After six years as a design engineer building luxury condos and corporate skyscrapers, Connie Chow joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District in 2021 to contribute toward projects that serve the community and give her a sense of purpose.
“After working maybe like 60-hour weeks some weeks, I was thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing this work for?’” the University of Maryland, College Park graduate said.
Working with USACE is Chow’s first stint in public service. As the district’s small capital manager, she monitors and tracks the execution of projects with budgets $500,000 and under and assists them in meeting their end-of-year goals. She is additionally involved in the budget build process as a joint hydro business line manager.
Chow came to her personal crossroads around 2021, after speaking to her friend Zahraa AlKhafaji, a former private industry colleague who had previously joined USACE in Chicago, Illinois. AlKhafaji mentioned working on a project that involved retrofitting old buildings to convert them into hospitals to help COVID-19 patients.
Chow was intrigued.
“That seemed like something I wanted to be a part of, doing work to help people,” the Maryland native said. “I didn't really feel my work was helping people as much as it could have been.”
AlKhafaji’s experiences solidified Chow’s desire to work in an organization like USACE, whose projects make serving the public and applying professional skills and expertise, not only possible but inevitable.
With just more than a year with USACE behind her, Chow's transition from private industry to public service includes learning ‘government lingo’ and varied government-specific processes and procedures, while adjusting to her new role that expands on her management, communication and organization skills.
Chow’s colleagues, Brian Hart, Jaclynn Miller and Susan Weber, describe her impact on team morale and efforts as impactful and praise her positive outlook.
Hart, chief of operations of the Technical Support Branch commended Chow’s single-minded focus on developing relationships with partners, understanding customers’ needs and appreciating where those needs fit in the bigger picture.
While Miller, a mechanical engineer in the district’s project support section of its Operations Division, zeroed in on Chow’s caring attitude toward her colleagues, Weber, a program analyst with the management support section described Chow’s ability to absorb idiosyncrasies of budget formulation and execution, as inspiring.
In addition to being involved in projects that fulfill her, Chow is a member of a local Salsa dance team where she enjoys learning new dance steps and routines and how to be a better communicator. When not dancing, she is outdoors in Greater Seattle where the mountains and trails lend themselves to her interests in hiking and snowshoeing.
Chow said she would recommend the Corps to anyone seeking employment that combines passion with purpose.
“If they wanted to find work that was meaningful to them and an organization that is supportive of their professional and personal goals and values them as a person, I would highly recommend the Army Corps,” Chow said. You’re never pigeonholed into one specific role…. If you start seeing other possibilities or interests, everyone around you is extremely supportive of your trying it out, seeing if you like it and finding the perfect fit for you.”
(Special thanks to Jason Anderson who contributed to this story)
The Army Corps of Engineers is a world-wide organization that serves our nation’s military and civilian engineering needs. The Seattle District is one of five districts in the Northwestern Division, and there are nine divisions spanning the U.S. and overseas. We are involved in protecting our waterways, producing clean hydroelectric power, flood and disaster response, and helping our local salmon population. Our workforce incorporates a wide variety of professional, technical, skilled, and administrative support positions in engineering, project management, science, trades, and crafts. Specific engineering disciplines include civil, mechanical, electrical and hydraulics. Scientist positions include geologists, hydrologists, biologists, environmental resources specialists and archeologists.