Meet Annie Ding, an Environmental Engineer for ARCADIS. Find out how she got there, a project she’s working on, and how you can #BeThatEngineer.
I always knew I was going to be going into STEM. I struggled with my other courses like history and English, and engineering seemed like the path that would fit all of my academic preferences into one neat package. I took my two favorite subjects in high school (math and environmental science) and decided I wanted a degree that used both.
I received both my bachelor's and master's degrees in environmental engineering from Cornell University. I'd like to say that I had a fairly typical college experience, learning to balance friends, grades, and sleep (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) and getting the most out of it that I could, but everyone's experience will always be different. I happened to really enjoy my time in school, and I never changed my mind about which degree I wished to pursue, but everyone is different. Don't be afraid to change things up if they don't end up working for you!
After a couple of internships while I was still enrolled in college, one in health and safety and one in a public water utility's planning department, I decided I liked that work well enough but wanted to try utilizing my degree as a water engineer. I poked around a few career fairs, talked to some representatives, and applied for a few jobs that fit my interests. Luckily for me, my current company, ARCADIS, interviewed me, liked me, and hired me as an engineering consultant. And so here I am!
There are many different things you can do with an environmental engineering degree. Currently, I work as an office engineer for a construction project at Blue Plains, Washington, DC's wastewater treatment plant. My company was hired as a construction manager for this project, which means that our job is to help DC Water oversee the job and document the project as it progresses.
I spend a lot of my time processing documentation, keeping track of various aspects of the project, and venturing out onto the site to check on things as needed. I am currently mostly working on the Tunnel Dewatering Pump Station and Enhanced Clarification Facility. This pump station and its treatment facility will take all of the untreated storm and sewer overflows from the city of Washington, DC during a large storm event and treat them using a small amount of land within the existing wastewater treatment plant, instead of sending it, untreated, into local rivers as in the past. For more details, check out this link. Pretty cool!
When this project is complete, a day in my life may drastically change, depending on what my next project ends up being – the perks of being a consultant! More than seeing a project's design being shaped into reality (which is already pretty awesome), I love the people I work with. Enjoying your job wouldn't mean nearly as much if I didn't enjoy the people I was on the job with!
The best advice I can give is to find an aspect of environmental engineering that excites you! For me, it was working on a project team in college that designed gravity-driven drinking water treatment plants in third world communities. If drinking water isn't your thing, that's perfectly fine; maybe check out water treatment process engineering, or green infrastructure design, or watershed management. Do a little research and find something that speaks to you.