In my experience, women are well respected in this industry, especially those who work hard.
Audrey Copeland, Ph.D., P.E.
Title: Vice President for Engineering, Research & Technology
Employer: National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA)
What made you decide to go into the road construction industry?
I originally studied civil engineering with the idea of becoming an environmental lawyer. But, as I progressed in the civil engineering field, I found I really enjoyed engineering and the education in problem solving that goes along with it. I received funding from both the Tennessee DOT and the Federal Highway Administration to pursue graduate degrees, so that’s what initially got me interested in road construction.
In a few words, describe what you do.
I lead engineering and technical initiatives for NAPA, so my primary role is to advance asphalt technologies for value, quality, and innovation and to grow market share for our members.
Describe a typical day at the office.
My days sometimes do not go as I plan them! There are always things that come up along the way. Today, for example, I’m wrapping up review of a guidance document for thin asphalt overlays and working on a presentation focused on the top 5 issues in asphalt pavements for a state asphalt pavement association conference. I also spend time on calls with FHWA and state DOTs, discussing issues they may be having or policies that might affect NAPA members and providing technical guidance.
What do you love most about your job?
Definitely interacting with people. Some of the people I have come to know in this industry have become cherished friends and mentors.
Also, working for a trade organization like NAPA is a unique experience. I don’t know where else I could get as much exposure to so many industry leaders who I can learn from.
Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years?
Since I really enjoy what I’m doing now, I would like to continue growing as a leader within our industry.
What’s your advice for women who may be interested in working in this field?
Don’t be intimidated. This industry is very open and welcoming. But you need to lay the foundation one of two ways: either through education, which is the route I took, or through experience. People are willing to give you a chance, and are willing to help you, but you have to be ready to work hard and be open to learning.
Whether it’s within your job or industry organizations (such as the Association for Asphalt Paving Technologists—which I’m involved with—or the American Society of Civil Engineers), don’t be afraid to volunteer and network. It truly can become a great career—go for it!