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Susan Derrah, BEng Scty '98, MEng '01

Electrical Engineering & Society | Two work halves make you whole

Susan Derrah’s work world is divided into two distinct parts.

In one part, she’s a senior engineer at the consulting engineering firm Hatch, working primarily on power and control technologies for application in the metals industry.

“Most of my work is quite technical, such as analyzing measured data from electric arc furnaces, performing design calculations, and preparing equipment specifications,” she explains. “But for the past year, I have been a project manager on a project so I have more client interactions and reporting, in addition to the technical work.”

She balances off her part-time engineering position with a second, very different job as a youth group coordinator for her church.

“It isn’t a role I had planned on, but it has given me a lot of personal fulfillment,” says Derrah. “My work at Hatch is often meaningful but sometimes it is challenging dealing with vendors and clients and the uncertainty of project work.

“Working with the youth in my community always makes me feel appreciated and I know I am doing something positive.”

Given her dual jobs, it may not be a surprise that Derrah earned her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Society. That choice has had benefits throughout her career, she says.

“In the engineering consulting world, my exposure to other ways of thinking and my ability to communicate in writing with non-technical people has been very valuable,” she says.

Derrah has spent most of her 18 years at Hatch working part-time, providing her with both professional opportunities and time to raise her two sons. She urges students facing challenging career decisions to choose without regret.

“It is easy to feel like you have to follow a certain career path to make others respect you or to avoid risk,” she says. “I have faced challenges with keeping my work at Hatch part-time and making sure I have time with my kids, even though they are teenagers now. But these are the choices that are right for me and I don’t worry about lost opportunities or what might have been.”