- BS Civil Engineering 1994
Michigan Tech is known as a very successful engineering university. It is also known
for its male-dominated population. Despite the fact that women are a minority on Tech's
campus, it is clear that they, like men, can find success, even in the field of engineering.
Amy Trahey, a 1994 civil engineering graduate of Michigan Tech is living proof of
Growing up in Lansing, Mich., Trahey always had an interest in bridges and buildings, an interest that only grew as she traveled with her family to cities with unique infrastructure such as Chicago. These interests, combined with her desire to attend college in state but away from home, Trahey decided to attend Michigan Tech, which, according to Trahey, had and still has a tremendous reputation.
"My mom didn't think I would last long because of the weather, the conditions and I didn't know anybody [...] so she thought it would be a short-lived thing and I would be back," said Trahey. By meeting friends early on and fostering her interest in skiing, her transition to Tech was not that difficult after all. "The first couple years up there were challenging as far as curriculum goes, but after getting into my core civil engineering classes, I kind of soared and flourished," said Trahey.
Aside from the schoolwork itself, Trahey helped found the Young Democrats on campus, and she was also a member of the Ski Club and Alpha Gamma Delta. "[Alpha Gamma Delta] got me involved in a lot of things like Winter Carnival and a lot of really fun opportunities," said Trahey.
Taking into account her academic and extracurricular activities, Trahey has no regrets about attending Michigan Tech. "I took the opportunity to really explore the area. Everyone was really pleasant and really happy. I wouldn't change a thing. Everyone I was exposed to really gave me a positive quality," said Trahey.
After graduating in 1994, Trahey had opportunities for jobs in Chicago, Wisconsin and Lansing. "After being up at Tech for four-plus years, you miss your family, so I was looking for something closer to home, so I took a job with the Michigan Department of Transportation in Lansing." After working with MDOT for more than six years on both research and design, Trahey was given an opportunity to climb the corporate ladder. Trahey said, "I wanted to decline [the advancement opportunities] because I really liked what I was doing. I would have had to get more involved with the managerial aspects and spend less time in the field, which is what I really enjoyed."
Ultimately, after consulting with her husband, they both decided that it was best for her to branch out and start her own business, Great Lakes Engineering Group, LLC (www.glengineering.com) in March of 2000. "It started eight years ago in my basement, and we've expanded to a building in downtown Lansing with 11 employees," said Trahey. "We're doing really great. Every year our receivables keep growing." As the only woman-owned engineering firm in Lansing, and one of only a handful in the state, Trahey considers it an honor and a pressure. "It's predominantly a male arena, but that has in no way, shape or form ever dissuaded me from pursuing opportunities. If you have a good product, it speaks for itself," said Trahey.
In terms of her personal life, Trahey has been married nearly 10 years to Brian Trahey, brother of MTU mechanical engineering graduate Steve Trahey, another Tech connection. Brian and Amy have two sons, four-year-old Quinn and two-year-old Ty. Quinn was born autistic, and according to Trahey, "it's given me a sincere appreciation and compassion for other people that I'm exposed to. It's given me a greater sense of advocacy for my son. He's a delightful boy, and he just looks at the world differently."
Trahey's future goals are to be a good mom to her kids and wife to her husband, first and foremost. "Career-wise, I want to stay where I am now. I don't want to be a huge, conglomerate-type company. I think there's an extra level of detail, care and concern that goes into being a small business, and I want to continue that."
Given her success both personally and professionally, Trahey was awarded the 2006 Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Michigan Tech. "It meant a lot. I feel like I run a million miles an hour 24/7, and it's hard to really step back and realize the accomplishments I've personally made. I feel truly honored to receive this award. There are a lot of people that helped me become who I am. I can't say how much it meant to me. I hope it continues to be a role model to young women."
While she clearly is a role model to young women especially, she offered some advice that is applicable to all students: "Look at obstacles and challenges as opportunities. Whether it's a project or a first job, continue to learn and absorb as much as you can, and realize the value of people," said Trahey. "A bridge is concrete and steel, but it takes people to put the thoughts together to make it the most efficient, safe structure out there."
by Stephen Anderson, reprinted from the Michigan Tech Lode (3-19-08)