#FemaleFriday

Kristina Swallow, PE, ENV SP, F.ASCE

Kristina Swallow is the current president of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Kristina is a civil engineering leader with more than 20 years of professional practice in water resources, transportation, and land development. Among her many past roles, she served as Region 8 Director, Region 8 Governor, Chair of the Education Activities and the Diversity and Women in Civil Engineering committees, and ASCE's 150th Anniversary Steering Committee.

Kristina has a diverse professional background that includes serving as a program manager in the capital improvements division for the City of Las Vegas, as a transportation policy advisor for a U.S. Senator in Washington, DC, and working as a land development consultant in the fastest growing city in the United States, including five years as a small business owner.

She is passionate about civil engineering and the benefits of infrastructure for communities, especially transportation systems.

She is married to a civil engineer, Dave, and has two dogs. In her spare time, she enjoys running, aerial acrobatics, exploring new cities, and just trying new things.

What are some of your favorite projects completed in your career and why?

My practice has been very broad and diverse. So, to pick two (sort of 3) they would have to be first - the passage of the FAA bill and MAP-21 in 2012 both including language I helped negotiate to further improve safety and effectiveness of our transportation systems. Second would be the Sahara Arden Sanitary Sewer repair/replacement project. With a background primarily in flood and traffic mitigation and land development, it was great to be on a large diameter (110-inch) sanitary sewer capital improvement project for the City. The project was particularly interesting as it was immediately upstream of our treatment plant and therefore technically challenging given existing upstream and downstream connections, an incredibly flat slope, an alignment that traversed a golf course, the confluence of two major floodways, and natural wetlands that created buoyancy concerns for the new facility. It was a very complex project that I could probably write pages on but that is a good quick summary.

Who are your role models?

Over the years I’ve had many all for very different reasons. Of course, my parents, I talk about the lessons I’ve learned from them frequently. My first engineering boss, Byron Glenn, who gave me a very good, early lesson on management and leadership. Helen Klatt, a past president of the Junior League of Las Vegas, who taught me so much about how to run a meeting. The current members of the ASCE Committee on Younger Members, who are balancing everything, pushing for change in a sustainable way, and excelling at creating programs that will resonate. Those are just a few examples… I strive to learn from everyone that I can and emulate the best in the people I know.

I know you talked about this in your webinar “Life as an Engineer, It's a Balancing Act” earlier this year, but can you summarize how you balance work, a family, and professional society leadership?

The key for me on work-life balance is understanding that while you can do everything (or at least try) you can’t do it all at once. Therefore, I have to prioritize regularly, sometimes even daily. I also have learned to let go of things that don’t fit, for example my husband and I frequently eat cereal for dinner and have never really cooked – it just takes more time to shop, prep, cook, and clean than we are willing to spend. At the same time, many know that I do prioritize working out. I’ve learned that to be alert, engaged, and the best I can be, I benefit from sacrificing a little sleep or one last drink at the happy hour to make sure I can get a run or other workout in.

In retrospect, what do you know now that you wish you knew before you pursued your engineering education?

I love our profession. After this year as President, I wish I had known sooner, how incredibly broad our profession is. I have met civil engineers who work at Boeing and NASA and Shell Oil and been told of others that are working to make golf clubs even better. While I may or may not have chosen a different path within our profession, it has been so fun to learn what others are doing.

As President of ASCE, what has been your favorite aspect of this role?

Meeting everyone. While I love everything that I have learned (and I do feel that I am learning still every day in this role), it has been all of our members that have made the job so fun. Our members are so passionate, committed, and truly wonderful.