Many teenagers take jobs in a restaurant or retail store, but Megan Dion has taken advantage of her engineering career. At 16, she took a part-time job at FXB, a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design company in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, where she helped create and streamline project designs.
She continued with the company during her freshman year at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where she studied electrical engineering with a major in energy. Dion is now a member of Stevens’ five-year joint education program, which allows her to rotate three full-time jobs during the second quarter of the school year through August. She returns to school full-time in September with a more impressive resume.
For her academic excellence, Dion was awarded the IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship this year. The PES Scholarship Plus initiative rewards students who are likely to one day create clean technologies and change the way energy is produced and used. Dion received US$2,000 for her education.
She says she looks forward to networking with fellow IEEE fellows and members.
“Learning from other people’s stories and seeing myself in them and what my career could be like in 10 or 15 years,” she says, “motivates her.
Gaining practical experience in the field of energy
Dion’s early exposure to engineering came from her father, who owned a commercial electrical construction business for 20 years, and this sparked her interest in the field. He took her to meetings and taught the construction industry.
She was then able to gain experience at FXB, where she quickly absorbed what she saw around her.
“I carried a notebook with me everywhere and made notes about everything,” she says. “My team knew they would never have to explain something to me twice.”
“If I’m going to do something, I’ll do it the best I can.”
She won the trust of her colleagues and they asked her to continue working with them while she was in college. She accepted and supported the firm’s important project: the design of an underground power distribution system and pipelines in the US Virgin Islands to replace overhead power lines. An underground system can minimize power losses after hurricanes.
Proficient in AutoCAD software, she was involved in the design of electrical equipment. Dion worked directly with the senior electrical designer and company president and helped provide status updates. The experience, she says, solidified her decision to become an energy engineer.
After completing her FXB job, she landed her first job through Stevens, who brought her to the Long Island Railroad in New York through HNTB, an infrastructure engineering company in Kansas City, Missouri. She completed an eight-month assignment. at LIRR, assisting the Traction Power and Communications Group in designing a DC electrical system for a major commuter capacity improvement project in the New York metropolitan area.
Working on the railroad was out of her comfort zone, she said, but she was ready to take on the challenge.
“When I first met the firm, I was shocked,” she says. “I was looking at railroad tracks and I had to have someone on the team tell me everything I needed to know, down to the basics.”
Dion describes how they spent two hours working through each type of drawing, including third rail sectioning, negative return diagrams, and conduit routing. Each leaf included 15 to 30 meters of a 3.2-kilometer track section.
According to her, Dion most appreciates studying the niche areas of energy and electrical engineering in the employment program.
She is now in her second job at structural design firm Thornton Tomasetti in New York City, where she works as a forensic scientist. The role interests her because she is focused on investigating what went wrong when an engineering project failed.
“My dad taught me to be 1 percent better every day.”
“It’s a career that I didn’t know about before,” she says. Thornton Tomasetti investigates when something goes wrong in the construction process, determines who is likely to be at fault, and gives expert testimony in court.
Dion joined IEEE in 2020 to build her engineering network. She is preparing to graduate from Stevens next year and then plans to complete her master’s degree in electrical engineering while working full-time.
The importance of leadership and business qualities
To complement her experience and knowledge in energy and energy, Dion attends business courses. She believes that one day she can follow the path of her father.
“My dad is my biggest supporter and also my biggest rival,” she says. “He will always ask me why?” challenge my thinking and help me become the best I can be. He taught me to become 1 percent better every day.” She adds that she can turn to him when she has an engineering question, drawing on his years of experience in the industry.
Because of her background — she grew up in the electrical industry — she said, she was less intimidated when she was the only woman in the meeting. She sees being a woman in a male-dominated industry as an opportunity, she says, adding that there is a lot of support and camaraderie among women in the field.
Having excelled academically, she also plays as a starter on the Stevens varsity volleyball team. She has been playing sports since the seventh grade. She says her experience in sports has taught her important skills, including how to lead by example and the importance of securing support from the entire team and working together.
Dion’s competitive nature does not allow her to restrain herself: “If I’m going to do something,” she says, “I will do it the best I can.”