The oil spill disaster in 2010 drew attention to an old problem: Louisiana's coastal ecosystem is disappearing at an alarming rate. Yet scientists believe that a self-sustaining ecosystem can be restored and maintained to protect the facilities, environment, and culture needed to support a growing economy. Meet one of the engineers involved in coastal-environmental restoration.
Daimia Jackson is a project manager for coastal restoration. She works in the New Orleans District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Jackson earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering from Southern University A&M College in May 2000. She was the first African American woman to earn a master's degree in environmental engineering at Southern A&M three years later.
Time at current organization: I have been with the U.S. Army Corps for Engineers for three years as a project manager.
Proudest career accomplishment: I work on ecosystem restoration. Recently the Corps and a state team from the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration reached an important milestone for six Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) restoration projects. [Both federal Corps of Engineers and state team completed 6 feasibility studies in 18 months (an unprecedented feat)].
The Corps of Engineers’ commanding general, Robert L. Van Antwerp, signed the “Chief of Engineers Report” approving work completed in the six feasibility studies. A chief of engineers report represents the Corps of Engineers’ formal endorsement of a project’s recommendations for future implementation to the Administration and Congress. I was asked to attend an award banquet for the project I manage, Medium Diversion at White Ditch.* The team received the Sue Hawes Award.
Greatest influence: My two greatest influences in my life are my mother, Zennetta Jones-Peters, and my current supervisor, Darrel Broussard. My mother helped influence my career path by enrolling me in after-school programs [focused on] math and science. I was in JETS, Junior Engineers Tomorrow’s Scientists, as well as the Math Enrichment Program. I also attended one of the Summer Institutes in Math and Science at AT&T College. These programs helped me develop a positive attitude toward math and science which young girls often do not have. These programs helped with my career decision in engineering and a desire to earn my STEM [degree]. A summer internship with the Denver Water Board and later the Bureau of Reclamations helped me use the skills I was developing.
Second influence is my mentor and supervisor Darrel Broussard. Whether it's his 'friendship' or his 'mentor' hat he is wearing, he always makes sure I stay on track with my projects and excel. I find it curious that although my mother and Darrel had different career paths, educator vs. project management, when I seek advice, they seem to tell me the same thing, at the same time. It is uncanny, almost as if they talk to each other.
Why was earning a STEM degree worth it?: My networking in project management (and maybe playing a little golf) has opened doors for me and allowed me to achieve many professional goals [but] I would have never achieved as much as I have without my STEM degree. This was the best choice. If I had to do it all over again, I would pursue the same degree. And yes 'All the tassle is worth the hassle.”
Measure effectiveness: My measure of effectiveness in dealing with my projects, peers and team has come from 'lessons learned' in other jobs and reading books, such as "Flip Side" by Flip Flippen and "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman. Using the strategies in these two books on managing projects, functional team leads, and working with co-workers, has allowed me to boost my professional level in the work place allowing me to go that much further. For other daily challenges I am faced with, I utilize my collegiate knowledge and skills obtained.
Next big thing: The next big thing that I am working toward is taking the Engineer-In-Training (EIT)* in April 2013, the Project Management Professional (PMP) shortly after within a year or two and the PE in 3 years.
Decision do over: Pushed myself harder and taken classes to obtain my certifications. Another is networking more.
Team: To work well with a team and be a great leader you must learn about people and what makes them who they are. One must know an individual's 'emotional intelligence' and understand people. I have been introduced to this skill and many others in various project management training classes.
Budget: I manage three Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) projects: Medium Diversion at White Ditch, Medium Diversion at Myrtle Grove and Gulf Shoreline at Point Au Fer Island. Each project is worth approximately $1.5 million in project management federal funds.
Top three initiatives: The top three initiatives I have accomplished are completing my LCA-6 White Ditch project by December 30, 2010. I was selected to represent the program and receive a Stewardship Award for the project as well.
Family member in STEM careers: My sisters Dafina Abernathy (BS Computer Science, MS Software Engineering), and Mara Jones-Branch (BS Urban Forestry, MS Fire Science).
Community organizations advancing STEM education: Louisiana Water & Environmental Association, American Society of Civil Engineering, National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, Urban League of Greater New Orleans, Blacks in Government, Junior Engineers Tomorrow’s Scientist, INROADS, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated and of course the final community organization advancing my STEM education is Golf!
Vacation spot: My favorite vacation spot is on the beach of Hawaii. It is very relaxing and peaceful.
Movie: Seven. I have always been a person that likes a challenge and figuring out what will happen in a movie before the ending comes
Book: I have a few favorite books but “Who Moved My Cheese” which has changed my life, as well as my career development book, “The Flip Side” are a must read.
Gadget besides your Smartphone: My IPod and my kids' (aged seven and six ) P2P players. I don’t really play them too often; only when they have trouble they call mommy to the rescue.
Leisure activity: I play the violin and clarinet for church to relax. I like to golf or I will give my car a tune up.
Website: LinkedIn, Facebook now and then…
Dream job: Jackson llc…
**The six LCA projects are (1) Medium Diversion at White Ditch, (2) Convey Atchafalaya to Northern Terrebonne Marshes, (3) Multipurpose Operation of the Houma Navigation Canal Lock, (4) Small Diversion at Convent/Blind River, (5) Amite River Diversion Canal Modifications, and (6) Terrebonne Basin Barrier Shoreline.
* Engineer-In-Training is a professional designation from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying to designate a person certified by the state as having graduated from an ABET-accredited engineering program, or related science curriculum approved by the board.