Evolution of a Woman Engineer

Evolution Of A Woman Engineer

I first toyed with becoming an engineer in high school. I took an engineering course and was one of two girls in the class. I didn’t think much of being in the minority, I just knew I was having fun building sumo cars and balsa bridges. Art class was also fun and I considered becoming an architect. Eventually I learned that Penn State University has an Architectural Engineering major. Best of both worlds, I thought, and this is what I pursued, graduating with both a BA and MA of Architectural Engineering. 

Fast forwarding a decade… I found Altieri. Kismet! I could not have imagined a more perfect place to land – an engineering firm that digs into the creative side and collaborates with world-renowned architects to design museums and performance spaces. Since Day One, the work has kept me engaged; there are new things to learn and new ways to look at challenges and create solutions literally every day. 

And, I continue to grow professionally and personally:

In 2021, I was named a Consulting-Specifying Engineer 40 Under 40 winner. Earlier this year, I was promoted to Principal which I believe is recognition of the work I have done on significant building projects such as the award-winning Corning Museum of Glass, and the leadership I have shown in many ways beyond project work, including development of Altieri’s Career Ladder, an important roadmap for employees that lays out the behaviors, traits, and responsibilities required at each rung of the ladder, from entry level to senior leadership.

Kristen Butts At Disney
Kristen and her 2 sons in Disney World
Kristen Butts In Marathon
Completing the 2022 NYC Marathon

At the same time, I went from focusing solely on myself and my work (including accumulating certifications such as PE and LEED AP) to raising a family. Yet although I am now married with two young sons, I feel it is more important than ever to continue with my own pursuits, as I want to teach my boys two life lessons:

Lesson 1. Reaching your goals requires hard work and perseverance. My boys watched as I studied for WELL AP certification. During the Covid shutdown, they witnessed the endless conference calls that are required to keep the show going, even in adverse times. They also see the occasional early morning or late-night work required to hit an important deadline. At the same time, they see me balance my work and personal goals. My kids enjoy athletics and both dream of making it big which, of course, requires hard work and perseverance. Their mom, a relative newcomer to the sport of running (and facing a bit of imposter syndrome), has high hopes: I am training for my third marathon (coming up in October) in one year. My sons know I train – rain or shine – at the crack of dawn 7 days/week. 

Lesson 2. Never underestimate a woman. Can a woman be an engineer? Yes. Can a woman be a “big boss lady” (my youngest son’s words)? Can a woman teach at an Ivy League school? Can a woman run marathons? Yes. Yes. Yes. Can a woman land on Mars? Well, I have no plans to do this, but the answer is yes…of course.