Better Know a Board Member - Catarina Conde Brunckhorst
In this eNews edition, we are getting to better know Catarina Conde Brunckhorst, Senior Systems Engineer at Unico Engineering.
Catarina was born and raised in the city of Recife on the Northeast coast of Brazil where she lived until her early 30s. She went to college there, earning her B.S. in Civil Engineering in 2006 from Pernambuco Polytechnic School. Catarina later attended Surrey University in the UK, studying for a M.Sc. in Infrastructure Engineering and Management, before life got in the way (she became a mother!) and she had to leave the program in order to prioritize her family. She looks forward to returning to her studies and either completing her master's degree or working towards other certifications.
Catarina started her career as an Assistant Resident Engineer in Brazil, working in the construction industry; but she decided that she wasn't passionate about construction, so she moved to the transportation sector, where she worked as a civil designer for the public sector with large scale highways and railway projects. As a designer she developed geometric designs and, after several years of experience, progressed to supporting interdisciplinary activities such as overviewing the project to ensure all technical aspects were compliant with the requirements and stakeholders’ expectations.
The company Catarina was working for decided to expand its presence in Africa and she was invited to be part of the team opening their new office in Ghana. "It was a very hard decision to leave my family and friends, but I was very excited about the possibility of working in a completely different environment and I enjoy a challenge, so I accepted it." She served as Project Coordinator on the Kwame Nkrumah Interchange Project (named after the first president of Ghana when Ghana declared its independence from Britain) wherein she was overviewing the design and providing support to the construction team with design reviews and all the technical aspects of the design - construction interfaces. This was a major milestone in her career, partly because of the increased responsibility but primarily due to the cultural and communication challenges she overcame. Navigating a language, culture, and bureaucracy foreign to her while meeting project deadlines taught her resilience under pressure.
3 years later Catarina had met her future husband (who was also working in Ghana) and her contract was expiring so she and her husband got married and moved to the UK where she joined Network Rail to work as a Project Engineer on the Great Western Route Modernisation program (a $7.8b railway program). This was her first time working in the transportation industry as the Client, so she found it interesting to be "on the other side". Catarina once more had to deal with the challenge of navigating a new set of cultural and social norms but she loved her time in the UK and treasures the friends she made there and keeps in touch with still today.
Catarina's husband got an excellent opportunity in California so Catarina put her family first, left her job, and they moved to the USA. She joined Unico Engineering to work with their Systems Team, providing integration and interface management services for companies with railway projects in California. In this role she has had the opportunity to support California's High-Speed Rail and BART/CCJPA's Link 21.
Catarina is active in the civil engineering community, most notably as one of the WTS Sacramento Diversity and Inclusion Co-Chairs. She is also an active member of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) Bay Area chapter.
Catarina is passionate about the impact of civil engineer and WTS. From Catarina...
"I love the idea of working with a purpose of giving back to the society, specifically in the transportation sector, where we build infrastructure that offers equally benefits for the population. There still a long way to go and a lot of work to do to provide what it is needed in terms of public transportation that is reliable, safe and well-connected, and that’s why I envision an organization as WTS helping to “spread the word” and increase interest of young people, especially women and girls, in Engineering and Science, by bringing awareness and offering support."
In her free time, Catarina loves spending some time with her family, paddle boarding during the summer at the Folsom Lake or Tahoe area. She is an avid traveler and is always planning the next trip. She is also passionate about interior design and DIY so she can often be found working on her next project in her house. She loves landscaping works and photography. Basically, whenever Catarina has any free time she gets busy doing something!
Thank you Catarina for your dedication to WTS and the transportation industry. We are excited to have you as a part of the leadership team!