female student smiling
Katia (right) at the 2018 SWE WE 18 Conference.

When Katia Yakubova walks across the stage at commencement and into her first job, a conversation from high school is likely to be on her mind.

"I had this teacher who was really passionate and got me interested in engineering. I asked him if he thought I'd be a good engineer. He straight up told me no—maybe I'd be better off as a music teacher," she laughed. "At first it kind of stung, but I thought about it more and maybe initially I pursued engineering out of spite, but I ended up loving the material after coming to Temple, so in the end, it all worked out"

The first-generation college graduate and civil engineering major will be visiting family in Russia before going to work as a traveling field engineer for Mortenson Construction, a major renewable energy contractor. Working in the firm's civil group, she will relocate every five to seven months to job sites around the country, advising on solar and wind-powered energy projects.

She'll take with her lessons learned from her internship with the Philadelphia Streets Department as an engineering intern with the department's Right of Way unit. There, she reviewed zoning, building and encroachment plans for various construction projects for compliance with the Philadelphia Code and department standards.

And as for that high school conversation? Yakubova has more than proven herself.  She has gone on to make the Dean's List and served in leadership positions with Society of Women Engineers and Engineers Without Borders and participated in research with the Institute of Chemical Kinetics and Combustion in her native Siberia.

"In a way, he was right because at the time I really wasn't good at math, but I got good at it," she said, going on to describe her expected day-to-day with Mortenson.

"You get to do all the fun stuff an engineer would do, but out in the field. You work closely with superintendents on projects, which lets you see it from start to finish. It's perfect because I like solving problems, being outside, and renewable energy," she said.

It's an opportunity that otherwise may not have materialized if not for her recent trip to Minneapolis for the 2018 Society of Women Engineers national conference with her peers, where she met the Mortensen recruiter and interviewed on-the-spot.

"The company doesn't recruit on the East Coast, so realistically, if I had only applied online, it would have been really unlikely that I would have gotten this opportunity."