Careers, People Spotlight, Transportation, United States

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting one of our seasoned transportation professionals in Texas and providing insight into her storied career in the public sector.

Over her thirty-nine-year career in the engineering and construction industry, Maribel Chavez has repeatedly broken the mold and served as a trailblazer for younger generations. A life-long Texan, she sees firsthand the immense impact her work has on the communities she serves.

Before joining AECOM, Maribel spent thirty years at the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), serving as the agency’s first female district engineer. Maribel continues this legacy at AECOM by serving as the company’s TxDOT Client Account Manager, helping to advance goals for the company’s surface transportation clients across the state. She displays her passion for mentorship every day, empowering younger generations to assume challenging roles and developing new leaders from within.  

What inspired you to join the industry? My early inspiration to work in engineering was the television sitcom, Family Affair. The patriarch of the show was a civil engineer who traveled all over the world building dams and bridges. I was fascinated by it and thought to myself, “I want to do that!” I was also inspired by my older brothers, who studied engineering before me. They encouraged me to pursue an education that utilized my aptitude for math and science. I didn’t really enjoy math in a classroom setting, but once I realized I could solve real-life problems – actually build something! – with math, it came together for me. The critical thinking and tangible application – that’s the fun part. It hasn’t stopped being fun in the nearly four decades I’ve been doing it.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community. So many of the projects I’ve had the privilege of working on over the years have challenged me technically and allowed me to work with amazingly talented and dedicated professionals. I’ve helped bring a project that was planned for over forty years to fruition, completed improvements for the World Series and Super Bowl, and worked with community leaders to deliver the world’s first pre-cast network arch bridge. Most importantly, the projects I oversee make a huge difference in the day-to-day lives of the community by increasing safety, connectivity, and mobility. 

My passion for mentorship is how I make my personal impact on the community. When I began working at TxDOT, I was typically the only woman in the field. I was the first female to serve as an area engineer, working my way up to be the agency’s first female district engineer. What was hard was establishing credibility – I was constantly having to prove myself. I set out to do my job well every day, to advance in my career, to be successful. Unfortunately, that had its challenges because of where the industry was at the time. I have the platform and experience to share the lessons I have learned and feel a great sense of responsibility – and honor – to help guide young women in this field. And, I’m still learning and experiencing “firsts” myself – it wasn’t until I came to AECOM that I was managed by a woman! There’s a visible presence of women in leadership roles here and I gain knowledge from them and pass it on.

What career advice would you like to share? The best piece of career advice I can give is to take every opportunity that is afforded to you and fight for the ones that you are not given. If you see someone accomplishing something and think to yourself, “that’s what I want to be doing,” then find a sponsor who can help you get there. It’s so important for those in leadership positions to step up and personally engage with lending credibility to the younger generations – and in my experience this is something executives want to do! But, if you don’t find the right sponsor the first time, keep looking because that person is out there.

You really can be anything in this industry, so my advice is to try it all and see where your true passions lie.

Read more about Maribel’s career journey here.

Originally published Aug 12, 2021

Author: Maribel Chavez