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Meet Sarah Motes '10
Posted 03/05/2018 02:25PM

Tell us how life has changed since you left SPX.

I drink a lot more coffee, I am closer to my parents, and I am significantly more confident in who I am.

What college did you attend? What was you major?

Texas A&M University—Ocean Engineering

Tell us about where you work and what you do?

Freese & Nichols, Inc. I am an engineer in the Treatment, Transmission and Utilities group. I build and analyze water models to mitigate surge analysis within municipal water lines.

What first interested you in engineering?

Math and science were always my strongest subjects in school and they were also the ones that most grabbed my interest. Although college was not easy, the challenges were always exciting and meeting them was rewarding.

What is the best/most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that my day-to-day analyses prevent catastrophic accidents from happening and protect the public and municipal workers.

What are the biggest challenges you've faced as a woman in the field of engineering?

With previous employers I felt I had to work harder to prove I was as capable as the other engineers. Part of that struggle was due to my height challenge. I am only five feet tall and therefore much smaller than most of the men; another part of that struggle was that I was mistaken for a secretary and people would look over me and not think of me as an engineer. The corporate culture at Freese & Nichols is quite different. I have not felt the same struggles and, as a result, I am much more confident in my job—it helps that my manager is a female Aggie engineer!

What advice would you give current SPX students, especially young women, who are interested in becoming an engineer?

Never give up. Persistence and endurance will get you further than you realize—so much of your education is a privilege that should not be taken for granted. People will tell you that it would be easier to just change majors if you perform poorly on one exam, but it is up to you to not let that one exam hold you back. You must realize your mistakes, study harder, and do better on the next exam. The same goes for your career—we only grow if we learn from mistakes instead of letting them hold us back. For the young women interested in becoming an engineer: be proud when you are the only woman in the room.

What is one of your favorite memories of SPX?

I loved the traditions that came with homecoming! During the week leading to the game, the entire school was buzzing and there was so much energy. Our football team went to state three times while I was at SPX so anything involving football was always exciting.

What is one of the most important lessons you took away from SPX?

Self-awareness. My freshman year, I was enrolled in geometry (which was a sophomore level class) and I was not ready for it. I changed to algebra and was able to strengthen my math skills and excel in geometry the following year. It was a strong lesson that follows me still today. I am well aware of my capabilities and disclose them at the beginning of projects instead of missing deadlines later.

What were you involved in as a student at SPX?

I was on swim team, student council, yearbook, National Honor Society, and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

How did your SPX education prepare you for college and your eventual career as an engineer?

As a college preparatory school, SPX challenged me to perform with excellence. This became habit and was very helpful as it followed me to A&M, where a rigorous curriculum and serious deadlines were the norm. SPX also provided me with leadership training and I learned how to build networks through raffle ticket sales and selling yearbook ads. I have continued to strengthen this skill in my professional life and my network has continued to grow.

What advice would you share with new SPX graduates?

Don't ever forget the foundation that your parents and teachers instilled in you throughout your Dominican education. This will be your greatest strength through college and into the real world.

What does it mean to you to be an SPX alumni?

It means having good friends with whom you share a foundation, being proud of the school you attended well into your post-high school days, and sharing countless fond memories of your high school years with other alumni.

Which SPX teacher made the most lasting impact on you?

Mrs. Harris. She believed in me when I was not sure how to believe in myself—she was an integral piece in fostering my love of math at a pivotal point of my education.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of work, I love spending time with my friends, volunteering with Pughearts of Houston Pug Rescue and going to concerts of any genre! I especially like going to those of my brother who graduated SPX in 2011. I love to travel and scuba dive. Having taken World Religions at SPX prepared me with a greater appreciation of other cultures that I encounter with my international travels and having been on the swim team spurred my interest to become a certified scuba diver.

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