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‘Doing my dream job’
by Garrett Valenzuela
Apr 05, 2013 | 6058 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy photo -- Reed High School and University of Nevada, Reno graduate Rachel Coyner is recognized nationally as one of the New Faces of Engineering by the National Engineers Week Foundation.
Courtesy photo -- Reed High School and University of Nevada, Reno graduate Rachel Coyner is recognized nationally as one of the New Faces of Engineering by the National Engineers Week Foundation.
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As a college student, you are hounded by nearly every professor about the importance of completing an internship in your field. Its importance can become lost on a young student, but Sparks native and University of Nevada, Reno graduate Rachel Coyner knows the value of an internship all too well.

“Even though I went to UNR for civil engineering, all through high school and even into my freshman year I always wanted to do architecture,” Coyner said. “After my sophomore year in college, I had an internship with an architecture firm. It was fun, but I found out that it wasn’t really my thing. It was not really what I wanted to do.”

Coyner, a 2005 graduate of Reed High School, is now a project engineer in the Bay Area for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) where her biggest project is rejuvenating the electrical system at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center. Less than three years removed from college, Coyner is making noticeable strides in her work as an engineer, and the National Engineers Week Foundation (Eweek) recently took notice.

Coyner is one of 13 young engineers recognized as the New Faces of Engineering during February’s Eweek 2013. The New Faces in Engineering award goes to engineers age 30 or younger who “have shown outstanding abilities in projects that significantly impact public welfare or further professional development and growth,” according to Eweek.

“I was completely surprised,” Coyner said about receiving the award. “I filled the application out and I didn’t really think twice about it. I just said thank you for nominating me and I didn't really think anything would come of it. I was totally shocked.

“There are so many people who work for the USACE and so many who are doing amazing things, and I just cannot believe I was in the top five of those people. Then they chose me as a top nominee. It is just ... wow.”

Though her career has led her to the Bay Area, Coyner said Friday during a phone conversation that Nevada will always hold a special place in her heart. She was raised in Sparks from age 1 by her parents, who still reside in the Rail City, and she also has a brother working toward a Master’s degree at UNR.

“I would say the biggest thing I miss about Nevada, beside my family, is to me it is home,” Coyner said. “I feel the most home when I am in Sparks. My heart is still in Nevada.

“I also really miss the seasons because in the Bay Area we don’t have seasons. So I never know what time of year it is.”

In her time in San Francisco working on the VA electrical system, Coyner has found plenty of challenges in her day-to-day operations at the construction site. She added that life in the Bay Area has a few differences to life in Sparks and northern Nevada.

“This has been a very interesting job for me because I have never actually worked at a medical facility,” she said. “There are so many different nuances to working at a medical facility, especially when you are doing an electrical upgrade and you are having to turn people’s power off. There have been different challenges that I have kind of had to overcome from time to time with this new facility.

“I think it (the biggest difference) is a cultural thing to be honest. The Bay Area is extremely diverse. There are all sorts of educational backgrounds and different cultures coming together. It is really a melting pot. Reno is diverse as well but not nearly as diverse as the Bay Area. That for me was a big adjustment, but it’s also really exciting. The people in your community come from all sorts of different backgrounds.”

Coyner said she has adjusted well to her new community by volunteering with local organizations who inspire young children and women to become engineers. She also coaches the color guard team for a local high school. She said encouraging and working with young students following the S.T.E.M. curriculum and thinking about engineering is one thing she hopes to always to have time for.

“When I speak to high schoolers, I always say think about civil engineering because there is so much you can do with it,” Coyner said. “It’s a really broad career field, and no matter where you are, it’s always applicable. Civil engineering is all infrastructure and anywhere that civilization exists you need infrastructure. I also say being a civil engineer is so rewarding because your job is to make people’s lives better.”

Coyner said she would like to work her way up to project manager at the USACE to be able to look at her projects from a “broader perspective.” She is also only a couple exams away from earning her Professional Engineers license in California, a feat she said is “a lot of responsibility but also a big step for any engineer.” She said a Master’s in Business Administration is also in her future.

“I feel like I am doing my dream job,” Coyner said. “I don’t really see myself in any other career field. I really enjoy public service and I feel like it is where my heart is. I don’t see myself working in the private sector as much. Not that people in private industries don't do great things, because they do. But I feel that I have more freedom in public service.

“The beauty of working in government is you might not get paid as much, and you might not get that big bonus at the end of the year, but I feel that you can really do things in an ethical manner and you can be a steward of the public’s money, make good choices and do things for the betterment of the people.”
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