News / 8.10.15

#ILookLikeAnEngineer - Theresa Pelletier, PE

Learn how a C.H.I.P.S. loving young lady became a different type of 'officer'

Our next Epstein #ILookLikeAnEngineer spotlight shines on Theresa Pelletier, PE, our vice president and senior project manager within our civil engineering group. Theresa has been at Epstein for over 20 years and during her tenure with our firm has led engineering teams on a variety of high-profile public sector infrastructure projects for clients like the Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Transportation. Read more about Theresa and learn why she became an engineer, if she had any women mentors and what she thinks are the biggest challenges to becoming a women engineer.

Theresa Pelletier, PE
Why did you want to become an engineer?
I chose engineering pretty much by fluke. As a kid I always wanted to be a Police Officer…too much C.H.I.P.S. and Starsky and Hutch I guess. At some point when I started thinking about college, in a casual conversation with my math teacher, Mr Mooney, he said "your good at math, you should be an engineer" So I did. Literally after that conversation I started looking into different types of engineering and decided that civil engineering seemed like the most service oriented. I entered as a freshman in civil engineering, graduated 4 years later and still loving it. I have to give Mr. Mooney a lot of credit because looking back, that was not a typical response to a young lady. Throughout high school I always took advanced math and even computer programming. All taught by Mr. Mooney who never did anything but encourage me to do more.

Did you have any women mentors?
I am trying to think of a single woman engineer who was ahead of me in my career or was a professor or even a math teacher and honestly I can't think of one! Isn't that crazy! My sister has always been my mentor and inspiration. She is 7 years older than me and has always counseled me through my hardships and provided an model of hard work and perseverance.

What are the toughest obstacles to overcome being a woman engineer?
I never really noticed the lack of women around me until I was pretty advanced in my career and started counting the number of women in the room. It continues to boggle my mind how few there are. I am often in a meeting with 20 men and me. I think that is one of the unnoticed challenges of being in the minority. There is this absence of true piers, people who are like you and do what you do. You look up (the ladder) and you don't see mentors, you look around and you don't see piers. I've always been "one of the guys" but at some point I realized it would have been nice to have the opportunity to be one of the girls.