Board Member Spotlight April 2021
As part of our new Board Member Appreciation Program, we are showcasing a board member in our monthly Board Member Spotlight. Our board member spotlight recognizes board members of outstanding contributions to the profession and our local communities. For any questions regarding the program please contact the Past President PastPresident@ymf-oc.org.
For the April Spotlight, we would like to introduce...
KAYLA KILGO, PhD, PE, ENV SP, M.ASCE
We asked her to state her name, company, and position(s) in ASCE:
Kayla Kilgo, PhD, PE, ENV SP, M.ASCE
Water Resources Engineer | CWE
Community Service Committee Co-Chair
We also asked her a few questions about the following:
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Northport, Alabama, which is located a short distance north of Tuscaloosa (home of the University of Alabama).
What made you want to become an engineer?
In school, I always enjoyed math and science classes. In high school, I took a series of engineering drafting courses taught by a civil engineer. The teacher really inspired me to pursue engineering in college and as a career.
Favorite hobbies, sports, and interests outside of engineering?
I enjoy knitting and ultimate frisbee but haven't played in a while. I also enjoy hiking and being outdoors.
Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...
making waffles, preferably with Nutella and bananas.
What college(s) did you attend? Can you list your degrees, any honors, and involvement in engineering organizations during school?
I attended the University of Alabama, where I obtained a BS in Civil Engineering and MS in Environmental Engineering. At Alabama, I participated in the ASCE student chapter, SWE, and Chi Epsilon. Afterwards, I attended Clemson University, where I obtained a PhD in Environmental Engineering and Science. I participated in Engineers Without Borders at Clemson.
WORK & PROFESSIONAL LIFE
Describe your responsibilities and some significant projects.
I'm a water resources engineer focusing on hydraulics and hydrology. I mostly build models, analyze data, conduct field investigations, and write reports. I've recently worked on a project aimed at restoring natural channel reaches for Orange County Public Works and updating the Stormwater Master Plan for the City of Visalia.
What is your favorite part about being a Civil Engineer?
I really like the variety of things I do as a civil engineer. I spend time modeling, designing, but also out in the field hiking and conducting investigations of natural drainage channels.
What skills do you find most valuable to focus on in your career?
I've found that "people skills" and being a good communicator can be just as important as technical skills such as learning a new modeling program. Having the technical foundation is incredibly important, but being able to communicate ideas and results with clients and the public can be just as important to a project's success as its technical foundation.
What drew you to your specific career path? If you could start your career differently, what would you do differently?
My career path hasn't exactly been a typical one. During undergrad and while completing my masters degree, I worked as an intern (then briefly full-time) for a civil engineering firm where I got to dabble in a range of projects while mostly working on environmental site assessments and hydraulics/hydrology projects. After finishing my masters, I decided to pursue a PhD in environmental engineering with the intention at the time of eventually becoming a professor. Along the way, I discovered that being a professor wasn't exactly what I wanted to do (perhaps someday in the future I'll revisit this idea). After finishing my PhD, I looked for jobs that were similar to what I was doing pre-PhD. Although I don't need a PhD to be a civil engineer, I learned a great deal along the way and don't regret having that experience.
ASCE & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
How/Why did you get involved? Why did you choose to stay involved?
I initially got involved with the student chapter of ASCE when I was in undergrad. I mostly just attended meetings and went to speaker events. After moving to California, I discovered how active the local YMF group was and wanted to get involved to meet other engineers working in Orange County. I've stayed involved because I'm surrounded by highly motivated people who believe in the events they are planning and making the civil engineering and surrounding communities a better place.
How has ASCE impacted your work and/or what is your favorite benefit of your involvement?
I found my current job at CWE through an ASCE event (History and Heritage Night). Having moved to California after attending college out of state, I lacked having many connections in the civil engineering industry here. Being able to meet professionals through ASCE not only helped me find a job but I have also gotten to know some awesome and inspiring people!
Who is someone you admire and why?
When I first read this question, I tried to come up with someone famous, but the most genuine response really would be my mother. She has a strong work ethic and has taught me so much about life. She's taught me that something is only impossible if you think it is, while also keeping me grounded.
If you have one piece of advice to give to young professionals what would it be?
I would say don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Take advantage of opportunities even if you aren't sure you're the "right" person to take on a challenge.
Lastly, what would be your personal motto?
"Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure."
If you missed the last (March 2021) Board Member Spotlight, Maryam Takla, you can click here to read her article.
To view the archive of all past Member Spotlights, click here.