Oregon State grads are powering Portland: Erika McQuillen

Even in a challenging economy, Oregon State graduates are managing to find great jobs in the Portland Metro area. Erika McQuillen’s Q&A is the first in a series that profiles recent OSU grads and how they found their positions.

Erika McQuillen stands in front of a renovated Kearny Hall, a project with which she was involved as an Oregon State senior.

Erika McQuillen stands in front of a renovated Kearney Hall, a project with which she was involved as an Oregon State senior.

Who: Erika McQuillen
Senior: Civil Engineering
Graduation: Spring ‘09

You were recently hired by Hoffman Construction in Portland. What is your role there?

I will be a project engineer. I’ll be on job sites working as an intermediary between subcontractors and Hoffman. I will be doing a little bit of engineering, but also a lot of managerial roles like quality control.

You are LEED-accredited. What does this mean?

LEED-certified means you’ve passed an exam given by the United States Green Building Council that covers multiple sustainable building techniques and designs. At OSU I had the opportunity to work on the renovation of Kearny Hall. For this project I was in charge of all LEED submittals and the paperwork for Hoffman Construction. It inspired me to become LEED accredited.

What interested you most about Hoffman?

Hoffman is focused on sustainable buildings and unique projects that incorporate design elements that have never been used before or have been used very rarely, like new solar power technology and features like glass and metal in intricate designs that are difficult to build. This makes the job more exciting because it introduces a bit of a risk. I also really like the Portland area – the culture is very eclectic.

How did you get your job?

I have been interning with Hoffman since my sophomore year. I really liked working with them, so I asked if they had any full-time positions available. Due to the economy, they weren’t volunteering full-time positions, but they offered me one after I asked.

How did you set yourself apart from other interns and potential employees?

I am a civil engineer rather than a construction engineer, which means I have a background in engineering and have taken classes in management, which makes me versatile. The LEED accreditation helps, too. I think they also appreciated my communication skills. I’m an ambassador for the College of Civil Engineering so I have a background in public speaking.

What’s it like being a woman in a field that is largely dominated by men?

I think the fact that I am a woman is good for the company because most owners require a diverse group of leaders. In this way, I can help Hoffman to accurately represent the population of our nation. Because of my upbringing, I’ve never felt too uncomfortable in the engineering field. My parents have always taught me that I have the same capabilities as any other person, male or female.

How has OSU prepared you for the working world?

The classes help to prepare you, but I think more importantly it was the way OSU encouraged us to get internships and real work experience.

What advice would you offer other OSU students?

Explore your options and opportunities. I came in to school majoring in general engineering on purpose because I wanted to weigh my options. I think it is important to be unafraid of trying new things and go against the grain a little bit. Once you set your sights on a goal, do everything you can to reach that a goal and be successful.

One Response to “Oregon State grads are powering Portland: Erika McQuillen”

  1. Tanja says:

    I enjoy reading that a woman like myself may feel both empowered and sufficient to work in an engineering discipline right after college. It really shows how well the OSU community and the greater Portland area at large caters to diversity and higher learning.