Araí Monteforte joined Tetra Tech in 2014 and applies her engineering experience to the energy and international development markets. Araí has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and Master of Science in Reliability and Quality Engineering from the University of Arizona. She comes from a family of engineers, so it seemed only natural that she would study engineering as well. We spoke with Araí as part of our #INWED19 campaign to not only celebrate our brilliant women engineers but also to raise their profiles to encourage those who aspire to become engineers and to work in STEM. Follow #WomenInStem on social media for more stories.

What do you like about working at Tetra Tech?

When I joined Tetra Tech, it instantly felt like family. The commitment of my friends and colleagues to the mission and the people we work for, often in countries where we have personal ties, keeps me motivated during the hardest days. Their support to help me reinvent myself, learn, and stretch beyond my comfort zone feeds my sense of adventure. And the direct impact of our work feeds my sense of purpose. Can’t ask for more.

What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?

My memory may be skewed on this, but I remember my family asking, “What do you want to be when you go to college, a chemical engineer or a mechanical engineer?” I came from a family with three chemical engineers, so I suspect they thought they were being flexible.

How can we encourage female students to pursue a career in engineering?

I have asked myself this question many times over the past year. My team at Tetra Tech is leading the implementation of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Engendering Utilities program, which aims to spark positive change within the global energy sector by improving gender equality at electricity utilities. Utility leaders tell us over and over, “We want more women; there are just not enough of them applying.” There is much to unpack in this statement, and I am not a gender expert, but it strikes me as putting the burden on our young women.

When I was a chemical engineering student, I tried to get an unpaid internship at the national oil company to work in the oil fields in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. I was told that this was a male field, that there were no tents or facilities for women, and that I would be better off looking elsewhere. Situations have improved globally, but as long as we have conscious and unconscious biases in what we say and how we invest in our companies and in our families, there is more work to be done.

What is the greatest advice you could pass onto girls who aspire to have a career in engineering?

To both girls who aspire and those who don’t aspire, I hope you can learn to silence internal and external voices that say you are not good at “blank.” Work, drive, purpose, and persistence are what make you good at something. The rest are just choices and imagination.

What are the greatest qualities you may find in a female engineer?

The engineers I admire the most are those who can transcend from technical to human complexities and excel at bringing both together in their delivery.