Empowered Employee Series: Amy DeBruin
Senior Associate, Amy DeBruin, joined Isthmus in 2008. She shared some of her thoughts on her career path and life away from work.
Describe what it has meant to have a flexible, autonomous, and customizable career path at Isthmus.
When I had my first baby, I couldn’t imagine going back to work even though I had planned to after 12 weeks. Once my kids were toddlers and I found childcare I was comfortable with, I tried to work part-time at another consulting firm on two separate occasions but that didn’t work out well. Then I was introduced to Katie. For years I worked 10 to 15 hours a week at Isthmus, as needed, and had summers off. Gradually, I was able to increase my hours as my kids grew older. I was able to work within the school hours and still had summers off.
This part-time/as needed situation also worked well when Isthmus was small. If there wasn’t a project that could use me part-time, then I didn’t work. I am so thankful for that arrangement! I wouldn’t trade the years I was able to spend with my kids for anything!
Now that my boys are older, I have the flexibility to work as many hours as needed and I have the flexibility to step in and help others when needed. I only recently committed to a 40-hour week as I really enjoy the balanced life that working shorter days or weeks can bring.
What was your experience prior to joining Isthmus?
For some reason, I have not had a traditional roadway design career as a civil engineer. I have had opportunities to work on a few unique jobs that have brought interesting perspectives. I was an inspector for the laying of the 72” pipes for a water intake system which involved me traveling by barge to a cargo boat on Lake Michigan. I also spent a year working in a trailer keeping logs for a water treatment plant ozonation facility design-build project.
I was an inspector for the paving quality at the Milwaukee Mile race track. I got to work as a sub for CH2MHill and work with XPSWMM - and rollerblade home from work every day along Lake Michigan. I also designed a sanitary sewer system for Volk Field combat readiness training center.
For a couple years I worked on the Humphrey Terminal project where I designed the roadways and coordinated with the architects and construction manager. There was also coordination with the LRT coming from the Lindbergh Terminal. I was part of a project that helped the AARF station locate the exact location of the new building site so that the vehicles could make the turning movements. I had the opportunity to work directly with many airport personnel on both of these projects.
Although a lot of my experience prior to Isthmus didn’t directly relate to traditional highway/MnDOT roadway design, Isthmus recognized the valued perspective this “non-traditional” roadway design track provided my career.
What are the values that drive you?
It is important to me to be an honest, good, hard-working person. I think it is important to show respect to our elders and I believe a good work ethic is extremely valuable.
What’s your background?
I grew up in Wisconsin and Maryland. I spent summers in high school with my dad in Wisconsin and the school year with my mom in Maryland. In Maryland, I lived in a first-ring suburb to Washington DC so going to the Smithsonian, seeing the White House, and the cherry blossoms were common occurrences.
In college, my absolute favorite class was band. I played the oboe from 6th grade through college. I planned my schedule around band class. In high school my life revolved around band, softball, and field hockey.
When I was a kid, I would have said that lasagna was my favorite food. Then as I grew older, I probably would have said chocolate and steak (but not together). For some who know me that might be surprising to hear as I’ve now been eating a vegan diet for several years.
I always felt really lucky that I had such a close relationship with my grandma. She was around a lot when I was growing up and I felt very comfortable with her. In college, sometimes I would go watch movies and have pizza with her on Saturday nights as she lived only a few blocks away.
What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I am happiest moving out in nature. I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. I like doing craft/arty type things too, although my interests change on that. I did pottery for a few years at a local community center and really loved creating things.
What are your top three favorite podcasts/books?
I absolutely LOVE listening to The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. Is it bad that I don’t read or listen to anything learning-based right now? I do like the Radiolab podcast.