#BreakTheBias Series: Fernanda Carneiro

Spotlight Series:

A Chat with Fernanda Carneiro


Fernanda Carneiro, member of DG's Sustainability group and graduate of the Global Leadership & Development Trainee Program, talks to us about sustainability and what enticed her to a career in engineering.

1. Hi Fernanda, thanks for chatting with us today. Why don't you kick us off by telling us a little about what brought you to engineering?

I was in 10th grade when I first heard about environmental engineering, and I knew right away it was the career for me. It allows me to combine some of my passions: math, science, being outdoors, and connecting to the nature. The idea of building a world that can be developed and still respect environmental aspects, that are crucial for the survival of the planet, has always attracted me.

"The food and beverage industry is a huge opportunity... it's an area with a great deal of room that's striving to be more sustainable."

2. So you've known you wanted to do this for a long time! How did you get into food and beverage?

While in university, I had the chance to experiment with different areas of engineering, and one of the most significant experiences I had was working with Engineers Without Borders. I had the opportunity to work alongside other disciplines, doing work that was causing a positive impact in the city and surrounding communities nearby my city in Brazil. At first, I wasn’t sure in which area of environmental engineering I'd like to go into, but after graduating and getting into Dennis Group, I saw the food and beverage industry as a huge opportunity. It's an area with a great deal of room that is striving to be more sustainable.

3. What is it about sustainability that draws you?

Ever since I started college, I've heard that environmental engineering is the profession of the future, that sustainability is not a trend, and it is here to stay. Twelve years have gone by, and I still hear the same things.

And now, working on the food and beverage industry, I am seeing more and more clients coming to us with requests to make their process more sustainable and efficient. What can they do to use less water? Can it be reused? What changes can they make in the process to consume less energy? Are there ways to do things differently and reduce their carbon emissions? Finding those answers is a challenge! 

4. What's going on in the world of sustainability right now?

Carbon reduction has been one of the biggest points of interest for our clients. Companies have been developing more robust programs and targets for carbon reduction, and now they're transitioning from the planning stage to action. Changing their matrix of energy to a more sustainable option combining solar, wind, and biogas to the more traditional ones are some of the options our clients have been using.

Water and energy efficiencies are other frequent topics in discussions about sustainability. Being able to use our resources in a more strategic way is better not only for the environment but also for the project's finances. Less water used means less chemical treatment required, less wastewater generated, and less money spent.

"Speak up. Believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you what you’re capable of or where you belong."

5. How can Dennis Group help our clients with their sustainability initiatives?

There are limitless ways of how our design can help our clients with their sustainability initiatives. And it’s not only up to the sustainability department to help them on that, but for the whole company. We must, while doing our design, think and explore different ways of doing things, achieving the required results, while consuming less resources.

Each stage of our projects presents opportunities for improvement. When choosing the site location, we can evaluate ones with less impact on their surroundings, like areas that have already been previously developed. Architects can specify materials that will have lower impact on VOC emissions. Civil engineers can develop site layouts to enhance water infiltration. Process engineers can develop CIP systems that will use recovered water on the process. Mechanical engineers can use heat wasted in air compressors to pre-heat water that will go into a boiler. Electrical engineers can work on efficient lighting systems, Controls can help reduce the energy usage by the use of VFDs in motors. Environmental engineers can develop reuse water treatment systems. And the list goes on. This is the time to use our curiosity, creativity, and knowledge to think outside the box and bring solutions to our clients that will help them achieve their goals. The sustainability team is here to help everyone who wants to join us in this mission!

6. What brought you to Dennis Group?

I discovered Dennis Group through the Leadership and Engineering Development (LED) Program. It was Dennis Group's second year in Brazil, and the company was not well known among engineers there. I researched and studied the company before my interviews, and as I discovered more and more about it I realized it would be an amazing place to start and develop my career as an engineer. It's a company whose values are aligned with mine, with a focus on always doing what is right for the project and prioritizing our clients’ goals.

7. Have you had any challenges or frustrations as a woman in the industry?

Unfortunately – as with any woman in engineering, I believe – yes. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a huge or clear act or situation. It's in the small details, on the daily routine that we face all these frustrations. Being the only woman in a meeting, not seeing enough women in leadership positions, having to worry about safety when traveling alone, not being heard or always having to prove yourself to have your opinion taken into consideration – these are all examples of things I’ve experienced and to which my colleagues can relate.

I remember one time, during my first year at Dennis Group, I was on a jobsite in the US as a Construction Manager.  I was young, foreign, and a woman, and dealing with some of the contractors was challenging. Gaining their respect wasn’t easy, but with time, hard work, and the support of my coworkers I overcame the situation.

"I come from a family of strong women, who taught me that I am capable of conquering anything I set my mind to."

8. Do you have any female role models you look up to, either in the industry or outside?

I come from a family of strong women, who taught me that I am capable of conquering anything I set my mind to. My Grandma had eight daughters among her twelve children. Each one, especially my mom, showed me that I can build my career in any way I want. I could be a talented dressmaker making my own family’s clothes, I could be a bank manager, a lawyer, work at city hall, I could be a dentist and have my own practice. I could manage bank sponsorships programs and huge events, or I could open my own business.

I ended up being an engineer. And with my eleven female cousins and my sister, I have many examples of strong, independent, and fantastic women to look up to.

9. What are your thoughts on the new Women@DG ERG that’s kicking off? Do you have any particular hopes for it?

I am really excited about it. It will be good to have a safe place to discuss and bring ideas to improve and enhance women's participation in every level on the company. Having people from different backgrounds, locations, and experiences will be a good opportunity to identify initiatives that will help not only attract more women to our company, but also develop the ones who are already on our team.

10. What advice do you have for women entering the engineering industry?

Speak up. Believe in yourself, and don’t let anyone tell you, what you’re capable of, or where you belong. If engineering is something you’re passionate about, go for it, study hard, get involved, and don’t be afraid to apply for the positions you want. Just because, today, most of those positions are occupied by men, it doesn’t mean you can’t fight for it too.

11. The theme for International Women's Day this year was #BreakTheBias. What does that mean to you?

It means that a more diverse and inclusive environment won’t happen if we keep doing things the way it has always been done. It won’t be easy, it won’t be simple, but we must act on it, and we must do it now.

"I know we still have a long way to go but I love being part of the change. I'm looking forward to what comes next."

12. Thanks for this great chat, Fernanda! Before we sign off, what are your hopes for the future of sustainability?

I know we still have a long way to go but I love being part of that change. I'm looking forward to what comes next.

Want to know how Dennis Group can help you with your sustainability plans?