Meet Michaela Humby who is from Johnson City, Tennessee. Michaela is an environmental project manger at an engineering consulting firm in Washington, D.C. She oversees and manages various environmental services such as soil and groundwater remediation, risk and remedial assessments, and environmental compliance.
We were able to have a chat with Michaela about excelling in a male dominated field, how she was able to get the career she has now and so much more!
What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Michaela Humby and I am from Johnson City, Tennessee
What do you do currently?
I am currently an environmental project manger at an engineering consulting firm in Washington, D.C. I oversee and manage various environmental services such as soil and groundwater remediation, risk and remedial assessments, and environmental compliance. My daily tasks differ from day-to-day, which keeps the job challenging and exciting! Some days I’m on an active construction site collecting soil and groundwater samples, and other days I’m in meetings with clients.
What steps did you take to get to where you are now?
I began applying for internships during the fall and spring semesters of my sophomore year in college. I utilized LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, and my university career fairs. I applied to pretty much everything that had the word “environmental” as a key word!
As I began to participate in interviews for summer internships, I became more comfortable with speaking about myself and why I would be the perfect fit for the job. I was turned down from several roles, but this did not discourage me. I was still perfectly happy learning from the interviews and made sure to improve on areas of weakness.
My first internship was as an environmental science intern at Arcadis, a global leader in environmental consulting. I was able to intern in a local satellite office in Knoxville, Tennessee. A family friend of mine had a professional relationship with one of the scientists at this location and connected us so I could ask questions about the industry. I was not anticipating an internship offer, but the Principal Scientist was so impressed with my academic background and my enthusiasm that I was offered an internship for that summer! The following summer, I worked at a small environmental consulting firm Northwest GeoScience. I was going to attend a study abroad program in Belgium during the second half of the summer, and a lot of internship opportunities were unwilling to hire someone for only six weeks of the summer. Northwest GeoScience was more than willing to hire me as a geotechnical intern and made sure I got exposure to multiple projects during my short time there. Both of my internships allowed me the opportunity to learn about subsurface investigations, data analysis, and soil and groundwater remediation recommendations. This experience gave me an advantage when I began applying for full time jobs.
The next step for me in my career will be to get my Professional Soil Scientist Certification with the Soil Science Society of America. I will be taking the Fundamentals Exam this year- wish me luck, everyone!
What led you to your current career path?
During my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to get into STEM, but not which field. I was simply just scrolling through the course catalog for the University of Tennessee when the Environmental and Soil Science program caught my eye. I started to look through the course descriptions and post-grad opportunities and knew that this was what I wanted to pursue a career in. Throughout my academic and budding professional career, I have been fortunate to have supportive family, friends, and advisors who will always be in my corner.
We noticed that you studied abroad, what was that experience like? Tell us about it. Did you find it difficult to study abroad as a STEM major?
During the summer of 2017, I attended the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium. This consisted of a six-week abroad program studying Soil/Water Resource Management and Technology for Environmental & Natural Resource Engineering. These had to be the two most difficult courses I had taken up to that point.
At the beginning of the program, I was irritated by how challenging these classes were. It seemed like any free time during was spent on homework, labs, reports, studying, etc. It was hard work, and it was worth it. I was able to travel to new places and meet some of the best people I have ever known all while learning in country that leads the world in environmental conservation!
Tell us about your experience working in a male dominated industry.
I am fortunate that my male coworkers are becoming better advocates and supporters of women in STEM. I still unfortunately experience sexism on a regular basis, whether it’s deliberate or intentional. When I was 22, I went to a construction site to collect some soil samples. Almost immediately, one of the employees on site asked me why I was not at home with my children and if my husband had a job or not. He didn’t even say hello or ask what my name was- just started off the conversation with sexist and personal questions! Comments like these were a regular occurrence, so I was cautious with how I would respond, or if I should acknowledge them at all. It has taken some time, but I am able to calmly stand up for myself and other women when I hear or see something that is not right. I am happy to report that I have seen several of my (male) peers standing up for women more and more since I started working!
At my company, I have been involved with women leadership and development groups and committees. The mission is about encouraging and enabling our female professionals to consistently connect in discussions of what matters to them. The goal is to break down barriers and be inspired. These discussions and seminars have had an impact on me- as I have been able to break down barriers in my career! I am the youngest (both male and female) person to be promoted to my current role in my company! I continue to advocate for not only myself, but for my fellow peers!
Build personal and professional relationships with your female peers. Build each other up and help one another succeed. This collaboration can help you in the STEM field as you build lasting relationships with powerful women. We must advocate for one another!
“I don’t shine if you don’t shine.”
— AMINATOU SOW & ANN FRIEDMAN
Is there anything else you would like to share?
As mentioned, I have been involved with women leadership and development groups and committees. I would like to share these articles that have contributed to meaningful discussions for our group!