Jill Imig, PE, EDAC, recently accepted the role of Department Leader for the Milwaukee Mechanical Engineering group. Since joining HGA in 2006, she has become a plumbing systems specialist and staff mentor to up-and-coming engineers and student interns. In the following, Imig highlights the professional satisfaction and opportunities with her chosen career.
What inspired you to become a mechanical engineer?
I’ve always loved construction and the magic of how a hole in the ground can become a beautiful structure. I’ve also loved taking things apart then rebuilding them. At first, I thought that meant architecture, but I’m not very artistic. I am more mechanically inclined. A family friend suggested that I look into the Milwaukee School of Engineering, and that’s where I discovered my real interest as I enrolled in the architectural engineering program with a concentration in mechanical and plumbing. That led to HGA after graduation, where the firm has always maintained strong ties with MSOE.
How do mechanical and plumbing systems support health and wellbeing of building occupants?
Mechanical and plumbing systems are integral to healthy buildings and the occupant experience. It is important to continuously exhaust bad air and circulate fresh air to maintain a healthy environment for the building occupants. Each building is designed to serve specific functions, whether it is healthcare, workplaces, performing arts centers, or academic buildings. The mechanical and plumbing systems support those programming functions and allow people to work efficiently and comfortably.
What’s the day in the life of an engineer like?
Every day is different, between interacting with clients, problem-solving with architecture and engineering teams, or mentoring young designers and students. I’m collaborating with a lot of different teams. Engineering is integral to the whole design team process—mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural, architecture working together to create a great building for the client. In many ways, these systems are invisible to the average user. The infrastructure is hidden behind the walls and ceilings, yet we know everything that is behind those surfaces to keep occupants safe and comfortable.
How has your work changed in the time of COVID-19?
It emphasizes the importance of engineering. I’m currently working on an internal task force to help healthcare clients understand how to handle patient surges. In the future, we are going to be thinking about how to set up systems better to handle disruptive events. We will apply learning from this crisis to future projects, analyzing what works well and what needs improvement. The crisis allows us to open hard conversations with our clients to plan from day one for future disruptions.
What would you recommend to other women thinking of pursuing engineering careers?
Go for it. The world of engineering opens you to possibilities—everything we use has engineering behind it. It doesn’t matter what your background is, where you come from, who you are, there are always means to get you where you want to go. Also, don’t be afraid to search out a mentor. I came in as a young, quiet engineer but had mentors to help me excel. Mentoring is important in the profession and I certainly look forward to helping the next generation succeed.
If not an engineer, what would you be?
I am exactly where I want to be right now. I have so much passion for my role at HGA. I truly enjoy what I do.