Sarah Berseth, Mechanical Engineer and Minneapolis office director, was named to Engineered Systems’ 20 to Watch: Women in HVAC. In the following interview, she shares why she got into engineering, what motivates her, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted her work.
What caused you to/when did you fall in love with engineering?
I’ve never been one to take a typical, easy path. I knew engineering didn’t have a lot of women, but that didn’t scare me. I have a technical mind and like problem-solving. While attending high school in Delaware, I gravitated toward math and science classes, eventually enrolling in the chemical engineering program at Pennsylvania State University before switching to architectural engineering, which better fit my technical and creative interests.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working in the skilled trades?
I have worked on a lot of large-scale renovations and historic restorations to upgrade building systems and address occupant health and well-being. These projects are complex in terms of phasing, working within an existing building that was not designed to meet modern code, and balancing different team input. Yet a lot of my expertise is focused on team leadership and managing diverse skill sets. As a project leader, I like to provide clear expectations and goals and allow people to grow and explore new areas of expertise that lead to a successful outcome. It’s rewarding to work closely with many different professionals because everyone adds value to a project. I’m continuously learning from the team —just as I hope they are learning from me as well.
Describe the proudest moment in your career.
I’ve worked on many projects within an integrated team of engineers, architects, contractors, and other construction specialists, including the Arthur J. Altmeyer Social Security Administration building renovation, which is in progress in Woodlawn, Maryland; the B.H. Whipple Federal Office Building Modernization in Minneapolis; and the Minnesota State Capitol Renovation in St. Paul, Minnesota. These examples were all highly complex restorations of existing buildings. One of my proudest accomplishments is a new construction project for the Ramsey County-Shoreview Library in Minnesota. This was a great example of teamwork with a forward-looking client to create a community destination that sets new standards in energy efficiency. After the library opened, I stayed in contact with the client and can report that in its first year of operation, the library used less energy than predicted during energy modeling. The project later won a national First Place Technology Award from ASHRAE, which was a great acknowledgement of our efforts.
To read more and view the video interview, visit Engineered Systems.