Interview with Rosaura Andújar-McNeil – Project Environmental Engineer at C.T. Male Associates
Rosaura Andújar-McNeil recently joined C.T. Male Associates as a Project Environmental Engineer based in the firm’s Poughkeepsie office. A graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, she brings extensive experience with environmental investigations and remedial design to her role at C.T. Male Associates.
It is also interesting to note that Rosaura was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and is fluent in Spanish. She has used her Spanish-language skills to translate engineering documents in the past, and is very active in the Latin-American community in N.Y.
To learn more, we recently conducted an in-depth chat with Rosaura, discussing her fascinating background, her goals in her new role, and the challenges of translating technical documents into Spanish.
Tell us about your role at C.T. Male Associates.
Rosaura Andújar-McNeil: I’m an Environmental Project Engineer out of the Poughkeepsie Office. I work a lot on remediation projects with the state, so I oversee the designs and implementation of remedial action.
What’s your educational background?
RAM: A number of years ago, I graduated from engineering school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Environmental Engineering. Since graduating, I worked in several areas, including remedial investigations & design and vapor intrusion mitigation design. Those aspects have been the bulk of my experience.
What made you choose this field?
RAM: I love math, trying to find solutions to problems, and thinking about the big picture, and I come from a family of engineers. I remember sophomore year of college, I was taking a class called “Introduction to Environmental Engineering,” and one of the things my professor said was, “Environmental Engineers are servants of society.” I know that might sound kind of corny, but I was hooked from there on. I said, “I want to be that person: I want to step in the gap and see how we can solve problems that involve the environment and the way people live.”
What else do you bring to your role?
RAM: In terms of the identities you carry, not only am I an engineer, but I happen to be a female engineer, and a Latina female engineer. With all those identities, you can’t help but bring that to the background of the work you do. Because I hold all those roles, it makes me acutely aware of the voices not heard; the voices not at the table, that we need to be listening to.
I remember being at a meeting in a certain municipality and there were different people represented: the community, city engineers, consultants and lawyers. I was thinking that all voices need to be heard, and always asking the question, “Who’s not in the conversation, who needs to be?” We serve a better product when we can really recognize that there are different people and groups involved, and people who might perceive things in a different way.
I did a lot of soil vapor intrusion work in my previous job, and that’s more of a technical piece that I bring to my work at C.T. Male Associates. There are different kinds of contaminations like soil and groundwater, and recently there’s been growing awareness of soil vapor contamination. I bring a lot of experience in terms of trying to define that contamination, but once it’s defined, how can we solve it and how can we create a system that’s really going to address the soil vapor intrusion issue?
How does your fluency in Spanish impact your role at C.T. Male Associates?
RAM: If the site you’re working on that’s contaminated, is in the oversight of a regulatory agency and the communities around it, if it’s a community that speaks another language than English, you actually have to provide some of your documents in the language of the community. That’s where it comes down to my experience in translating documents. I really enjoy that piece, because you’re being a bridge, helping bridge the gap between this problem that could potentially impact that community, but that community has no way of knowing that that’s a problem if the information isn’t provided to them in their language.
The intricate part of translating a document is really neat, because you’re taking very specific engineering terms and you have to find the equivalent in Spanish. You not only need to know the language, you also need to be familiar with the technical aspects of it. Latinos are also growing in influence, so they’re not only the people affected by a level of contamination in their community; they’re also developers and entrepreneurs. They’re the people really creating business, so if you have a product and you have someone who can speak their language and cultural background, it’s a really helpful tool for opening markets.
Are there any other specific markets, geographic areas or customer groups that you’re interested in targeting?
RAM: One of my hopes is that I can help in the process of growing C.T. Male Associates’ influence in the Hudson Valley and into NYC. The Hudson River Valley is a place full of beauty, and there’s a lot of communities along the river that are economically depressed; cities that at one point were the gems of the Hudson Valley, but which have declined. You have a lot of land in those cities that has declined in value, so what does it mean to be part of the process of bringing that land back to life and making it useable again? I’m also really excited about what it means for C.T. Male Associates to make it into NYC and make our name known there.
What do you enjoy about working at C.T. Male Associates?
RAM: It’s really exciting to be part of a small office here in Poughkeepsie. I love to be part of the process of saying, “You are three, but in three years I want you guys to be six.” It’s exciting having that push forward that we are going to grow, and what will it take for this office to grow—not only thinking about the extra employees but the extra workload—so we need to be aggressive about pursuing clients. It’s really exciting to be part of that process.
I was talking to someone who’s part of C.T. Male Associates a few days ago, and I asked him, “What is C.T. Male Associates known for?” He said, “C.T. Male Associates has some really good engineers.” I said, “What does it mean to be a good engineer?” He said, “They’re really well-respected.” It dawned on me and I said, “I want to be called a well-respected engineer.” That’s why I look forward to growing in my capacity as an engineer, to be known as a good, well-respected engineer in the field.
Are there any recent project results you want to highlight?
RAM: Most of my work has to do with brownfield sites—former industrial sites we’re trying to bring back to life to be useable again—to find the contamination and develop a plan to correct it. As part of that, we don’t think about the development aspect; you’re doing all that, but what’s the end result, what are you trying to build here? Recently, there’s the potential for taking those brownfield sites, and one of the options is they become composting facilities. That’s really neat. Not only do you get to clean up a site and make it useable again, but there’s also an end result that it’s also life-giving. You’re farming soil so it can be productive. Having your site being developed as green technology is really exciting.
What are your goals for 2018?
RAM: I want us to secure more work in NYC. I would also love to see us gain new contracts in the Hudson Valley. We recently added a third person to our office, and in 2018 we absolutely are striving to add a fourth. Those are my overall milestones for 2018.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
RAM: I love sightseeing. I love taking strolls and getting into a little village and saying, “Show me the center of town, where can we have a good cup of coffee, or where can we try different foods.” I enjoy getting to know new places. I also enjoy going for a good run that exercises your lungs heavily.
I like to think about trying to solve the world’s problems, knowing that I probably won’t be able to solve them all. We’re living in really uncertain times when it comes to the environment, but it’s also been a call. Instead of government agencies that used to step up for the environment and say, “This matters,” now the people need to stand up and say it. The environment matters, because ultimately, it’s the place where we live. It’s a new call to arms, saying, “We’re used to these things being taken care of by these other agencies, but now we need to rise up. The call is on us.”