Wanting It All! Angelica’s Story

Insights Angelica Hermanto In Cubicle

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. 

Looking ahead…

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.

Click here to learn how to get Lighting Certified.