Sophie Justus

Mechanical Engineer

Sophie Justus

One of my earliest career interests was to become a teacher. I adored and respected all of my teachers throughout school, and they instilled a real love of learning in me. Having that kind of lasting impact on others sounded special. 

Although a love of learning stayed with me, my career goals eventually shifted. After graduating from high school in Salina, I started attending Kansas State University. As a freshman, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted my job title to be, but I knew I enjoyed math and still wanted to help people in some way. My path was sparked by my brother who’s also a mechanical engineer. He told me about the doors an engineering degree would open and all of the potential career opportunities. 

Today, I’m a mechanical engineer at Black & Veatch in Kansas City. My role is to help make sure systems work for different projects by designing plans and working with a team to get the client exactly what they need. I also create contracts so my company, the client and other parties agree on all of the project's components. This job involves a lot of coordination with departments in my company as well as with other vendors.

I’m currently working on a project for a wastewater treatment plant. These plants clean contaminated water so it can be reused or disposed of safely. I help by doing calculations, laying out drawings and carrying out other tasks.

The best part of my job is the people I work with and the endless opportunities! From the very beginning, I felt welcomed and supported. Being a mechanical engineer also offers a ton of options, from consulting to construction. 

It’s a huge perk to be bettering the environment. It feels good to be doing a job that benefits the planet.  

My ultimate career goal is to become a professional engineer, which basically means I need to pass a few more tests and gain more experience on the job. This is especially important to me because engineering is an incredibly male-dominated profession. I want to bridge that gap and help other women get here, too. 

If you’re interested in engineering, I’d tell you to take as many math and engineering classes in high school as you can, but also make time to be creative. I think it’s important to maintain a balance of arts and sciences — it keeps your brain happy and allows you to develop different parts of your mind. 

I know the road to becoming an engineer can seem daunting. The reality is you’ll probably fail a few tests or assignments, but if you stick with it, you might just ace the next one. As long as you’re dedicated, it’s achievable! That challenge is part of the thrill, and knowing you get to make a difference in the world is worth it.