Meet Adriana: the dancing Civil Engineer

Adriana2This is a guest post by Connie Ho, a civil and environmental engineer by training, now working as a product manager at NthSocial, a startup web company building products to organize social networks and online content.

The dual life of a young woman means you can have both the career and the artistic side of dance. Adriana Griffith, the feature of this week, is a Civil Engineer. Adriana has been working in land development, transportation, and hydrology projects for about seven years now and holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, specializing in Structures, from UC Irvine. She maintains a Professional Engineering (PE) License in California, LEED AP certification in California, and balances her career now with her love of dancing by teaching Zumba. She’s had a passion for dance her whole life, classically trained in ballet, and created a career in a female scarce industry.

Connie: Tell me a little bit about your dancing background?

Adriana: I started when I was 11 at St. Joseph Ballet (now The Wooden Floor) in Anaheim, California. It’s a non-profit dance organization for inner city kids and based on 90% scholarships to the students that got in. It started out being a few days a week and eventually became six days a week of hard training. We had to audition to initially get in and had performances throughout the years.

Connie: What types of dance did you perform?

Adriana: Mainly ballet, but also modern, jazz, hip-hop, African, just about everything.

Connie: While you were in college how did you fit dancing in with Engineering?

Adriana: I essentially had to choose between the two. I started the first few years still taking dance classes with people in dance majors and it was affecting my studies in Engineering, like Physics and Chemistry classes. My grades were actually slipping, so I had to decide. It was hard, but I had to choose and I ended up choosing Engineering. Luckily, now I have more time to go back to dancing and have it in part of my life. I’ve actually started teaching Zumba classes at three different locations throughout Orange County. I get to choreograph and mix Latin dances with Jazz and still be physically fit professionally.

Connie: Choosing must have been tough, but now how has dancing and your physique effected your engineering professional career?

Adriana: It’s been great. It’s helped in leading in front of audiences. We use to perform in front of huge crowds and now I can stand in front of people and speak or be in a meeting and not be afraid to speak up. I definitely use completely opposite sides of the brain, but I think that’s why it works.

Connie: So what are some of the reactions that your friends in dance and your professional colleagues have when they find out you are a dancing Engineer?

Adriana: They always thought it was something cool and in interviews and meetings when I mention it, it’s something different than other people. It’s actually been a real benefit.

Adriana1Connie: Tell me more about the projects you have worked on?

Adriana: Well, I currently work at IBI Group and I have done everything in Civil Engineering that is from the ground down, from building structures, land development planning and design, transportation roadways, grading land, hydrology, to public improvements. Some of the big projects I worked on were the developments going around the District in Tustin, CA, and The Great Park– it’s like the West Coast’s Central Park. I do about 75% design and 25% client relations. My clients range from city and county agencies to land developers to private hospitals.

Connie: That’s really cool stuff. What’s the status of women in the field of Civil Engineering today?

Adriana: In those meetings, in the private sector, it’s maybe 1 woman to 15 men. It’s still a boys club at many companies. It’s a lot better in the public and municipal groups, I think they’re more aware of gender diversity.

Connie: Amazing that those are the numbers today. Where do you hope to see women or young girls thinking about science and engineering in the future?

Adriana: I’m a complete advocate for women in engineering. I’m part of SWE (Society of Women Engineers) which really promotes women in engineering. The best advice I would give to girls is not to feel like they need to settle for the “easy” careers. Challenge yourself, and it can be fun. All you really need is to have common sense, reasoning skills and know that it’s really not that scary, and go beyond what you would normally do.

One of the glamorous things people might now know about what I do is that I always get the scoop on what new areas are being developed and places to purchase. There’s also cool big projects for big hotel names, even clients like Disney and perks of travel opportunity.

Connie: Great advice. Now that you have a little baby girl, Millie, do you think you’ll be pushing her towards dance and into the sciences and engineering?

Adriana: Haha. I’ll definitely introduce her to both and let her decide.

Special thanks to Connie and Adriana for a really interesting look the life of a dancing civil engineer!

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