In this installment, the women explain the importance of industry involvement and tapping into its resources to meet and expand career fulfillment.



Responding to the growing number of women plumbing engineers, pme last Fall ran Part 1 of this exclusive roundtable series. This month we present Part 2, with Part 3 planned to run in a future issue.

What engineering organizations do you belong to/are active in (if any)?

Bowman: I am currently an active member and president of the Northern California Chapter of the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE). My membership with my local chapter has been great for building my knowledge base and allowing me to network with my engineering peers and vendors. It is a great way for our small community to get together. It also gave me the opportunity to attend my first national ASPE convention in 2006.

Johnson: I have been active in the ASPE Alabama Chapter since 1998. I was given the distinct honor of becoming Chapter President last year and, yes, I am the first woman to hold the position for our chapter. It is a great honor to be associated with such a genuine group of people. Their integrity and dedication has truly been inspiring and their kindness has opened many doors of communication.

Wengender:  I have been a member of the local chapter of ASPE since I joined this industry 10 years ago. I served a 4-year term as vice president, technical, and am currently chapter president. In the city where I work, there are a limited number of engineers in this specific discipline. Due to my chapter involvement, I have gotten to know many of them. It feels good to be recognized by peers and discuss ideas with them, even when they work in competing firms.

Thomas:  I am currently a member and president of the ASPE East Tennessee Chapter. I would say that studying for the CPD exam sponsored by ASPE was beneficial for my career. The test preparation focused on manual formulas and applications, whereas the design industry trend is typically computer selection programs and spreadsheets, where all we are required to do is type in a few numbers, then receive the answer.

Torborg:  I am a full member of ASPE. When I moved to St. Paul and started working at a consulting firm, I joined a few others from our company at ASPE meetings once a month. The meetings were very technical and interesting, so I joined as a member in 1999. Being a member of a technical organization is great for networking, and staying up to date on the latest technology and products.

Balz:  I am active in ASPE and am the current president of the Wisconsin Chapter. My involvement in this organization has been crucial to my success. It has allowed me to discuss different ideas, design approaches, and lessons learned with my peers. I also had the privilege to sit on a code workgroup for the state of Wisconsin. It is good to know I can help influence the codes we deal with on a daily basis. I have taken technical classes offered by ASPE as well.

Kocherhans:  I am currently serving as president of the Intermountain Chapter of ASPE. I have met many people through ASPE. Our chapter includes plumbing engineers, inspectors, plumbing contractors, manufacturer’s representatives, and others involved in the plumbing field. ASPE has helped me pass the CPD test. With this certification comes the recognition that I have the knowledge and ability needed for plumbing design.

Enriquez: I belong to three engineering organizations: NFPA, IAPMO and ASPE. I am very active in the ASPE LA Chapter and am currently serving my second term as president. I am also a member of the City of Los Angeles Plumbing and Fire Protection Advisory Board. Plus, I’ve taken the Project Management/Project Leadership Program at Advanced Management Institute in San Francisco, CA, and the Sequential in Plumbing Systems Design Course at UCLA.

What other training or software resources do you use to help you grow as a plumbing engineer?

Johnson:  The last ASPE technical symposium offered great classes, which included an introduction to LEED, problem/solutions in medical gas systems, and fire protection calculations and design. In addition, I often find manufacturers’ online sizing programs and other tools to be time savers. Over the years, I have also customized excel spreadsheets as quick-reference aids. The CAD software at engineering firms tends to develop parallel to the needs of the clients.

Wengender:  The ASPE Plumbing Engineering Design Handbooks are a great reference tool for anyone starting in this industry. I’ve also relied on the knowledge of manufacturer’s representatives to help me. Plumbing trade magazines and some manufacturer catalogues also contain a wealth of information. The Internet has an abundance of information, but you need to be sure you understand who or what is the source behind that information to ensure you apply it appropriately.

Thomas:  I try to read several monthly trade magazines for new and upcoming products or design suggestions. I also attend a monthly engineering society meeting, which helps to create a “network” for questions and design ideas. Our firm has recently started using the REVIT 3-D drafting program, which allows close coordination with other trades and helps to resolve possible conflicts during design.

Torborg:  Over the past eight years, I’ve attended most of the ASPE Conventions and Technical Symposia. At each of these, there are technical sessions to gain CEU credits required for my professional engineering licensure. I attend the majority of our local ASPE meetings and seminars. I’ve learned the majority of my plumbing engineering through other engineers.

Balz:  I use Excel daily. It is a useful program to help do calculations and graphing in lieu of doing them all by hand. For example, I can change sump basin sizes, pump capacities, and holding times without spending laborious hours redoing calculations. Also, I often consult with the more experienced engineers I work with to discuss new ideas and ask for advice. The opportunity to learn from their experiences has been the most helpful.

Hunter:  Since I am focused on product, I keep track of what’s happening in the industry, changes in codes and standards, etc., in addition to being a member of the Plumbing Manufacturers Institute and working with CSA or IAPMO engineers.

