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Meet Olivia: Civil Engineer and Dancer for the Dallas Stars Hockey Team

Thursday, September 22, 2016 16:25
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(Before It's News)

Hi SciCheer fans! Samantha here! I want to introduce you to the newest member of Science Cheerleaders from Dallas, Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas, including Olivia’s passion for engineering and dance!

Olivia - civil engineer at work

What turned you on to engineering and when?

My grandfather was an important role model in my life, and he was an engineer. I have always enjoyed math, but going into college I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I started taking classes as an undeclared major, and found myself happiest in my math and science classes. I did a lot of research, and knew this was exactly what I wanted to do!

So what exactly do you do?

I work for an engineering consulting firm. My company gets hired by different cities, developers, and private entities. The main focus of my work is with water and wastewater. I find a way to get water from a treatment plant to different houses,  and then wastewater from homes to a treatment plant. I help design the pipelines and pump stations that carry water through different cities in underground pipes, so there’s clean water each time a faucet is turned on. I also create these routes for wastewater. Every time a toilet flushes, laundry is cleaned, or dishes are done, the water has to go somewhere. I determine where the pipelines need to go, what material they should be made of, and how large they need to be. I work on multiple projects at once, for several different clients. When a project is just beginning, I spend time walking the project and taking pictures, so I have a visual of the location before I go back to the office and crunch numbers. During construction, I spend a lot of my time in meetings with contractors or at a construction site inspecting, answering questions, and making sure everything is going as planned. The fun thing about my job is that every project is different, and every day brings exciting challenges.

The goal of my work and as an engineer is to serve the public. I work hard to design a system that will keep everyone safe, while also being efficient and effective.

Why did you try out to be a professional cheerleader?

Olivia cheering for Dallas Stars hockey - photo by Jerome Miron

Photo by Jerome Miron

I tried out to be a professional cheerleader because of my love for dance. One of my favorite things about being a professional cheerleader is the sisterhood associated with being part of a team. I have competitively danced my entire life. I cheered in high school, and was a member of my college dance team. After graduating from college I began working full time as a civil engineer, but was not ready to end my dancing career. I decided to try out for the Dallas Stars Ice Girls, because I love the game of hockey, and I had always heard wonderful things about the Ice Girl organization.

What does it mean for you to work in civil engineering?

Civil engineering is an exciting profession because at the end of each day I can see the results of my work. Civil engineering affects everyone’s daily lives, whether it is turning on the faucet, flushing the toilet, or driving by a new pump station I designed. Being a civil engineer is very rewarding. I know that what I do on a daily basis helps people. Whether I’m in the office, in a meeting, or on a job site, my daily work day directly affects the public.

How do the qualities that make you a great cheerleader benefit you in your engineering career?

I think one of the qualities that makes me a great cheerleader is my ability to work well with others. Every great cheerleader has to be able to work on a team, and work together as a group. Being an engineer also requires you to work as a team. Every project has multiple disciplines working together to create the final product. Almost every project I work on consists of a group of civil engineers, structural engineers, geotechnical engineers, and electrical engineers. We would never be able to accomplish the great things we create if we didn’t have great teamwork.

How do you feel about breaking down negative stereotypes about cheerleaders? Have you faced a situation where you had to challenge a stereotype about cheerleaders or engineers?

It is unfortunate that this stereotype exists. In the past, I have had to hide the fact that I was on a professional dance team. I have worked very hard to gain acceptance from some of my peers for being a female engineer. Many times, introducing the fact that I was a professional dancer was not worth the battle. It should not be so socially unacceptable that an educated female can spend their day working in steel toed boots and orange vest on a job site, and then be able to put an Ice Girl uniform at a Stars game. I think that it is important that this stereotype is broken, because girls should not feel like they have to choose one or the other. I am both a cheerleader and an engineer, which is something I am very proud to say.

Best engineering-related experience?

It requires a lot of hard work to become an engineer. I had to graduate from college with an engineering degree, take and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (to become an engineer in training, EIT), work under a Professional Engineer (PE) for four years, and then take the Professional Engineering exam in order to receive license and become a PE. The PE exam is an eight-hour exam that covers essentially everything taught in college, and then everything that I had been learned while working as an EIT. During my rookie year as a Dallas Stars Ice Girl, when I wasn’t cheering at a game or practicing with my team, I was at home studying and prepping to take my PE. I took my exam during hockey season, and passed! This was my best STEM-related experience because I proved to myself I can do whatever I put my heart into.

What advice would you give your 12-year- old self?

Never give up on your dreams, and don’t worry as much about making everyone else happy.

What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?

I’m from New England and I don’t like seafood!

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