Melissa Guevara is a first-gen, Latina civil engineer sharing her work and experiences to inspire others to consider STEM. On Instagram, Melissa shares advice and stories about civil engineer with others to encourage them to pursue and stay in STEM.
Melissa originally started as a pre-vet student before finding civil engineering. After earning her BS in civil engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Melissa became the first person in her family to graduate from college! She is currently a design civil engineer at a land development consulting firm.
How did you get into STEM?
I’ve always liked math and science classes growing up. Once I hit senior year in high school I knew I would choose a career in the STEM field, I just had to figure out which career fit me best. In college, I started out as a pre-vet major and then switched to civil engineering. Although it was a big change I stuck with STEM!
What does the average day in your field for you look like?
Most days, I get to the office, respond to all emails, speak with different town engineers and work on several land development projects. These projects consist of sketches, design calculations, applications, reports and charts. Other days, I’ll start my mornings with a site visit to a designated project location where I conduct investigations for many different reasons. No project nor development is the same! This makes each of them unique and exciting to work on.
How did you get started with @thecivilengineergirl?
After COVID-19 closed down my school and work office, I found myself with more time on my hands. I became more productive during quarantine and started to reflect on my career and future goals. I was thinking of ways to network and give back to the STEM community. That’s when @thecivilengineergirl came to life.
What has your experience been like as a latina in STEM?
As a Latina in STEM, I have struggled to overcome discrimination barriers. Although many may be discouraged to pursue a career in STEM due to discrimination against women or minorities, I’ve learned to use these obstacles as empowerment tools instead. No one can tell me what I am/am not capable of. I am the one who decides. This mentality has gotten me so far! I am currently the only Latina in my whole company and the only woman in my office.
How was transferring colleges when you switched to engineering?
I transferred from Rutgers University as a pre-vet major to NJIT for civil engineering. Rutgers University is a huge, enormous school that practically takes up all of New Brunswick and Piscataway, NJ. I would travel to different campuses for different classes, have class with over 100 other students and live in an apartment with a farm as a view. NJIT could not have been any more different! NJIT’s entire campus only takes up a couple blocks, classes do not exceed over 40 students and the commute is so convenient since both my job and house are also in Newark, NJ and only minutes away. Overall, Rutgers was a great college experience but NJIT has been a better fit for me.
What’s something about your field that you wish others knew about?
The civil engineering field is bigger than most think! A lot of people seem to associate civil engineering with the construction industry, which is an important part of the field but also only a fraction of it. In fact, my field is so large I actually had a tough time deciding which discipline to choose! I explored the environmental, geotechnical, site-civil and construction industries (trust me there’s still way more) within civil engineering and discovered site-civil/design was the right discipline for me.
Follow Melissa for FE exam practice and to hear more about civil engineering on Instagram!