Benesch Engineers Share Passion for STEM

People | February 21, 2020


Photo of Benesch employees at the ACEC of Georgia’s annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering event

KENNESAW, GA — Earlier this month two Benesch engineers teamed up for the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Georgia’s annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering event at Kennesaw State University, which aims to do just that – introduce young girls to women in the industry and the possibility of a career in engineering.

Tonia Brown, PE, and Sonya Ceballos, PE, spoke with middle school-aged girls interested in STEM about their own paths to a career in engineering. The half-day ACEC Georgia event included activities geared toward engineering at each company’s booth, a team trivia bowl and a keynote speaker. At the Benesch booth, students worked alongside Tonia and Sonya to build miniature structures capable of supporting ‘heavy loads’ – a combination of gum drops and toothpicks were used to support 20 oz. bottles of water.

Close up photo of Benesch employee creating a mock-up molecule at the ACEC of Georgia’s annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering event

Although they are both passionate engineers in their respective fields of expertise, Sonya and Tonia saw themselves on different paths, initially.

“From a young age,” Sonya recalls, “I wanted to be a lawyer.” However, her knack for math and science caused her mother to suggest that she might like a career in engineering. For the last 18 years, Sonya has pursued an engineering career that started out in residential design and ended up in aviation engineering.

“I figured out that I wanted to be an engineer after finishing my second quarter as an architect major,” Tonia remembers. “I’ve always been creative, and I wanted to keep pushing myself in that direction, but architecture wasn’t the right fit. My advisor suggested civil engineering as a new option, and I was intrigued by the variety of disciplines I could explore.”

For both engineers, sharing their personal stories and advice at ACEC Georgia’s event is a highlight of the year.

“I love seeing my designs finally constructed,” Tonia says. “Being able to drive by the finished product—it’s the best way to show my daughter what I do every day. And being at Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day allows me to spread my passion for what I do even further!”

Sonya says, “My favorite thing about my job is the excitement I feel; I get to see projects unfold from design through construction, and no two projects are ever the same. It took ten years, but I finally found my true passion in aviation engineering.”

Sonya’s only regret? Having not realized her love for her field sooner. “I was completely unaware that this was an option for me, so my advice to girls aspiring to a career in engineering is this—don’t give up on yourself or your dreams; find a way to make it happen.”

“And nothing is set in stone,” adds Tonia. “Start by choosing something you enjoy and follow your joy from there—you can always adjust your plans as life happens.”

Both Tonia and Sonya are new to the Benesch Team and located in our Atlanta office, which focuses on aviation, civil and structural engineering. Sonya specializes in aviation engineering and Tonia in highway design.