Home Alumni We Profiles Nancy P. Ferrell

Nancy P. Ferrell

Civil Engineering, Class of 1980
Patrell Engineering INC.

"If you ACT enthusiastic, you will BE enthusiastic - Anonymous"

I was a student at BYU in the mid to late 1970s.  There were very few women in the Civil Engineering Department or the Engineering College as a whole back then.  We often felt like hand cart pioneers.  But, those were wonderful days and they truly prepared me for success in a male dominated field!  Choosing engineering as my college major has brought me an amazing life that has exceeded anything that I could have imagined when I graduated from BYU in 1980! 


I met my husband in the mechanics of materials lab.  He was the lab instructor.  We have raised four wonderful children who have all graduated from BYU with engineering degrees, (three of them master's degrees, the black sheep will soon be entering MBA school).  Right after graduation, I began my career as a structural engineer for a very large international design firm in Los Angeles.  I worked there for three years and then took the PE exam.  I was six months pregnant with our first child when I took the test.  When Monica was born, I resigned from my job and stayed at home to begin my family.  I started my own structural design business and soon had plenty of work designing warehouses and commercial buildings.  My husband eventually left his job to join me and we expanded our business.  We built a suite of offices connected to our home and began to build our reputation in the niche field of water-park and theme park theming and aquatic design. 


Our children have grown up in a work/life balanced home.  Not always perfectly accomplished, but not for the lack of trying!!  They spent much more time with their father than most of their peers.  They have been around engineering their entire lives.  I guess that might be why they all decided to pursue an engineering career themselves (though we certainly encouraged them to consider other options!). 


As I have listened and encouraged my sons and daughters through their engineering education over a 10 year period, I have found the following to be true: 

  1. Don’t let your core math and physics classes shake your confidence.  The principles from these classes that you really need to know will all come together for you later in your engineering classes. 
  2. Don’t panic when you struggle or bomb a test.  Look for any and every point from homework and labs to even it out.  It somehow all works out in the end.
  3.  Use all of the assistance resources available for each of your classes.  Get to know your professors well!  Use the help labs and graduate assistants that are there to help you.  Learn how to network and be connected.  Do not be shy about this. 
  4. You were smart enough and brave enough to choose this major!  You will be smart enough and brave enough to finish if you just keep going!! 
  5. Don’t worry about your future work / life balance.  With modern technology, you have an infinite variety of possibilities and choices.  You and your eternal partner will find the combination that is right for you and your family.
  6. You are an amazing woman, in a challenging and worthwhile field.  Your engineering education at BYU will prepare you to be the BEST mother and citizen of the world that you can be!