Lisa A. Brothers, P.E.
Vice President of Operations
Judith Nitsch Engineering, Inc.
Engineering, University of Massachusetts-Lowell
"As Vice President
of Operations, I oversee all the day to day operations of the
firm. I am responsible for creating policies and implementing
them with the other leaders of the firm to ensure that we remain
profitable. I am also Principal-in-charge on the majority of
JNEI's projects as well as Project Manager on select projects."
students should take all the math and science courses they can
while in high school and take advantage of any related summer
"For the autonomy and the responsibility that I have here, to me money
isn't everything. But I think you'll find out as you get along in your
career -- I mean, I've taken pay cuts to do things that I want to do. So
money isn't my major motivator. It never has been. To me, as long as I'm
challenged and doing what I want to do that's more important. So I've
never really pushed that, because that's not what's driving me for -- you
know, why I work."
"Everybody else has to deal with, you know, getting kids to day care,
picking them up, dropping them off. And you'll find that more and more
people, a lot of the men are doing the drop-offs or the pick-ups. In this
company, for instance, three of the guys work flex time because they're in
charge of one end of the pick-up. So it's not just a women's issue
anymore. It's more, you know, both genders have to deal with flex time and
being able to pick up their children and all that."
Q: What's a day like in
I really don't know what my
day's going to be like because most of the time I'm on the fly. You know,
problem solving, giving people support when they need it. Giving them
technical advice. Reviewing projects, talking to clients. Working with
accounting, making sure the bills go out. Making sure we get paid, calling
for accounts receivable. The things that keep the operation moving. So I
don't just strictly do engineering anymore. I manage fifty-something
Q: When did you decide to
study civil engineering?
I decided -- this is really
actually an interesting story. I decided to study civil engineering. I was
a junior in high school talking to my guidance teacher. I was taking an
anatomy and physiology class. I was thinking of something in the medical
field, you know, because it was a good course and stuff. And he said, well
yes, you can be a nurse. And I said, well why not a doctor? And he was
like, well, no, a nurse. I'm thinking, well, I don't know. And he says,
well, if you really don't know what you want to do you should go to the
local community college and maybe study business for two years, get an
associate's degree, and then maybe you can figure out what you want to do.
I was like, oh all right, whatever. Then I was taking typing. Typing was
mandatory in my high school when I was there. And my typing teacher said
to me, Lisa, you're good in math, you're good in science. What about
engineering? And I thought about it, and because of her I researched what
an engineer did, and basically applied to undergraduate school for
engineering because my typing teacher suggested that was a good thing to
Q: You went to college
thinking you would be an engineer?
Yes. I applied for the civil
engineering program. My favorite courses in school were structural
courses. I really liked the structural analysis. And that was my major
concentration, was structures. And then I got into the real work force and
did that for about a year and it was something that wasn't right for me.
I'm a person that always likes to be challenged and likes change. And
after you designed one- and two-story steel frame buildings for a year it
gets to be kind of routine. And the place that I was working didn't do
other kinds of structures. So I decided to change and try something
So that's when you came here?
I did construction for three
years for Mass Highway which was a real learning experience. Then I did
some structural work. And then I did some civil site work which is where I
met Judy, my partner. She was one of the principals at another firm and
she chose to start her own firm. And when she announced that, I followed
her in her office and said you cannot start your own company without
taking me along. Because I knew that she would do great things and we
would have a wonderful, viable company and I wanted to be a part of that.
And now in my current position, since the company has grown from the two
of us to fifty, I really don't do very much engineering anymore. I mostly
Q: Did your education
prepare you for this work?
I actually have a graduate
degree. I have my MBA. I got my MBA when I graduated from my undergraduate
degree I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. And I always knew that
some day I would probably be part of senior management. So I went
part-time nights. I was out of school a year, I was working. It took me
five years, nights. And I use that all the time in my current position. It
was really good -- between the two is really good training.
Q: Are there certain
electives that you think students ought to take in thinking of your
Absolutely. What I picked up
in graduate school that I didn't get as an undergrad was interpersonal
communication skills. Writing -- I took a really tough writing course. The
teacher was wonderful. I think writing is really important. And I took
some public speaking courses which I use every day. And there were typical
things that you can't really take as an undergraduate engineering student,
but I took some organizational behavior courses. And those kinds of things
really make you think about communication and listening and how certain
things interplay with each other.