SAVANNAH, Ga. - Kate Dixon is a Savannah native so it is natural after getting her degree in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, she signed on with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District, working her way up to her current position as the Chief of Design Branch.
Her interest in engineering was something that developed out of her enjoyment of math and science, one that progressed into a curiosity for engineering and was encouraged by her parents. Dixon said she found it funny considering they majored in art history, but they also wanted her to do something she could develop into a career.
“I like trying to figure out how all the pieces went together,” said Dixon. “I like the coordination with the other disciplines, architectural, electrical, and being able to put it on paper and then going out and seeing ‘Hey, that's something I designed or something I had a major part in producing.’”
Dixon said one reason she enjoys working for the Army Corps of Engineers is because the organization affords her the opportunities to work on a variety of unique projects that aren’t profit-driven like they are in the private sector.
“At the end of the day, we're supporting either the community, through our civil works projects, or the military,” said Dixon. “We primarily do military construction but we also have the opportunity to work with some of the dam safety programs and some of the harbor deepening stuff. That's not something you get to do in the outside world. It’s unique to the Corps of Engineers.”
Among her recent and proudest projects, which are all located throughout Georgia, are the Advanced Battle Management System Building at Robins Air Force Base; a five-story barracks at Fort Gordon; an 11-story air traffic control tower at Fort Benning; and a parachute-rigging facility and drying tower at Hunter Army Airfield.
Dixon said she found the ABMS building at Robins particularly interesting because it was a technically complicated project and it was different from her usual work, and although it was more of a challenge, she appreciated how everyone was able to further develop their skills. She’s also proud of the work she did with the Gordon barracks, currently under construction, knowing she had helped give soldiers a new up-to-code, up-to-standards facility to spend their time while training was rewarding.
Dixon said leading the design branch can be challenging because they’re always up against a budget and schedule in the mission, but she likes having the opportunity to help where she can. She enjoys the interactions she has with different people in the design branch and the project management and construction divisions because it allows her to make things better and produce a good product everyone can be proud of.
Her regular day often times involves new work and researching to see if that's something they have the resources to accomplish, which requires a lot of internal coordination.
“I'm always working with the technical team leads to figure out our status on projects if we've got any roadblocks, if we have any concerns, if things are going well,” said Dixon. “I work pretty closely with all the section chiefs to maintain all of our staffing, making sure we're staffed at the appropriate levels, trying to hire the best we can.”
Dixon said she knows she’s been fortunate in developing her career as an engineering and was at the right place at the right time which allowed her to progress the way she has, but she knows not every woman has had the same opportunities.
“The further I develop into my career, the more I realize how often women are not encouraged to go into an engineering and scientific field still,” said Dixon. “I never really got that growing up but I know some people do. It means a lot to me to be able to show people women can succeed in engineering.”
Dixon has encouraging words for those who are interested in getting into engineering.
“Go for it,” she said. “If you can find a mentor. I've been lucky enough to have some great ones in my career, people who are encouraging. I think it’s important having a community to support you. But go for it. If something's challenging, just try it. See if it works out. I think it's a great idea for people to go into engineering. It's something I've enjoyed over the years.”