Sharon Braden talks about engineering, working in a male-dominated field and the importance of building confidence.
Established in 1953 in Mobile, Alabama, Thompson Engineering has grown to include multiple offices throughout the Southeast, including a Chattanooga location.
How did you get into business development at an engineering firm?
In 2009, the firm I was working for was acquired by another company, and I found myself looking for a new job. Thompson Engineering was the first place I called. I had met Thompson’s Chattanooga leadership team at a few city events, and I knew the company was trustworthy and on the move in our area. I also knew that I could help promote the company’s services. I joined Thompson as a proposal manager, and now I manage business development efforts for the state.
What is Thompson Engineering known for in Chattanooga? What do you want the company to be known for?
We’re known for providing transportation services across the state. I would like for Chattanooga to know that we are also experts in waterfront development. Thompson was founded 65 years ago on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, Alabama. It takes a special skillset to design in a marine environment, and we’ve got it. We’ve been involved in almost every major waterfront project on the Mobile River, from dock design at Navy shipbuilder Austal, to engineer-of-record for GulfQuest, a 90,000-square-foot interactive museum. I believe we could be a great partner for other industries along the Tennessee River.
You work in a largely male-dominated industry. Do you have any advice for women in the field? What are you and Thompson doing to engage girls in STEM?
My best advice for women is something I speak about often, especially to young women: cultivating confidence. Don’t focus on being a woman. Regardless of whether or not a young woman – or young man – wants to be an engineer, a doctor or an acrobat, confidence is key. Confidence is earned and learned, so I talk about it whenever I have the opportunity. I’m also lucky to work for a company that supports community programs, including STEM initiatives for girls. Thompson has provided financial assistance to the Chattanooga State STEM Camp for elementary and middle school students, and Girls Inc., a program specifically designed to introduce girls to STEM and leadership training.
How is Thompson making a difference in the Hamilton County/Chattanooga area through its projects?
Engineering firms work on projects that have a direct impact on people’s lives and protect the public’s health and safety. Some examples include our work on the fast-track construction of Ooltewah Elementary, improvements for the Town of Signal Mountain Public Works Facility, and the design of Crest Road for the City of Chattanooga. We’re also proud to be a part of the team creating Chattanooga’s Fallen Five Memorial. We are providing the geotechnical subsurface investigation of the area where the memorial’s limestone columns will be erected. To be involved in a project that means so much to the community is an honor.
Tell us something we may not know about Thompson.
We have a sister company that is also at work in Tennessee. Thompson Consulting Services (TCS) is our disaster recovery firm and activates to help municipalities after a weather event or manmade disaster by assisting in debris removal, clean up and administration for rebuilding efforts. TCS was in Putnam and Overton Counties during the ice storms of 2015, and it is still at work in Gatlinburg in the wake of the fires there. TCS and Thompson Engineering support each other when a need arises so that communities get help fast in the wake of a storm or disaster event.
Learn more about Thompson Engineering here.