Happy Women’s History Month! This month, we’re highlighting the incredible women of Lund Opsahl who continuously redefine what it means to be in this industry. We spoke to Melissa Dario, Design Engineer who is currently work on our Candlewood Suites at Cherry Hill and King County Metro Transit’s South Annex Base projects. Reflecting on her nine years of experience, she shares her journey to structural engineering and what it means to be a woman in this industry.

Why did you go into structural engineering?
I always felt like I was most interested in science and math because I liked to get one concise answer, which isn’t really what structural engineering is like (they’re multiple answers, I found out). But in comparison to history or English, it was much more concrete. Pun intended.

And I thought building things were really cool, like starting with Legos. I went into college initially for civil engineering and then thought I was going to be structural, but after taking a structural class, I was like, “no, not structural.” The class was really hard. But, civil engineering had a whole bunch of different aspects, and over the four years, I tried a whole bunch of different things and came back to structural.

What would you say is the best part about being a structural engineer?
I think the best part about being a structural engineer is working on a team, coordinating with other disciplines and engineers to make buildings stand up and making sure they’re safe for people. I think it’s a lot of fun and a really cool part of the whole process.

Did you have any mentors in your career journey?
I’ve had different project managers and worked with different design engineers, and it’s interesting, the different personalities and the way people go about things and what they like. In this industry, you can latch on to one material and be like a reinforced concrete expert or you could try to differentiate and know a little bit about all of them. So, it’s cool to see what people have done with their careers and the different ways they’ve gone.

But the reality that I’ve experienced is that, in the industry as a whole, women are the minority.

What does being a woman in engineering mean to you?
I feel like the expectation is to say,” it’s so great, I love being in engineering.” But the reality that I’ve experienced is that, in the industry as a whole, women are the minority.

At the start of my career, I was out in the field a lot. I was working with young engineers doing special inspections on site. I got to meet a lot of different people, and walking on site as a younger female, I would regularly get the reaction of people looking at me like, “you are lost.”

It is validating to be able to prove that you belong, and you are adequate as an engineer. The industry is still growing in that way and becoming more welcoming to women, and I’m happy to be a part of that but I do wish it would come around a little faster.

What in your career are you most proud of?
Being a structural engineer! Like I said, I had that first structural class and I was like, “Whoa, this is way too intense for me”. To come back to structural engineering and be able to make a career out of it is a point of pride for me.

Favorite Lund Opsahl project?
I’m working on one on Camano Island and my husband’s family owns a place on Camano Island. I love being able to go places and be like, “Whoa, I worked on that building.” I think that’s one of the coolest parts of the job.

What is your superpower?
Because I grew up in Alaska, I can sleep in any sort of light situation. I can sleep with the lights on, no problem.

What is your favorite Seattle activity?
I love to be outside in Seattle, so I run, I hike, I bike. Right now, I’m trying to check off all the trolls.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Sleeping less than 7 hours and feeling well-rested. That’s such an old person answer, but I would want that superpower.