Women in Engineering: An Interview with Kate Harper, E.I.T

Women in Engineering: An Interview with Kate Harper, E.I.T

Engineering is for everyone. RPA Engineering is proud to empower Women in Engineering and hopes to inspire future generations of women in STEM. Through this series, we celebrate engineering professionals in a collection of interviews with engineers, designers, and project managers.

This month we interviewed Kate Harper, E.I.T, Supervisor of Mechanical Facilities, here at RPA Engineering.

What is your job title and area of research/work?

I am a Supervisor of Mechanical Facilities and Project Engineer. My areas of expertise are: HVAC, Plumbing, and Fire Protection Design and Engineering.

What is your role at RPA?

I manage our mechanical facilities group, which is comprised of engineers and designers who specialize in HVAC, plumbing and fire protection design. I lead technical designs across different industries and manage some construction projects.

How or why did you choose engineering as a career path/area of study?

Growing up in a family of lawyers and teachers, I had no idea what an engineer was. I loved creating things and wanted to be an animator for Disney. As I got older, I kept up my creative work, but I also excelled in my math and science courses. I also found a love for puzzles and team sports. I had a wonderful teacher in high school introduce me to engineering and it felt like a field where I could combine those different passions and talents while working on a team to solve real-world problems.

What inspires you about Engineering?

I find it inspiring when we take our clients’ unique challenges and offer creative solutions through our collective experience and teamwork.

What challenges do women face in the Engineering professions or academia?

There is a lack of female role models in leadership positions throughout engineering professions. While this is starting to change with more women going into STEM fields, it can be difficult not seeing someone like you doing a job you aspire to.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

I really enjoy seeing a project that we’ve worked hard on come together in the field. It is so rewarding to see things develop from a 3D model into reality. I love knowing that my team and I have come up with a great solution that our clients will be able to benefit from for years to come.

What does a typical day in your job involve?

Part of what I love about my job is that I don’t really have a typical day. I love the variety that engineering brings. From being on-site surveying buildings or checking on construction progress, to going to internal or client meetings, to doing engineering calculations and design work. Every day is different and exciting.

What are your hopes for the future of Engineering?

First, I hope that environmental considerations and sustainability continue to become a point of focus in our work. Specifically in the facilities world, as buildings and industrial work are such a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, there is a lot of opportunity for improvement.

Second, I hope that the engineering world gets to benefit from some of the exciting new technology out there that is revolutionizing other industries, like generative AI, to solve challenging problems more creatively.

Finally, I hope that being a woman in engineering is commonplace and that the industry can effectively find and nurture the incredible talent of women and other minority groups.

What would you say to young women in school/college who may be considering Engineering as a career choice?

I would say go for it! An engineering curriculum doesn’t just prepare you to be an engineer, it prepares you to have an engineer’s mindset. The foundation of critical thinking, problem solving, and working with constraints to find a creative solution will help you thrive in all aspects of your life and in any career path you choose.

What is your favorite kind of engineering problem to solve?

I love working on projects that revitalize a space and the surrounding area. For example, I work on projects in Pittsburgh where there are a lot of historic buildings. We keep the aspects that make the buildings special and unique while updating the infrastructure and systems to be state of the art for their specialized use (manufacturing, restaurant, robotics, healthcare, office, laboratories, climbing gym, etc.).

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