In honor of Women’s History Month, SAME is spotlighting exceptional women across our Society and their contributions to military engineering and the A/E/C industry. Throughout March, SAME will be acknowledging and showcasing the talented women of this organization and shining a light on their groundbreaking accomplishments. Follow along with our hashtags #SAMECelebrates, #InternationalWomenHistory, #SAMETBT, and #WomensHistoryMonth.
SAME asked a variety of women leaders across the public and private sectors, asking who they credit as their major influences to joining the A/E/C industry and what professional accomplishments they are most proud of. Read on to hear more from these members, along with a special message from SAME National President Cindy Lincicome, F.SAME, and share your stories of your inspirations and accomplishments all this month on our social media.
Chief Master Sgt. Ana Sandor, ANG
235th Civil Engineer Flight
Growing up, Ana’s number one passion was taking things and learning how to put them back together as a young child. Even though she did not come from a family of studied engineers, she inherited an engineer’s mind through her grandfather and father. She attributes her desire to approach a problem full force, dismantle it, figure out how it works (and should work), then putting it back together better than it was before she touched it, to her grandmother, who would tell her from a very young age, “You can do anything you set your mind towards.” She has never let those words go and often reminds herself of her belief in me, especially when tasks seem impossible to solve.
Through her 26 years in the Air Force Civil Engineering community, she’s most proud of being able to mentor and encourage fellow airmen to help them grow in their passion. She believes it’s important to lift others up around her, encourage them, and help them understand that they can do anything they set their minds to.
Colleen Rust, PG, PMP
Project Manager, Sundance Consulting
Colleen comes from a long line of geologists (mom, aunt, husband, two women cousins, and maybe one of her three elementary school kids in the future). She draws inspiration from her mother, who was a senior geologist at BP/Amoco, and the first professional woman geologist to have three consecutive births and keep her job at the time. Growing up she had lots of stories about the trials her mom was faced with as a professional woman in her field like “needing to clean out a janitor closet on an offshore oil rig for her mom’s room”. She also draws inspiration from her two great grandmothers and grandmothers. One great grandmother was orphaned during the 1918-20 Spanish flu pandemic in Philadelphia and had to support three siblings and later multiple grandchildren. The other great grandmother was an English teacher while navigating life as widow and single mom during the Great Depression and taught her family the importance of education and saving to pay for that higher education. Both of her grandmothers had professional careers, one was a teacher, and one was an executive secretary in the World Trade Center in New York City.
In her professional career, she’s most proud of the fact that in a few short years after having her three children, she was able to catch up on her professional career with Sundance Consulting Inc. and quickly climbed the ranks to Project Manager. During that time, she was able to acquire four additional professional licenses and certifications: Professional Geologist license in Alaska and Arizona (in addition to her original Washington State), Certified Professional Geologist, and Project Management Professional certification. Additionally, she helped start and keep afloat through COVID a small business brewery called Brew Lab 101 Beer & Cider in Rio Rancho, N.M.
Heather Wishart-Smith, P.E., PMP, LEED AP, F.SAME
Board Member and Strategic Advisor, Wishart-Smith Strategies
While Heather grew up with several engineers in her family who inspired her interest in engineering and the military–her dad, grandfather, uncle, and a cousin–it was her female science teachers who helped put her on a path to achieve it. From the two teachers who led the 8th grade science fair and mentored her as she won the state level competition, to her 11th grade chemistry teacher who took a small group of girls to visit a college chemistry lab, these teachers opened doors and her eyes to what a technical career could be. The summer after her junior year, she attended the West Point Invitational Academic Workshop, and the instructors there inspired her to become a military engineer when they took a group of students under a bridge and showed them where they would place explosives to not only take the bridge down but raise it back up.
The professional accomplishment of which she is most proud was one of her earliest projects in her civilian career. She was the project manager for a major rehab of the airfield at Aviano Air Base, which required most of the base to relocate TDY to other airfields for about two months. Her ultimate goal was to reopen the airfield early so that these service members could return to their families in time to celebrate Halloween together. Despite heavy rain, technical issues, and other challenges, she accomplished that goal, and was proud to have led the team in minimizing the time these families spent apart while on short duty.
Ree Miskimon, CPSM
Director of Business Development and Marketing, Cube Root Corporation
Ree’s father, Tom Alizio, inspired her to pursue a marketing and business development career in the A/E/C industry just by nature of his own career as an engineer. He moved from engineering onto another career mid-way through his professional life, however he was then and still is today an engineer at heart who continues to be a guiding light to her.
A professional accomplishment she is most proud of was when she got accepted into the SAME Leader Development Program and then the day she graduated from the program. She said, “My young daughter saw my joy when I was accepted, made friends with my fellow classmates on video calls, and saw my pride when I graduated. My accomplishments may one day be her inspiration.”
Sharon Krock, SPWS, F.SAME
Principal Scientist, Schnabel Engineering
“If I had to chose just one person,” Sharon says, “I would say Jane O. Rowan.” Though they don’t work directly with each other anymore, Sharon said that along with being the one who hired her at Schnabel Engineering, Jane encouraged her to attend and get involved into a professional organization by taking her to different organizations and society meetings to introduce her to various groups of people. That was how she found SAME, which in turn exposed her to many other realms within the A/E/C industry.
One professional accomplishment she is proud of is being invited to train staff on business development for technical professionals. Not only was she invited to prepare and perform the training internally at Schnabel Engineering, but she also presented it at JETC as well. She also noted being elected one of SAME’s National Vice Presidents is a source of great pride for her, and something she had never imagined possible when first joining SAME 20 years ago.
