Board Member Spotlight
- Melissa Hilsabeck
- KPFF Consulting Engineers
- Mentorship Program Co-Chair and Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI) Liaison
Where did you grow up?
Is it a Garden or a Grove.. idk let’s just call it both! Garden Grove, CA
What made you want to become an engineer? If you had to choose a different career what would it be?
My dad is a general contractor so I’ve always been around plans and when I went into high school I took three years of AutoCAD and drafting. Since I really enjoyed it I kind of just stuck with it and eventually learned what civil engineering actually entails and loved it.
I’ve always wanted to own a flower shop but I think if I went into a different career it would be to work for a non-profit organization called the Platelet Disorder Support Association to raise awareness about a rare blood disorder called Immune Thrombocytopenia, better known as ITP.
What college(s) did you attend? Can you list your degrees, any honors, and involvement in engineering organizations during school?
I attended Cal Poly Pomona and got a BS in Civil Engineering. While at Pomona I was heavily involved in Concrete Canoe, ASCE and joined Phi Sigma Rho Sorority. Through ASCE I was able to attend two international conferences, Montreal and Panama, which lead me to get an internship with a civil engineering/landscape architect company in Madison, WI for a summer.
As a design engineer I work on everything from hydrology, underground utility design and QSP inspections to grading hiking trails and dredging projects. Some of the most significant projects I have worked on include the Aquarium of the Pacific expansion, Port of Long Beach Middle Harbor West Basin Dredging and Century Villages at Cabrillo to develop low income and veteran housing in Long Beach, CA.
What is your favorite part about being a Civil Engineer?
Besides seeing the final product of a project, I really enjoy the entire process from start to finish. There are hopes and expectations when you begin a project, but as soon as you start digging in the curveballs start coming your way. Navigating through the challenges and coordinating with clients and contractors is definitely exciting and seeing how the project evolves over time to a new final product is quite rewarding.
What drew you to your specific career path? If you could start your career differently, what would you do differently?
Coming out of college I was really interested in waterfront projects, but my internship at the time was working with most projects in Downtown LA. I think if an opportunity to work in Long Beach didn’t become available I highly considered moving to Wisconsin to continue full time at my previous internship. Everything panned out and I am definitely happy where I’m at now. So never settle and always go after what you want; your determination and perseverance will get you there.
Describe a situation that was a great learning experience for you?
Being a young engineer on a project, sometimes it’s hard to grasp the full impacts of a project. I have recently been attending weekly design and construction meetings for a project at the Port. The same topics are discussed at both meetings, but from two very different points of view. It is interesting to see how there are many departments and political influences that can change the direction or urgency of a project. Attending these meetings has provided me the opportunity to learn the processes in which a public project reaches various approvals and how different departments interact in a 20+ person meeting.
During college our faculty did a really great job of stressing the importance of being involved in ASCE for professional development reasons and networking. I’m very outgoing and always got in trouble for talking too much as a kid so the networking aspect was right up my alley.
As I graduated and transitioned into a full time career, a lot of my friends started moving away or just far enough away that meeting up after work wasn’t feasible. Joining YMF I have met some really neat people who continue to motivate me to become a better person and to keep striving to be the best version of myself. And of course for the wine trips and pub crawls!
How has ASCE impacted your work and/or what is your favorite benefit of your involvement?
ASCE has definitely impacted my personality and interactions with people. That’s such an important aspect of life that you can’t teach someone. Meeting different engineers I have also had the ability to learn different disciplines and eventually team with them to go after potential project opportunities.
- I’m very outdoorsy so I enjoy hiking, camping, off-roading, the beach, mountains and desert; you name it and I’m there. I love traveling and taking road trips. Even though I try I’m not a very good runner, so I get my cardio through dancing whether it’s latin or country music. Every September I look forward to my annual 5k event that raises awareness about ITP with tons of food, games and prizes. For information on the event, check out: 6th Annual Pump It Up For Platelets 5k.