Margaret (Mara) Tsudis ̕'10 ChE

Project Manager, Sevan Multi-Site Solutions

 

Mara Tsudis (center), College of Engineering Student Council event.
Mara Tsudis (center), College of Engineering Student Council event.

Q: What has been your career path since graduation from Villanova?

A: After Villanova I accepted a job at Ambitech Engineering working as an instrumentation and controls engineer. I worked mainly specifying instruments like control valves, pressure and temperature control, and safety systems for oil refineries. I enjoyed learning the details, but constantly wondered what happened in the process outside of the instruments that I was working on. I was curious about how the other engineering disciplines—civil, electrical, and mechanical—came together to make the refinery work.

I switched jobs internally and started working as a project engineer. In this role, I was finally able to see how all of the disciplines came together. I coordinated all of the pieces of the puzzle and made sure that everyone had what they needed from the other departments. I had the opportunity to travel to California to assist with a large project onsite at a refinery for a year and a half in a similar role. It was fascinating to be around such large equipment and really see what we were designing come to life. After my contract was complete I decided to pursue a new opportunity to stay in Los Angeles. Now, I am a project manager working with large retail clients in the Southern California Area. 

Mara, on a job site in her hydrofluoric acid alkylation gear.
Mara, on a job site in her hydrofluoric acid alkylation gear.

Q: Tell us about your current position:

A: My current position has taken me into the world of project management. My client is renovating 700 restaurants in Southern California in the next two years and my company is providing project and construction management assistance for the duration of the project. I work with the architects, engineers, general contractors, and permitting, and really enjoy the opportunity to interact with so many different people. It’s a challenge to keep up with the pace, but I'm excited to have a truly huge project under my belt and look forward to whatever comes next.

Q: What has been the highlight of your career to date?

A: One highlight was being onsite in a refinery and seeing all of the equipment and processes that we were working on in real time. I had the opportunity to go through a lot of different safety training sessions for the various units that I was working in. For example, the hydrofluoric acid unit is incredibly dangerous, but vital to the refinery process. When you go in, you need to wear this giant spacesuit-like outfit to protect yourself from the harmful acid. It was always exciting to be in the units, climbing through and learning about the equipment while remembering your training and staying safe. 

Q: How did your Villanova education contribute to your success?

A: It is interesting that some of the most useful things that I learned at Villanova were through my leadership opportunities and extracurricular activities. Obviously my technical education was necessary to be successful in any professional job, but I find that the other skills that I gained have kept me ahead of the game. Villanova fosters students who are able to speak and present themselves well, who can interact with anyone, and who are willing to put in extra effort. I am constantly thankful that Villanova and my amazing mentors helped me developed those skill sets.  

Q: What do you know now that you wish you knew then (as a college student or new graduate)?

A: An important aspect of industry that is stressed in school, but didn't quite click for me until I was out in the world was NETWORKING. It is incredibly important to develop your professional network because the most effective way to find new job opportunities is through people that you know. This means getting to know people within your own company who have a different position, keeping in touch with your Villanova classmates, and especially meeting new people through professional development.

Q: What one piece of advice would you give to the next generation of female engineers?

A: Stick with it! I get a lot of respect because of my degree and I am always proud to talk about it and say that I went to Villanova. Even if you think that you may not want to have a very technical career, an engineering degree and the critical thinking skills that you develop in the process are irreplaceable. I have been a more effective project manager and engineer because of the problem solving qualities woven through the entire engineering curriculum.