Challenging the Engineering Stereotype

 — Megan Schultz, PE 

February 17-23 is a week set aside to highlight and celebrate the achievements of engineers and encourage youth to pursue careers in the A/C/E (architecture/construction/engineering) industry.

Breaking the Engineering Stereotype

While we are not above a well-placed math pun, the modern image of engineers has thankfully grown past pocket-protectors and thick rimmed glasses. We are seeing more diversity in the engineering workforce all around the country. Colleges and universities are offering more and more dual-degree and arts-engineering programs in their curriculum's. Even the high school students I’ve met at ACE also come from all type of backgrounds and have varied interests.

It is our passion that we derive from our interests and backgrounds that will drive our best designs. I love hearing that engineering students pursue more in their free time than just their homework. Being able to draw from personal experiences in art, sports, theatre, or nature can make a good design into a great one. Especially when you are lucky enough to be designing a space that you are passionate about, your background can provide insight on details and nuances that make places exceptional. I think it is imperative for the engineering industry to celebrate and encourage this growing diversity!


What’s that you say? Civil engineers don’t get involved with the design of buildings? We just design utility connections and deal with site work? No, we aren’t architects or LAs, but that doesn’t mean our feedback at a charette or design meeting can’t be valued and incorporated. PSA to engineers: speak up and share your creativity!

Let’s break the stereotype, embrace what makes us more than just engineers and bring it to the collaboration table. After all, we are all on the same team, working towards the same goal (to create a place the matters). Having studied both civil engineering and architecture in college, I appreciate the overlap between the design methods. It taught me the importance of appreciating  the concerns of all team members and learning to listen and speak in more than just engineering lingo.

It’s important to remember to keep trying to improve team communication. LandDesign is the perfect example of how open and continuous collaboration allows us to create innovation and beautiful spaces.


I’ve heard it said that good engineering means that you’ll never know that it’s there. Many of our most creative designs are often the most hidden, so it’s tough to reflect on accomplishments when the solutions are out of sight and out of mind. It’s important to share engineering successes with clients, consultant, and the public alike throughout all stages of the project.

Now, each new product presented at a lunch and learn isn’t going to be a one-stop solution to every project, but the point is—it’s important to pursue a new technology or creative approach to a typical problem. While red tape can be an engineer’s worst enemy, that does not mean we should be become complacent and avoid presenting new ideas and innovative designs. If we are convinced that our design is the best solution for the social, economic and environmental needs of our project, we should take that challenge on and be leaders in developing the new standards that future engineers may design by. Even if it falls through on the first attempt, remember it for next time, and try, try again!


There are new technologies and innovations being developed every day, which is critical as we are going to be facing bigger and more complex challenges in the future.

Climate Change is going to drastically impact the way that civil engineers and designers think in general. We are already experiencing the impacts of regulatory restrictions and increasing floodplains. It is imperative for us to be proactive, and not just reactive to these changes. We need to offer sound advice and engineering guidance to our clients about how their sites can accommodate for potential environmental impacts.

Taking it one step further, the prices and costs of various fuel and energy sources may begin to change. Accommodating sustainability and resiliency into our designs will go a long way to making sure that our places start off on the right foot and remain great over time!