Kocherhans:  Magazines such as pme have some great articles to read, which help to keep me updated on new innovations and what is happening in the plumbing world. ASPE also has online technical Webinars that enable you to earn educational credits toward your CPD. The technical sessions at our monthly ASPE meetings are very good, and the “lunch and learns” at our office are also good learning tools.

Enriquez: I always make sure that I continually attend seminars, technical symposiums and conventions and take short courses to learn of new trends and emerging technologies in plumbing and fire protection systems design.

What are your future career goals - both short-term and long-term?

Bowman:  My future goals are to climb the ladder at my firm and become the first woman principal. I am also working on bringing up the junior level engineers and mentoring them. Overall, I plan on continuing to educate myself with the latest technologies and staying on top.

Johnson:  My goal last year was to become a LEED Accredited Professional and I attained that. The 2009 goal is to become NICET Level 3 and a NFPA-certified fire protection specialist (CFPS). My long-term goal at the moment is to become FPE and mechanical engineering certified within four years. Equally important is to enjoy what I do and bring value to the lives of the people around me.

Wengender:  I plan to stay in the architectural and construction field. It is a constant challenge to remain current with codes as they are modified. Changing technologies and initiatives such as designing “green” helps keep the work interesting. I have been increasingly taking on the project manager role in projects that are in my areas of expertise. Although I like managing the entire project team, I plan to stay actively involved in the plumbing design portion of projects.

Thomas:  I would like to continue to advance in NICET certification levels and, possibly later, the Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS) sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association. A long-term goal is to become LEED certified.

Torborg:  I really love my job at Target, and I hope to stay at Target for a very long time. My immediate career goals are to continue learning about all aspects of mechanical engineering, including fire protection.

Balz:  My short-term goal is to help teach and train less-experienced engineers and designers. School teaches the basics; the real learning happens on the job. In addition to advising on pipe sizing and routing considerations, I share my past experiences and the new information I have learned. My long-term goal is to advance into project management.

Hunter:  Short term, I want to successfully launch our 2009 new products on time. Long term, I would like to continue learning and growing as an engineer and making a strong contribution to our future products.

Kocherhans:  My long-term goal has always been to get a job that I enjoy going to every day, be successful at it, and be able to support myself and my family if needed. I have been a plumbing designer for about 16 years and I feel as if I have been successful and I enjoy the work I do. My short-term goal is to better myself in my profession. There is always something new to learn in this field of work and I always look forward to a new challenge.

Enriquez: I met my most recent short-term goal by partaking fully as a member of the Convention Committee and a Delegate to the 2008 ASPE Convention and Exposition. As a delegate, I was able to participate in all the business meetings regarding the Society. I also attended some of the technical and professional development programs. My long-term goals are to pass the LEED-AP and CFPS tests.

The Participants

ANGELA BOWMAN
Bowman works for Capital Engineering Consultants, Inc. in Rancho Cordova, CA, as an engineer. She joined Capital Engineering in Nov. 2004 as part of the healthcare team and has been assigned some of the biggest projects that our office has seen in recent years.

CAROL JOHNSON
Johnson, CPD, LEED-AP, is senior plumbing and fire protection designer for Whitaker and Rawson, Inc., which was founded in May 1996. Johnson joined the team in May 1997. Since then, the firm has grown from six to 25 employees. 

JENNIFER WENGENDER
Wengender has worked for Clark Patterson Design Professionals, an architectural and engineering firm, for the past 10 years. She is the senior plumbing/fire protection designer at the firm and has been in the engineering field for 18 years. 

PENNY THOMAS
Thomas is a project manager by Community Tectonics Architects, a full-service architectural and engineering firm located in Knoxville, TN. Thomas has been with this firm for three years, but she has worked in the plumbing design profession for more than 20 years. 

RENAE TORBORG
Torborg is a lead mechanical engineer for Target Corp. in the property development pyramid. She’s worked at Target for almost four years designing the mechanical systems for new and remodeled Target stores.

SUSAN HUNTER
A degreed mechanical engineer, Hunter has spent her entire professional career in the ceramic industry. Currently, she is the vitreous china (VC) manager of product development for Gerber Plumbing Fixtures LLC and Danze, Inc.

SARAH BALZ
Balz is a piping project engineer for Affiliated Engineers, Inc., located in Madison, WI, and has worked with the firm since 1996. She specializes in the design of plumbing, specialty gas piping, and fire protection systems for research and development projects. 

SUZANNE KOCHERHANS
Kocherhans is employed by Heath Engineering, a consulting engineering firm located in Salt Lake City, UT. She was hired as a plumbing designer and has been with Heath for five years, but has been working as a mechanical/plumbing designer for 17 years. 

VIVIAN ENRIQUEZ
Enriquez is an Associate and the Plumbing Group Discipline Leader in the Los Angeles Office of Arup North America Ltd. She has more than 30 years of plumbing and fire protection experience on a wide range of projects, including high- and low-rise buildings.