Throughout March, we’ll be posting a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. Today’s entry features a Q&A session with NYPA Economic Development & Energy Efficiency Program Manager Maribel Cruz-Brown.
1. How did you enter the engineering field? How did you decide on your specialty? I really enjoyed Math and Science in high school and received a partial scholarship to attend Manhattan College. During my college search, I was informed that an Engineering Degree would serve me well if I wanted to enter into any other career choice later on. They were right.
2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? I had interned all through college but didn’t come across any other female engineers until my first job out of college with Syska Hennessy Group. My aunts and uncles went to great schools like NYU and Yale. They were amazing role models for me, and I have great female engineering role models here at NYPA.
3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? This organization thrives because of the contributions from entry level to executive management. Over the past 14 years, I have seen how reliable public power and energy efficiency upgrades have real, positive impacts on NY communities.
4. What things do you love most about engineering? Most engineers say problem solving skills and I agree but it goes deeper than that. Engineering is a resolution to a need, it is an approach. I studied Mechanical Engineering so to me it’s all about gears, motors and turbines making things happen.
5. What project are you most proud of? My first energy efficiency projects at NYPA have set the tone for my career here. I began my career with NYPA at NYC and Westchester schools, hospitals and precincts. They called on my engineering knowledge, street smarts and negotiating skills. I learned to maneuver through challenges with customers, public officials and contractors.
6. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? I always had to balance school while working close to full time my entire college career. I’m currently earning my M.B.A, and I have two young sons – so life is a little busy at the moment.
7. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? Always be professional and mindful of your contributions and you will be successful. Not everyone we work with has been exposed to the diversity of the engineering world of today. I had a customer ask me if I had really gone to school for engineering, why I chose my nontraditional profession, where I had studied, etc. By the end of our meeting he was eager to proceed with the recommendations I had presented for his town.
8. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? I have been speaking to elementary and high school students for 10 years. My message is still the same. If she (or he) has a passion for math/science, want to work on projects that have local impact and is ready to put the time in then the engineering field is for them!
9. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? Symphony. A collaboration of instruments, players, working at different levels to create a beautiful product.
10. What is one thing about yourself that most people would find surprising? Years ago I wanted to create and be the host of a Home Improvement Show demonstrating to women how to DIY.