Growing up in Turlock, CA, Julia Lind, senior civil engineering major at USC Viterbi, spent weekends riding dirt bikes with her younger brother and her father. They traveled all over the West Coast, through the deserts of Nevada and even along narrow deer trails in Idaho.
“It taught me a lot about mechanics and the way things move. At the same time, it was so freeing to be out there, with your own time to think and to block out the rest of the world. You pushed yourself and focused on the one thing in front of you—the trail you were trying to ride all the way through, without crashing,” Lind said.
As a young girl, Lind was surrounded by engineers: every male in her family, from her father and her uncle on her mother’s side (mechanical) to her grandfather on her mother’s side (electrical) and her uncle on her father’s side (nuclear)—except for one.
“My grandfather on my dad’s side, Robert H. Lind, was a doctor. This is what I wanted to do my whole life, up until my senior year of high school,” Lind said.
Robert earned a lot of respect from the medical community, Lind said. “I wanted that.” The summer after junior year, she attended a medical camp to further explore her interest, but quickly realized it wasn’t for her. “I learned that I hated blood and had to walk out during the videos,” she said.
A month later, she was faced with college applications. For years, she’d been focusing on schools known for their biology programs. Now she had to shift course and consider what else she was good at. “I fell back on my love of math and science,” she said.
Lind applied to USC undeclared, but soon realized she wanted to be an engineer. Her passion for architecture and buildings, combined with a love of processes and how worlds are designed and created led her to concentrate on building sciences as a student in USC Viterbi’s Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to which she transferred second semester of freshman year.
That summer, Lind took an internship at a small engineering firm in Modesto, CA. While friends worked in the US Bank Tower in Downtown Los Angeles, she helped structurally design Foster Farms and almond conveyor belts. “It spoke to my hometown roots,” she said. But ultimately, she realized she didn’t really like working on AutoCAD (commercial computer-aided design and drafting software application) every day and again, decided to pivot.
Early on, she was lucky enough to be exposed to options. Freshman year, as an ambassador for the Society of Women Engineers at USC, Lind spent a lot of time reflecting on her path with her mentor, a senior who Lind credits with offering her more than guidance and networking opportunities, but also a true example of how to be a role model for underclassmen. This is something she’s trying to recreate in her role as President of the USC Chapter of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA).
“Half the people involved in CMAA knew that civil engineering was for them and the other half were just trying it out. My goal, as someone who knew what I wanted, was to help the second half figure out if it was what they wanted as well. I took pleasure in helping people my age develop their career goals and find the right fit in their school programs.”
Lind has always been open to change and evolution. In fact, in a time of global uncertainty, she embraces the possibilities before her, undaunted by the question marks ahead.
“My goals are pretty fluid,” Lind said. “At the beginning of my time at USC, I wanted to design buildings. Now I’m working on the construction angle. I’m not sure exactly what my career will look like, but I’m excited to see what’s next.”
In the fall, Lind plans to attend Stanford as part of their sustainable design and construction program. “What really drew me to this program was their emphasis on technology in the field. A lot of times the focus is on technology for designers and people in the office, but not on technology for trades men and women. But I think it’s really important that we promote technology for people building the buildings and make it easier for them and help them understand things like 3-D models,” Lind said.
Recognizing construction is a hard industry to change, Lind is committed to opening it up to innovation. “I love working with the people in this industry. If I can achieve greater acceptance of technology and greater implementation and innovation on job sites, even in just California, I would feel satisfied,” she said.
For the time being, the summer is a bit bittersweet. Both Lind and her younger brother (a high school senior) are graduates missing in-person commencements. In the wake of a deferred internship, Lind plans to spend time on certifications, planting seeds for a bold future ahead.
Another way she continues to pass the hours? “Weekly senior happy hours on Zoom,” she said. “I’m undoubtedly going to miss my classmates the most. We’re so tight knit and it’s been one of the biggest components of my experience at USC. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.”