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Becoming an environmental engineer, despite the odds

Becoming an environmental engineer, despite the odds

Bailey Hadnott is an environmental engineer who came to Barr in 2016 after completing her degree in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa. We wanted to learn more about what brought her to this point in her career, so we asked her a few questions. 

How old were you when you decided to become an engineer, and what made you reach that decision?

I was always good at math and science and liked helping others learn tricks for problem-solving, so one of my teachers suggested I investigate engineering as a career. I took an engineering physics class my senior year at high school to see if I would like it, and I did! We did fun projects like designing a Rube Goldberg machine. I learned a lot about critical thinking from that class and really enjoyed it. 

What barriers did you have to overcome to pursue your career, and how did you overcome them?

The first barrier I had to overcome was funding. My parents had quite a bit of money saved up for me to attend college, and I received multiple scholarships, but I still had to get student loans every year to pay for college. Nobody in my family had dealt with student loans before, so that process was difficult.

The next barrier was imposter syndrome. At first, it didn’t feel like I belonged, and I even got questioned for being in our engineering building.

The next barrier was imposter syndrome. I attended the University of Iowa, which is a predominantly white institution (PWI). So, there were very few non-white engineers in my classes and in my dorm. At first, it didn’t feel like I belonged, and I even got questioned for being in our engineering building. Going through all this alone was tough, but the women on my floor were supportive, and we became friends eventually. Once I had a better support system and felt comfortable around my peers, it was easier to feel like I deserved to be there. 

The final barrier was engineering school itself. Classes were difficult and sometimes competitive. I wasn’t used to being in an environment like that, but I learned to ask for help my freshman year when I was struggling in my calculus class. And I was able to collaborate with my other classmates for the rest of the semester. Eventually, I became a tutor, teaching others how to do engineering calculus and differential equations—so it really came full circle! 

How did you come to work at Barr, and what do you like about working here?

During my junior year in college, a few representatives from Barr came to our fall career fair at the University of Iowa. I went to their info session and had a really great conversation with them after. Then, I saw them again at the career fair the next day. Although I already had a co-op lined up for the spring/summer, I really liked hearing about what Barr did and what projects they worked on. 

The next year, I stopped by the booth and one of the same reps from the year before was there. He remembered me! I ended up applying and getting through the first and second interviews in August 2016, and I’ve been at Barr ever since.

The people at Barr really support their coworkers when it comes to following their passions.

From the moment I joined the Barr team, I have loved the support I always receive from my coworkers. Early on, I realized my passions didn't line up with the work I was doing. Luckily, I had a sponsor in another business unit, and she gave me some great advice on how to transfer my skills and passions to a different business unit, which I eventually did. A few years after joining Barr, I also decided to pursue my master’s degree in environmental engineering. The amount of support I received, and still receive, was incredible. The people at Barr really support their coworkers when it comes to following their passions.

What are non-negotiables for you when it comes to a workplace?

For me, it’s really about the people. I had internships and co-ops during my undergraduate degree and liked the work I was doing, but I didn’t like the people I worked with. The company I work for must put its employees first, compensate their employees fairly, and recognize them for their hard work.

They also must walk the walk when it comes to diversity and inclusion. A lot of companies tend to write checks but aren’t involved in communities as much as they should be. I think Barr is making progress in this area, and I would love to see them continue to move the needle!

What advice would you give to a young person who was thinking about a career in engineering?

I would tell a young person to start asking questions sooner rather than later. Engineers are very curious and want to know why things exist and how everything works. I would also tell them to stay determined. I believe anyone can be an engineer if they stick with it and are determined to finish the degree. The engineering field should be accessible to anyone who is interested in it!

Interested in joining the Barr team? Check out our open positions.

About the author

Bailey Hadnott, environmental engineer, assists organizations with environmental compliance, bench testing, technical analysis, and system design. She evaluates new or existing water and wastewater treatment systems, performs bench testing to model water and wastewater treatment systems, calculates mass balances, and performs feasibility studies. Her services include preparing plans for compliance, spill prevention, and stormwater monitoring. Bailey also participates in preparing applications for new and reissued NPDES permits.


Image gallery (below):

  1. Bailey participated in the STEM education fair at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minnesota, where Barr talked to students about environmental engineering and demonstrated the wonders of water treatment.

  2. Bailey appreciates the occasional solo trip, as shown here at the Inveraray Castle in Glasgow, Scotland.

  3. During one of many winter holiday family vacations, Bailey enjoyed a sunset boat cruise at Pelican Rock in Cabo San Lucas.

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