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Women in Engineering: Q&A with Erin Hunker, PE

June 23, 2017 is International Women In Engineering day.   A day to celebrate the technical roles and amazing careers in engineering that girls can aspire to achieve.  The day also allows us to recognize the achievements of our own outstanding female engineers. In celebration of SRF’s women engineers, each day this week we are showcasing a valuable member of our women engineering team.

Erin Hunker, PE | Water Resources Engineer

Joined SRF: 2012

Bachelor of Science, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Master of Science, Engineering in Professional Practice, University of Wisconsin – Madison

What are a few of your favorite hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy spending time with my husband and two daughters.  As a family, we enjoy time at the lake, bike rides, and movie night. I also enjoy knitting, reading, and working out.

Why did you decide to study engineering?
I was good at math and science when I was in high school, and I’m very analytical. My dad encouraged me to try engineering – the joke is that he started college in engineering and I was the one to finish it. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started at the University of Minnesota, but enjoyed the challenge and the diverse classes.

How did you get started in the field?
I had an internship in the water resources department of a civil engineering consulting firm when I was a junior in college, which was my first introduction to water resources engineering. I have always been interested in water, both from a recreation and management standpoint. Growing up, we spent most of our summers on the water at my family’s lake cabin. I’m also from a community that experiences severe flooding on a regular basis, and I wanted to learn how to better manage water issues and protect communities from the impacts of flooding. I followed my passion for water and have worked as a water resources engineer since my first internship!

Tell us about your role at SRF.
I am a project manager in the water resources group at SRF. In my role I manage several projects at a time; some are only water resources-related projects, and some are multidisciplinary projects where we are a part of a larger team. I mentor our younger engineers, provide feedback, and coordinate staffing needs with other project managers and groups within the company.  I also help to write proposals and meet with current and potential clients to market SRF services.

 What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is being a part of a team that completes successful projects and seeing the positive results of our work throughout our community. I have worked on several challenging projects that have required me to step outside my comfort zone, and it is worth it when the team has come together to meet the needs of the client and the project, and you can see the results of our work.

 What project are you the proudest of, or has been your favorite?
My favorite projects involve surface water management planning and conceptual or preliminary design. I am currently working on a Subarea Stormwater Master Plan that involves several types of stormwater management BMPs that can be implemented as the area develops. In addition to the detailed technical analysis and design, we hosted a stormwater workshop and have been working with our landscape architect team to develop illustrative concept designs that help the client visualize the amenities proposed for the site.

 Did you face any challenges as a woman in engineering, if so what were they?
I have worked with a few people in my career who did not value my input as much as others, or who assumed that I couldn’t do something because of my family commitments. It is a challenge to balance a demanding career with being a mom, but I think it has also made me a better manager, collaborator, and communicator, which are important skills we want employees to have.

What advice would you give to a female engineer entering her career?
My advice,  think about the big picture, take the initiative to learn new tasks, find the type of engineering you are passionate about, and step outside your comfort zone!