When you are driving through downtown St. Louis, and you see all of the tall skyscrapers and buildings along the busy streets, do you ever wonder to yourself who built these wonderful buildings? Almost all buildings, from grocery stores to mini malls, owe their existence to the skills of engineers. They are very good at what they do. All of the homes, restaurants, office buildings, grocery stores, malls, schools, libraries, post offices, hair salons, any building you can think of, is built by a contractor who is advised by an engineer, so this job is very important to the community. Maybe without them the buildings might not be safe or sturdy. Jacqueline L. True is an engineer for a general contracting company called R. G. Brinkmann Company in St. Louis.
In her family background, Mrs. True has many family members with jobs that have to do with math. Jacqueline’s father graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology. He is a superintendent of a nitrogen plant for Air Products and has worked there for 25 years. Since she was good at math, she was encouraged to pursue and engineering degree. Jacqueline has always been interested in buildings and architecture, and therefore, civil engineering was the obvious choice. In high school, Mrs. True excelled at math; in college, however, where competition was fierce, she was an average math student. But she was also good at writing and communications, and the emphasis in construction management provided Jacqueline with an opportunity to use both of her abilities. Construction management requires the ability to solve problems and to be able to communicate and negotiate with people in an effective way. Jacqueline had a very good education. She graduated form Purdue University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering with an emphasis on construction management and structural engineering. Mrs. True is originally from Chesterton, Indiana, about 45 minutes outside Chicago. Her dad is from Gary, Indiana, and her mother is from Merriville, Indiana. Mrs. True’s mother never went to college and she has been a school bus driver for sixteen years. Jacqueline is the oldest of four girls in her family. All of them have graduated from college but she is the only one with a degree related to mathematics. Mrs. True’s hobbies include reading and cooking. She and her husband are also renovating a house. They purchased the house that he grew up in and they are trying to fix it up. Mrs. True’s job is very interesting considering what she does for a living as an engineer.
Mrs. True works for a construction company in St. Louis, one described as a general contracting company. A general contractor is a very important job. Mrs. True explained, "when someone decides that they want to build a building they ask us to help them." Engineers have a lot of jobs to do, such as interpretting the drawings from the architect, which show how the building is going to look, and hiring subcontractors needed to build the building. But each contractor has a specific job. For example, the job that Jacqueline does includes telling the owner of the building how much it will cost. She also hires the subcontractors, making sure that they do everything that they are supposed to do and that the building is built correctly. She also makes sure that the building is built as quickly as possible and that no one gets behind schedule. Jacqueline also makes sure that the people working in the building are safe and the building, once it is finished, is safe for everyone to use. As you can see she has demanding job. Some qualities that a good general contractor should have are organization, communication skills, leadership skills, and, of course, mathematical skills. Her most recent project was a shopping center called Brentwood Square including Borders Books, Whole Foods, and Pier 1 Imports among other shops, and now she is working on remodeling the car showrooms at the Plaza Motor Company. In her day-to-day work Jacqueline does not use the higher mathematics that she learned in college. But her college math classes did teach her one essential skill: how to solve problems. There is a logical thought process that you learn to solve the math problems every day, she explains. In construction, things do not always work the way that an architect may have drawn them or thought that they could go together. They have to use the everyday constraints of building materials and methods and figure out a way to build a building the way the architect would like it to look and in a way that the owner of the building can afford. Jacqueline says that you don’t have to be the best to succeed; you just need to know where to go to get expert advice.
Similarly, the advice that Jacqueline True has for students pursuing a career in mathematics is that you don’t have to be the best student to be successful. Some careers require that a student be very good at mathematics, but there are other careers that utilize the strength of several abilities and that combination of abilities is what makes a successful career. The key is to recognize all of your strengths, consider how you can best utilize all of your strengths, and combine them in such a way that the career you choose utilizes all of your abilities.
If you ever consider being an engineer, I think that you should get some professional advice. An engineer is what Mrs. True does and she likes her job a lot, especially the math area of the job. She uses math every day at work and even when she is not at work. No matter where you are, there is math almost everywhere. When you grow up, practically every career that you are interested in has to do with math, whether it is counting money, taking measurements, sizing clothing, or building anything. Math is a good thing to be good at because it can get you places --- just ask Jacqueline True!
About the author: Alex Armfield is a 13-year-old girl who is an eighth grader at LaSalle Springs Middle School. She was born in St. Louis Missouri. Her favorite subject in school is math, but she hates the homework. Outside of school she does karate, baby-sits, and helps around the house. Alex maintains an "A" average. She lives with her mom, dad, two sisters, and two brothers. She hopes to go to college and major in interior decorating because she loves to paint and decorate rooms inside houses. Even though math is very hard for her she never gives up. Some of Alex’s other hobbies are karate and shopping. Alex thinks that never giving up is the key to success and math!