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“An engineer, a lawyer, and a business consultant walk into a bar…”

“…and she orders a drink.”  because that engineer, lawyer and consultant are all one person! Like many career paths, mine began in a position very different than where I am now.

When I began my career as a construction engineer in New Orleans, I oversaw the building of roads and bridges in the Greater New Orleans area. While I loved my time there, after a couple of years, I was ready to transition into what I thought would be my forever career: law. I hit the books for a second specialized degree and earned my J.D. at LSU. After moving to Atlanta, I opened my own firm before accepting my dream job: Attorney at the Fulton County Public Defender’s office. Four fulfilling but demanding years later, I was ready for a change again when I came across a job post that said, “Are you a JD who is tired of being a JD?” The rest, they say, is history.

How does one amass such a variety of experience? Well, there are many similarities when you dig into the core skills of each specialty.

Systems:  Engineering, law, and now consulting all require you to work within specific systems and processes. In engineering, you are working within systems that rely on physics, mathematics, and building codes, while law relies on, well, the rules of the law. Consulting is supported by project management and financial systems that are no less crucial to the success of a business than physics is for the success of a building’s structure.

Improvisation:  Being out on a construction site, with ever variable environmental factors requires you to think creatively and practically within the bounds of building codes, time limits, and budgets.  Being in a courtroom live and in-person requires calm under fire and the ability to think on your feet.  Being a business consultant in an ever-changing economy and customer base requires versatility grounded by experience and understanding.

People: Forming strong relationships in each career path was imperative. In my time as a public defender, building strong relationships required trust just the same as engineering practices required a trust that building practices were safe. Now, my relationships with clients are of a much different sort than those I built as a public defender and an engineer, but the one-to-one connection is just as valuable when building trust.

All three fields require you to work creatively within a specific framework of rules and with other people to get a job done.  The foundation I built with systems, improvisation, and relationships in engineering led me to tackle those same elements in law, which now impact my clients daily as a business consultant.  So, while I wear my consultant hat when working at the office, my lawyer and engineer hats sit on my desk where I study them often – and, occasionally, try them on again for size.


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