While it hasn’t been proven that having a knack for engineering is a genetic trait, the Srb sisters would be an intriguing case study. All three received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the UNL College of Engineering and are now among the approximately one out of every 10 working engineers nationally that are female.
Marie (Srb) Kapels started down the engineering path first, although she credits her parents (Dad was an engineer and Mom a teacher) for translating an 8th grade skills test in keyboarding to being “good at computer engineering.” She earned her undergraduate degree in 1993 in computer science and her master’s in 1998 in industrial and management systems engineering.
Cindy (Srb) Tederman (B.S. 1996 in industrial engineering and M.Eng. in 2001 in engineering management) began in computer science but “that lasted one semester because I realized I wanted more interaction with people.”
JoAnn (Srb) Haworth joined her sisters and earned her industrial engineering degree in 1998 and a master’s in engineering management in 2002.
All three remember a lot of studying, especially after the engineering core courses kicked in. The sisters also were members of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and were heavily involved in intramurals and volunteering.
Their backgrounds in industrial engineering have served them well in their current careers. Marie is resource planning coordinator at Nebraska Public Power District, helping to make sure the company has the resources to continue to be viable in the future. Cindy is director of strategic sourcing for Valmont Industries, Inc., working on a team that leverages the spending of the organization’s different business units in the areas of common purchases. JoAnn is operations supervisor with Claas Omaha, where she manages a large budget and works with the departments to improve procedures to ensure quality products.
“While I was hired to do technical analysis, my previous 15 years of experience came from industry where improving processes is part of daily life,” Marie noted. “I enjoy learning about what people are doing and working hand-in-hand to help improve their daily processes.”
As in any profession, there are always challenges to overcome and all three note that engineering is no exception, especially as females in a male-dominated field.
“I have learned that engineering will get your foot in the door, but people don’t listen to you just because you have an engineering degree,” said Cindy. “Women engineers are still more rare than I would like to see, but having a couple of engineering degrees helps add some credentials to your ideas.”
The Srb sisters are grateful for their education and for the opportunities available to them as engineers. “[Engineering] does become more of a passion —work does not feel like work in this profession,” JoAnn pointed out. “You have the ability and credibility to find problems and solve them, but also others come to you with problems that you have the tools you learn in college to compile solutions and implement.”
Helping future students understand the roles of engineers and the importance of studying math and science is important to the women. Marie and Cindy attended one of the college’s recent Society of Women Engineers’ events and talked with the participants.
“The parents and students have a "vision" about what an engineer "looks like". We have to all keep our minds open about the possibilities and help people see different views and opportunities. Any opportunity to go and communicate is a great place to go!”
To read the full Q&A with Marie, Cindy and JoAnn, go to http://engineering.unl.edu/alumni/srb-sisters.shtml.
– JS Engebretson