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Industry Folks – Julia Smith, Staff Engineer, PSI, Corpus Christi


SOUTH TEXAS – It seems that Julia Smith was destined to be an engineer since she was a little girl.

    “My mom says I have been telling her that since I was little,” Smith says. “I always liked to build things.”
    Now Smith is a geotechnical engineer with PSI in Corpus Christi.
    She is originally from El Paso and graduated from the University of Texas El Paso in 2001 with a degree in civil engineering. Shortly afterwards, she and her husband, Kurt, a chemical engineer who now works for Flint Hills, moved to Chicago, Ill., where they lived from 2001 until 2014. They decided to move back to Texas to be closer to her family.
    At PSI, Smith is a staff engineer in the Construction Services and Geotechnical departments. She says one of the most interesting projects she has been involved with lately is a huge cross a local church is planning to build. The cross will be 210-ft high and will take some special foundation work to keep it stable.
    “It was really different,” Smith says. “It’s not really a building. We had to design for this huge cross so it is going to take a different foundation system. We did a report to let them know what they will need to do to make it work.”
    Becoming an engineer in a traditionally male-dominated field was hard work, Smith says.
    “When I first started (in school), there were a lot of tears,” she says.
    Her advice to a young woman who wants to pursue a career in engineering is to go for it, never give up, get a mentor and good friends in the industry. Her mentors included her college advisor and a few women in the industry.
    “They never let me quit,” she said. “When I would say “they don’t want to listen to a woman” they all just kept telling me don’t give up!”
    She has also found a sisterhood with the Corpus Christi chapter of National Women in Construction (NAWIC). She had belonged to the NAWIC chapter in Chicago since 2002.
    “It has helped me interact with a lot of women in the industry,” she says. “It’s a great support system.”
    When not working, the couple likes to explore Corpus Christi with their two-year-old daughter, Sophia.
    “We like to be outside a lot,” she said. “We love to go to the beach. That is the greatest thing about being here.” –cw

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Sue Johnson sjohnson@constructionnews.net