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  • Writer's pictureWTS Sacramento

Recap - February 2022 Lunch Program

On February 24th, WTS Sacramento hosted Donna Berry to speak at the February Lunch Program about her accomplished career in engineering and her dedication to mentoring women in STEM. Donna is the Acting Deputy Director for Project Delivery (Chief Engineer) at Caltrans and was also the recipient of the distinguished WTS Sacramento Woman of the Year award in 2020. This presentation was held as part of the WTS Sacramento Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s celebration of Black History Month.

As the Acting Deputy Director for Project Delivery (Chief Engineer) at Caltrans, Donna Berry oversees all aspects of Caltrans transportation projects, statewide. In her speech, Donna recounted her 30-year engineering career which culminated in this distinguished leadership role as well as the mentors who supported her throughout her journey. From a young age, Donna and her siblings were encouraged by her parents and family to set goals, dream big and pursue higher education. She reminisced how her mother told her that showing up alone is not enough, but that she must show up prepared with her research and questions. As she began her career with Caltrans District 3, Donna recalled how instrumental the rotational program and the career counselors were in finding her career path both within the engineering field and the organization. Donna also observed how the lack of representation and inclusion within the workforce shaped not only her career within the public sector, but also her relationships with colleagues from similar minority backgrounds. Being a female, Black professional in a coveted leadership role today, Donna mentioned the scrutiny that she is often subject to as a key decisionmaker within the agency. She acknowledged that with time and experience, she has embraced the importance of self-validation, being confident in her voice and prioritizing her family while balancing a rigorous career.

Throughout her presentation, Donna Berry emphasized the importance of representation and inclusion within the workforce, especially in the empowerment and promotion of young women of color into leadership roles. She reminded the program attendees how crucial it is to acknowledge that women in the workforce are multi-faceted individuals, who need strong mentorship and allyship from the earliest stages of their engineering career in order to excel within their fields. Donna also encouraged the attendees to engage with their communities by reaching out to young people to instill in them the curiosity and passion for engineering, especially to female students in STEM and women of color pursuing higher education in engineering. As the President of the Board of Directors for the Sisters of Nia, Donna strives to encourage African American girls to pursue their dreams through mentorship, education and self-empowerment. She expressed that being a mentor, a role model, and a source of inspiration to young African American girls who are in a critical developmental stage is her way of ensuring that future generations of women in color in engineering are set up for success.

As a note of encouragement in her closing remarks, Donna shared the following three affirmations she would tell her younger self: You are enough. You are perfect, just the way you are. Dream big, as dreams really do come true.

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