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Drivers of Innovation: UL Engineer Demonstrates Growing Diversity in STEM Careers

UL Project Engineer Bea Toda has a passion for many types of engineering; she's challenged as long she can use knowledge learned to solve problems. Toda applies her civil engineering and architectural engineering degrees to provide value to UL's customers.

UL engineer Bea Toda poses in UL's Northbrook, Ill., lobby

February 18, 2020

Every February, the spotlight shines brightly on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as our attention turns to the annual celebration known as  Engineers Week. Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, the emphasis has grown from simply increasing interest in engineering and technology careers to building diversity into the next generation of science and engineering.

We interviewed Project Engineer Bea Toda to learn more about her career choice and her work within UL’s Built Environment team. A graduate of Purdue University, Toda received a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering and a Master of Science in architectural engineering from the West Lafayette, Indiana, school known for its science, technology, aviation and agricultural research.

Toda helped contribute to STEM diversity through her volunteer work with the Women in Engineering Program at Purdue. Today, she is one of many female engineers employed by UL.

Which engineering field do you have the greatest passion for and why?

I am a civil engineering graduate, so I have to admit I am a little biased. However, my work in fire protection at UL is much different than that of someone working at a typical civil engineering firm. At UL, I am surrounded by many types of engineers, and I work with customers from various engineering backgrounds. I have a passion for any “type” of engineering that requires me to solve a problem using all the knowledge I’ve gained during school and work, whether it’s civil, mechanical or another field of engineering. I enjoy the opportunity to work with and learn from people of all different engineering disciplines. The diversity of knowledge in fire protection at UL is something I value greatly. 

How do you overcome difficulties presented in your job?

One of the first things I learned during my first year at UL was to never be afraid to ask for help. In school, I found that many students, including myself, at times, were hesitant to ask for help – which oftentimes led to failure. So, whenever I come across a particular roadblock during a project, I asked my engineering lead for help. I leaned on experienced colleagues to teach me what I didn’t know. I also took a UL University class on communication to ensure I was on top of my game when collaborating with both clients and colleagues. The best engineers I know are the best learners.

What engineering resources do you use to stay on top of the latest news, technology and developments in the field?

I like to check LinkedIn to stay on top of the news that my engineering friends/colleagues post. I also subscribe to various industry-hosted webinars to continue learning about developments in the field. Clients also often host educational webinars about new technology or products that come to UL. 

How can we encourage more students to consider a career in engineering?

Outreach is so important! I strongly believe that we as engineers have a responsibility to share our knowledge with students and show them how fulfilling an engineering career can be. Before college, I barely even knew what engineering was and I am confident that I was not the only one. We need to reach out to younger students, show them exactly what we do and why it’s important. We also need to put more focus on diversifying outreach to encourage more girls and students of color to learn about engineering.

Where do you see your field evolving over the next 10 years?

Slowly but surely, we are starting to see more diversity in the engineering fields. I hope that the trend continues over the next few years because the workplace benefits from different types of minds, experiences and backgrounds. With a diverse workforce, we allow engineering and the STEM fields to grow and further our knowledge to better the entire world.