Alumna Turns Childhood Engineering Dream into Career

1/24/2012

If, as a child, someone asked 2002 Stevens graduate Miriam Woodall what her adult profession would be, she probably have pictured herself working with heavy machinery and equipment in a power plant or oil field.

She would have been right. Woodall is in her tenth year at Chevron Corporation, working as a Rotating Equipment Decision Support Center Team Lead in the Maintenance division supporting all of Gulf of Mexico operations,

For Woodall, becoming an engineer was a no-brainer. She was surrounded by them growing up. Her father, who worked for an oil company, studied Mechanical Engineering, as did her older brother. Her mother studied Chemical Engineering.

“In my family, it was always like, ‘What else can you be?’” Woodall said.

Woodall came to Stevens after she researched universities with top engineering schools near White Plains, N.Y., where her father moved her family after his employer transferred him from Florida. When she was accepted, the decision to enroll was easy. She was not only offered a full tuition scholarship, but she would be able to join the women’s swimming team.

“I only ended up swimming for my first two years, but it was a great experience,” Woodall said. “It gave me great friends and an outlet for stress.”

In addition to swimming, Woodall was involved in many groups and activities on campus – she was a Resident Assistant, a member of the international coed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and a member of Tau Beta Pi, a national engineering honor society.

Perhaps most importantly, she was part of the Cooperative Education program, which she said was instrumental in her later career success.

“Co-op, internships, jobs – whatever you can do to get work experience helps you out tremendously once you enter the ‘real world,’” she said. “Often, it can set you up with great job offers before your senior year even starts.”

Stevens unique engineering curricula also helped make the transition to the workforce easier.

“The engineering courses are extremely well-rounded at Stevens, in that we learned business and economics in addition to engineering,” she said. “It’s great to have strong technical skills, but you also have to be able to sell your ideas to project managers and speak their lingo. Stevens gave me the background to do that.”

Woodall got her foot in the door at Chevron after securing an internship with Texaco while she was still an undergraduate studying Mechanical Engineering. Texaco offered her a full-time position after she graduated, which Woodall accepted.

However, Texaco then merged with Chevron before Woodall had finished her degree. Fortunately, Chevron honored her offer and Woodall went to work for the company in 2002.

Today, Woodall supervises a group of Chevron analysts who do predictive maintenance on rotating equipment like compressors and turbines found in oil and gas production sites.

She lives in Covington, L.A. with her husband and newborn daughter, Maya Anne. It is probably too early to say if little Maya will have a childhood engineering dream of her own.

For full coverage of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Stevens becoming fully coeducational, visit Women at Stevens.