Forging her own path
Meet Tricia Quan Kep, our Business Development Manager, Americas.
Based in New York, New York, Tricia was named an Outstanding Woman Builder by the Women Builders Council (WBC) as part of its 17th Annual Champion Awards. She is also a founding member of BUILD, TYLin’s dynamic diversity, equity, and inclusion group.
How did you come to work in the engineering field?
I always joke that I’m an engineer by osmosis. My story is one shared by many immigrants. As the eldest of five children, I emigrated to the US from Trinidad and Tobago to help make a better life for my family. With me, I carried a solid education and was truly fortunate to start my career as a receptionist for an engineering firm.
Over my 17 years there, I advanced in my roles and responsibilities. I also established relationships with other A&E firms that helped land many contracts with public agency clients and private clients in the tri-state region of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. So, when TYLin approached me in 2018, I felt confident and ready to take the next step in my career.
What's one thing the engineering industry can do to encourage more women into its ranks?
The field of engineering faces a serious gender-based retention problem. Despite all the efforts to encourage women to study engineering, highly skilled women who enter the field end up leaving.
Women are making valuable contributions across a variety of engineering specializations. Support and encouragement from colleagues and organizations can empower them to continue their growth in this field.
We, as a global, industry-leading firm, can do many things to encourage women to pursue and stay in engineering. Some examples:
Encourage engagement with female students through internships and competitions.
Offer care and peer support to women, especially those who may feel unwelcome in the organization.
Offer scholarships for female students who can’t afford college tuition.
Provide detailed, personalized feedback to help women know how they are doing.
Pair women with mentors (female and male) who will support their ambitions and offer advice.
Make room for women to join leadership teams and offer their perspectives and insights.
Develop managers who will help women stay motivated to pursue leadership positions.
Offer flexible working conditions to encourage women with children to stay in leadership roles.
What skills have helped you advance in your career?
Throughout my career, I’ve taken various online courses to improve my technical knowledge, as well as ethics training and client-based training to help me understand policies and procedures.
What personal traits or characteristics have helped you succeed in this position?
In Business Development, being genuine, outgoing, communicative, and expressive are extremely helpful traits. Carefully phrasing comments so as not to offend or create conflict is important. In addition, being approachable and supportive to colleagues facilitates discussions and promotes innovation, trust, and well-being.
Who have been your mentors and advisors?
With more than 20 years in this industry, I’ve been fortunate to have a few mentors in my life. At this stage of my career, I have three. These men are directors of their companies and have supported me since the early days of my career. Under their excellent advice and guidance, I’ve received encouragement, knowledge, and valuable critiques that allow me to see my career from a well-rounded perspective.
Describe your two most memorable initiatives:
While I am not an engineer, I have been very fortunate to work with dedicated, intelligent colleagues who design and build monumental projects for our neighborhoods and communities. Pursuits I’ve been involved in range from a pro-bono community center to a multimillion-dollar infrastructure and bridge rehabilitation.
My most important initiative at TYLin has been with BUILD. When Matt Cummings called for volunteers to come together to discuss how we as a firm can support diversity, equity, and inclusion and bridge the disparity gap in our industry, how could I not respond? As an immigrant, a woman of color, and a mother to mixed-race children, I felt it was my duty to be a part of this esteemed group committed to advancing change for the betterment of our people, clients, and communities.
What advice would you give young people interested in a Business Development position like yours?
In Business Development, it’s all about relationship-building and creating trust with you and, by extension, your firm. We are “selling” the vision of a great yet intangible product. So be persistent and stay open to alternatives and possibilities. Be an active listener and communicate as clearly as possible. And don’t be afraid to ask for advice; we are all still learning.
Having great mentors over the years, I highly advise everyone to have a mentor. Interview various candidates — try them out to find the one whose career and advice align with your goals. As a mentor, I strive to be open-minded, learn from mentees, and accept differing opinions. That helps create mentoring relationships that are mutually respectful and enjoyable.
I have forged my own path to where I am today. It’s not a “conventional” path, but it’s mine. If the traditional way is not for you, forge your own path, and don’t allow others to overshadow what is true to you.