineers. I am happy to be in a position to pay it forward.
We are very excited to launch our blog! wom(EN)gineer is a new opportunity to inspire and be inspired. A platform to share stories, lessons learned, wins… and losses. To spotlight innovators, mentors, and students.
We are eager to engage in compelling (and essential) conversations about individual and collective experiences, current industry trends, and many other topics impacting our professional and personal goals. We are committed to moving the needle on gender equity in the field and want to be part of the solution!
From our desks at Altieri, we look forward to welcoming you to our wom(EN)gineer community. We are not for women only, but for all who recognize the unlimited value of diverse, equitable, and inclusive communities and workplaces. Hope you will join us and tell others too!
Thanks for reading,
Kari, Kristen, Sara, Nona, Angelica, Luying, Sheri, and Crystal
Maggie Mannella, future electrical engineer, graduated summa cum laude from Norwalk High School in Connecticut on June 17, 2022. She is the inaugural recipient of The John L. Altieri Memorial Scholarship and we are excited to put the spotlight on her today – International Women in Engineering Day 2022!
In a recent interview for our first issue of wom(EN)gineer, Maggie credited her STEM-oriented family, participation in varsity athletics (“once you are on the field you realize the difficulty of working together.”), love of music (and math), and ability to communicate as some of the keys to her success to date. Specific shout-outs went to her older sister who tutored Maggie in math (“She wanted a genius sister!”) and to her dad who shared this don’t-take-it-for-granted piece of advice: “You know, Maggie, if you want to be an engineer you have to be able talk to people.”
When asked what advice she would give young girls interested in pursuing STEM careers, she responded without missing a beat: “SPEAK UP!! Don’t be discouraged. The STEM classes are mostly guys; they might underestimate you and even try to exclude you. Don’t let them. You will do great things if you speak up.”
Maggie has clearly taken her own advice. Through the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) curriculum, she took courses including Introduction to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, Civil Engineering and Architecture. She also studied The Poetry of Music and Digital Communications. She was a class officer, co-president of the Earth Club, and FCIAC Scholar Athlete (field hockey); was named Historian for the National Honor Society and achieved her Seal of Biliteracy… in Latin! All with a perfect GPA.
Maggie will join the University of Connecticut’s Class of 2026 in the fall. Congratulations, Maggie, we know you will do great things!
Happy International Women in Engineering Day! Every year on June 23rd, we join the community around the world honoring our inspiring women engineers. It’s a day to celebrate the ever-increasing contributions women are making to the field and a day to encourage more women to join the STEM community. Today’s celebration continues to mark our commitment to moving the needle on gender equity in the field. Simply put, we want more women in engineering jobs!
Collectively, Altieri’s women engineers have 165 years’ experience providing MEPF (mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection) engineering design services to architects and building owners. They are hardworking, driven, and extremely talented. Engineering wasn’t always their first career choice. Growing up, they had their sights set on a whole range of occupations – archaeologist, teacher, doctor, movie set designer, and even trapeze artist. Their very first jobs included cashier, pizza maker, babysitter, baker, being a busgirl at a Japanese hibachi restaurant, running a concession stand, cleaning and stocking a pharmacy, and working at the cafeteria at Lion Country Safari. Eventually, they found their path to engineering and haven’t looked back.
Meet the Women of Altieri:
Angelica Hermanto, PE, LC, LEED AP, is an electrical engineer lighting-certified by the National Council on Qualifications for the Lighting Professions (NCQLP).
Kari Nystrom, PE, LEED AP BC+C, CPHC, Principal is the first electrical engineer at Altieri with formal education in building environmental engineering and with a specialty in lighting. Kari is also the first and only female partner.
Crystal Salazar is an electrical engineer whose interest in AV/IT led her to join the Altieri team that designs AV, IT, and security systems.
Kristen Butts, PE, LEEP AP, WELL AP, Associate Principal is a mechanical engineer and 2021 Consulting-Specifying Engineer 40 Under 40 winner.
Sara Josephson, PE, LEED AP BD+C, Associate is a mechanical engineer with additional expertise in commissioning, energy modeling, and LEED documentation.
Nona Rudd is the first and only woman plumbing engineer at Altieri.
Sheri Lussier has been designing fire protection systems for over 30 years.
Luying Zhai, PE, is a licensed fire protection engineer who completed impressive academic research while studying for her Master of Science in Fire Protection.