Business Development Aerospace & Federal, RS&H
At an early age, her father, a former Air Force Senior Master Sergeant, intentionally introduced her to every female colleague. Seeing his female co-workers and superiors consistently at an early age impacted her drive and motivation for developing a career. As she began her career post-college, she was introduced to the opportunities for non-technical professionals to contribute to the success of professionals and firms within the A/E/C industry. Co-workers, supervisors, and connections made through industry who have directly or indirectly influenced her to continue her pursuit of working in the A/E/C industry were Kate Wilhite and Jackie Peer. Individuals that encouraged her to stay with the course and keep her head up were Kerry Patterson, Justin Klaudt, Adam Stodola, and Barbra Shuck.
During Victoria’s ten years in the A/E/C industry, she’s most proud of the risks she’s taken, such as jumping headfirst into different opportunities during her career within the A/E/C industry or getting involved in SAME when she knew nothing about it. Two years ago, she jumped into a new industry, space, to be part of RS&H, and while it’s the hardest thing she’s done professionally, she continues to persevere thanks to the support of her mentors, peers, and friends within the industry.
Brig. Gen. Patrice Melancon, P.E., LEED AP, F.SAME, USAFR (Ret.)
Owner, CWG Consulting
Patrice credits her parents as the first to recognize her strengths in math and science and really helping to her to believe that she could have a successful career as a civil engineer. They also encouraged her to consider a career in the U.S. Air Force. Despite doing quite well in school, she wasn’t the most ambitious child, but thanks to her parents and their nudging, she embarked on a successful career in the Air Force.
This led, years later, to the professional accomplishment that she is most proud of–being selected for promotion to Brigadier General as a Civil Engineer in the U.S. Air Force and being asked to support my country by building and leading a team to begin recovery of Tyndall AFB, Fla. after the devastation of Hurricane Michael.
Angie Martinez, P.E., F.SAME
Vice President of Business Development, Martinez Construction Services
Throughout her A/E/C career journey, Angie has had many influential female role models who have inspired, guided, and mentored her–noting specifically Linda McKnight, Jane Penny, and Heather Wishart-Smith as a few who come to mind instantly. However, she would say the most influential woman in her career is her sister, Bre Jones. As the president of her company, Bre naturally lives leadership qualities and gives Angie daily inspiration to work hard, but also to delegate and challenge others by having trust and faith in them. She is inspired by how Bre is patient enough to push thoughts out, but then allow others time to come to their own conclusions and own the risk associated with their ideas. Her entrepreneurial mindset is critical for a small business and has set the tone and culture of our company.
Angie’s greatest personal accomplishment is one of her very first projects from when she was assigned as a brand-new junior officer stationed in Guam. The Navy was challenged with bringing the USS Independence aircraft carrier to Guam, which had not happened in decades. The timeline was short (30 days) and the infrastructure needed was substantial. The channel may not be deep enough, the pier wasn’t strong enough, and the services required for hooking up were non-existent. When she was tasked with this project, all she thought was that she had to make this happen and failure was not an option. After working practically 24-7 for 4 weeks, when she saw that ship coming into the harbor she didn’t know whether to cry, throw up, or celebrate. The ship arrived, hooked up, stayed a weekend and left–all successfully.
Mercedes Enrique, F.SAME
President, CMS Corporation
Mercedes grew up in a STEM-inspired home as the daughter of a pharmacist and a lawyer in Venezuela. Her mother, a pharmacist and entrepreneur, was her earliest role model. Choosing engineering for her college major was a natural decision due to her comfort with and interest in STEM. She has benefitted from the mentoring of many women role models throughout her career, including her boss at an engineering consulting firm, who encouraged her to pursue her MBA.
The decision to pursue an MBA changed Mercedes’ career path and led to her biggest professional accomplishment: growing CMS Corporation into a thriving federal construction firm. During this time, she points to her brother, Ernest Enrique, as her greatest role model. Ernest ultimately joined the firm, and now the two work side-by-side as CEO (Ernest) and President (Mercedes). Mercedes also credits SAME for offering the ability to formally mentor other women in the A/E/C industry, such as Brandi Smith (a recent participant in the SAME National Leader Development program).
Senior Master Sgt. Heidi Hunter, USAF
Superintendent, 718th Civil Engineer Squadron
Heidi’s second assignment in the Air Force was in 2002, to the 437th Civil Engineer Squadron in Charleston, S.C. She had the opportunity to work in the same building as the squadron commander and chief of enlisted matters. Chief Master Sergeant Carla Sharman left a lasting impression that I have carried with me for 20 years. She was the first female plumber in the entire Air Force and would tell us stories about how angry her coworkers were when she arrived at her first duty station. They had to put a door on the bathroom stall, take down questionable calendars and images off the walls, and remove unsavory magazines from the work center. She laughed about it as a Chief, but as a young airman I imagined how uncomfortable she must have been and how different she may have been treated. She led with empathy and compassion for all personnel within the unit.
Taking a page from Chief Sharman’s book, I’m proud to say I have successfully been hired as the first female into several positions across my career. I was the first female Airfield Pavements Technician NCO in 2006, and then the first Air Force Academy Laboratory Manager under the Dean of Faculty. These opportunities were both challenging and grew who I am and was in all my roles; airman, engineer, mother, and mentor. Chief Sharman taught me to strive to be the best no matter what the environment, and I’ve carried it with me through the years and hopefully continue to inspire and encourage others to step outside their comfort zones, break glass ceilings, and be the person and leader they wished they had.
Spotlight on Our Members
SAME’s multidisciplined membership spans the uniformed government, government civilian, private industry, academia, nonprofit, and student sectors. Through our uniquely joint environment, Society members collaborate and drive solutions for some of the toughest engineering challenges facing the A/E/C industry and our national security. Learn more about the benefits of SAME membership.
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