Patty Robles' Story

October 2013 was busy for Patty Robles, EIT, who celebrated the completion of two of her projects in New York: the $1.2 million Poughkeepsie Transit Hub, which she assisted in designing; and $1.8 million restoration of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation facilities that were damaged by Superstorm Sandy, for which she was the Resident Engineer. Not bad for an engineering graduate in the early stages of her career in the Big Apple. Getting to this point, however, wasn’t easy.

The daughter of immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, Patty learned at an early age the value of determination and dreaming big. “My parents immigrated to Jersey City with nothing and worked hard to give me and my siblings the possibility of a great future,” she said. “They showed me that anything is possible and no dream too absurd.” Patty began thinking about a career in the Architecture/Engineering/Construction industry while in high school. Her father was an agricultural engineer and uncle was a civil engineer in the Dominican Republic, so they knew a thing or two about the industry. “Knowing that they supported me with any decision I made, made it a lot easier for me to succeed and follow those decisions through.”

She worked hard in high school, graduating in 2004 from James J. Ferris High School in Jersey City. She soon began classes at the New Jersey Institute of Technology with help from the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which provides state funds to New Jersey students wanting to learn architecture, science, and business. Then in 2006, Patty had to take time off for her newborn daughter. “It was tough being a single parent going back to school. I decided to take the challenge head on and attended classes year round. It took me seven years to finish, but with all the support, I received I pushed through.” She remained active in the EOP by tutoring in physics and math and being a Summer Coordinator for the Academic Tutoring Program. “The EOP staff became an extended family throughout my college career and I heavily relied on their support.” There were many nights that Patty stayed late in their office studying for exams or working on projects. The EOP recognized her perseverance with an award. “It reassured me that they saw the effort I put into everything I did - from parenting, to my studies, to the dedication I had in working for the program. It was unexpected and an awesome way to end my undergrad and to begin life in the ‘real world’ with my confidence sky high.”

Unfortunately, Patty’s experience with the ‘real world’ after college was a job that constricted her professional growth and a two-hour daily commute that robbed her of time with her daughter. Determined to have the life she always dreamed of, Patty made a career change. After seeing an online advertisement for Urban Engineers, asking for an engineering graduate for its New York City office, she applied. She didn’t have a lot of experience, but knew that with the right fit, she would be successful. Going into the interview, Patty wanted not only to determine if she was a good fit for Urban, but to make sure it was a good fit for her and her family. By all accounts, it has been. “Urban allows you to mold your career the way you want to rather than getting pigeon-holed into one role for the next thirty years. The people here encourage you to grow and move your career forward in a way that you’re enthusiastic about.”

“Patty stood out above the other candidates because she displayed a serious demeanor, and a technical curiosity,” said New York City Office Manager Chuck King, PE. “She didn’t have decades of experience or glamorous projects on her resume, but she did have experience in both the field and office tackling some challenging projects. We knew she had what it took to be a successful engineer and would make a great contribution. We were right.”

As Patty moves into her third year at Urban, she is looking forward to even more interesting projects where she can make a difference and learn more about the profession. To get ready for future field assignments, Patty is taking graduate courses online at Drexel University for a master’s degree in construction management. “Civil engineering has so many career paths that it can be quite overwhelming,” she said. “If I could, I'd do it all.”