Meet Jen Desrude, a seasoned Senior Civil Engineer with a passion for math, science, and her profession. She started her journey in civil engineering two decades ago with the aspiration of witnessing the tangible outcomes of her work. Today, as a veteran in her field, Jen finds profound satisfaction in the integral role civil engineering plays in our daily lives, from the moment we turn on the faucet to our commute to work. She relishes the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on people's everyday experiences.
Get to know Jen in this engaging Q&A session and learn more about her experience, what inspires her, and more!
What inspired you to pursue a career in civil engineering?
I landed on civil engineering because I love math, science, and the idea of physically seeing my work. Now, that I’ve been in this career for over 20 years, I appreciate that more than ever. Civil engineering touches every aspect of our day from the first glass of water in the morning to driving to work, and I like that I can make a difference in people’s everyday lives.
Based on your extensive experience, what are some of the most pressing issues or opportunities facing city planners and engineers today?
From my background as a city engineer and working in city government for 18 years, the biggest issues city engineers face is funding projects. Recently, there have been some big wins regarding funding both at the state and federal level. City engineers worked hard to push a legislative agenda to expand funding for transportation and infrastructure projects. Now, the next challenge is to get to work building all those projects!
How do you stay inspired and continue learning in your field?
I’m on the City Engineers Association of Minnesota (CEAM) conference planning committee and served as co-chair for the 2023 CEAM conference. I enjoy working with the committee to bring relevant and timely topics to the annual conference. I’m also on the team to bring quarterly webinars to CEAM members on a variety of topics. Attending conferences and webinars, and hearing what new and interesting projects and challenges my colleagues are experiencing keeps me learning and inspired.
Could you share what your participation in professional organizations signifies to you?
I’ve been an active member of CEAM for over 15 years, including being president in 2022 and 2023. I love the comradery of sharing experiences with colleagues. It has also been a way to stay up to date on the latest industry news, like upcoming funding opportunities, legislative issues, and new technologies. After every CEAM conference, I bring back knowledge that I can use at work.
What's a fun fact or something about you that not many people know?
I’m a huge Foo Fighters fan. I’ve got tickets to their show at Target Field next July and I can’t wait!
What do you enjoy doing outside of your professional life? Any hobbies, interests, or activities that you're passionate about?
I’ve got two boys, ages 15 and 11, and it seems like most of my life outside of work is going to their activities. Both play hockey and I’ve been the team manager, scrimmage coordinator, and general hockey volunteer for the past seven years. Before they started playing, I didn’t know much about it, but now hockey is one of my favorite sports and I love going to Wild games. ￼
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for individuals aspiring to enter the fields of civil engineering?
For words of wisdom, I would say don’t lose sight of the big picture. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and your to-do list, but remembering why you’re doing the project and the impact it will have on people’s lives will help make you a better engineer.