Dawn Dayawon did not initially plan on being a highway engineer. After feeling pigeonholed as an inspector, she decided to make a change in her career, and she considers that change to be a great decision. “Urban was willing to take a chance on me and give me an opportunity to branch out,” she says. “I had very little experience in highway engineering, but was willing to learn, and it has paid off.”
Dawn began her career inspecting bridges and was trained in rope access techniques. She worked on structures ranging from large, multi-span bridges – such as the Blue Water Bridges in Michigan and the Commodore Barry Bridge between Pennsylvania and New Jersey – to small culverts. One of her most exciting moments was when she rappelled down the towers of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland. The work was very physically demanding, but Dawn learned many lessons that she has applied to her work as a highway engineer, including good planning and organizational skills; confidence in her ability to learn and adapt; and how to treat everyone with respect and kindness.
“I never thought of engineering as a particularly creative field until I moved into highway engineering,” Dawn says. “I enjoy the problem solving that goes into design work and looking at things on paper and imagining it in real life. The act of taking an idea and figuring out how to build it is amazingly fun.”
A graduate of Lehigh University, where she earned an undergraduate degree in civil engineering, Dawn went on to earn a master’s in civil engineering with a focus on transportation from Villanova University. And in addition to being a new mother and half-marathon runner, she remains professionally active as a member of ASCE and WTS, and serves as the treasurer for Urban’s Younger Members Forum. A good work/life balance is important to Dawn, and it is important for her to serve as a role model.
“As a new parent, I’ve thought about the role my career plays in my life and how it will affect my son,” she says. “I’ve come to the conclusion that my dedication and enjoyment of my work speaks volumes, and I really want him to know that strong, determined, and smart women are not something to be scared of or intimidated by. They are to be respected and that those qualities are something to strive for, no matter who you are.”