Fixing Bikes, Making Friends, and Finding My Path

My name is Meg Davis, and I am originally from Andover, Massachusetts (just north of Boston!). I was born in California, so I grew up hearing stories of the west coast. When I got into UC Davis, the academic resources and proximity to fun places like Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Sacramento — as well as the abundance of bikes on campus — made my decision easy.

 

Moving all my stuff to California seemed like a daunting task, but in the end, it all went smoothly. I got pretty homesick at times, as I was not only living away from my family, but far away. Luckily I had a group of friends from the res halls that helped make the transition easier. We met the first weekend on campus, playing an impromptu game of frisbee with the first group of people we could get to agree to play.

A Major to Start My Career

During my time at Davis, I studied environmental engineering. I ended up changing my major twice, however, as my pre-nursing focus turned into sustainable food systems, which in turn somehow spit me into environmental engineering in my third year. My advisors and professors helped me avoid five years of out-of-state tuition by still meeting all the engineering requirements I needed to graduate in four years as part of the Class of 2021.

Now I am a staff engineer for AECOM, an engineering consulting firm. I am based at their Santa Maria office (California’s central coast), but travel often to support the work my team does and perform on-site evaluations. We write regulatory-driven documents aiding Air National Guard installations in environmental compliance across the United States. When I'm at my home base in San Luis Obispo, I help installations keep up with environmental requirements through online tools. As a former UC Davis bicycle race team member and officer (Go Ags!), most days you’ll also find me riding my bike(s) in the amazing natural scenery of the central coast.

Gaining Skills with an On-Campus Job

During my time at Davis, I was able to get the engineering and scientific background needed to understand what I am doing now in my career. I also learned some incredible skills through my campus job as both inventory manager and bike mechanic at the ASUCD Bike Barn. While my classes provided a robust academic base, the Bike Barn gave me a multitude of other skills, making me a more enticing candidate immediately upon graduation.

These skills included people management, good customer/client service, how to work as an individual toward a larger team effort and, of course, the importance of getting my hands dirty (which really comes in handy for field work!).

The people I worked with at the Bike Barn represented a healthy cross-section of the larger Davis community, as no bike experience is needed to learn to be a mechanic. They also became some of my best friends, which gave me a great insight for future jobs — it is so much easier to do your job well if your coworkers are also your friends. When it came time to accept an offer from AECOM, I knew I wanted a team that valued the compatibility of the team socially as well as professionally.

  

Being a bike mechanic also provided the experience needed to help me develop as a woman in STEM. My fellow femme mechanics and I developed “Girl Barn,” a legacy of women supporting each other as mechanics, students and professionals at the Bike Barn. The founding class adamantly pushed us to take on leadership roles, speak up for ourselves and break the norm. We even had a Cal Aggie article written about us! To this day, alumni are involved in the group and continue to support the current class of women. 

Bike Barn Experience Boosted My Job Applications

This specific experience of managing and working in a traditionally male-dominated industry was a huge part of landing my current position as an engineer. If there is one thing I wish every UC Davis student could experience, it is working at the Bike Barn.  [Editor's note: Get more info about student jobs and internships available at UC Davis.] Having that management experience behind me as I entered my field was a major asset, even if it wasn’t 100 percent industry job experience.

 

As I interviewed for positions as an environmental engineer, it wasn’t my degree or GPA that people wanted to hear about. They wanted to hear about the Bike Barn. UC Davis is known for providing an incredible academic baseline for its students to build on, and prospective employers know that. But my time as an ASUCD employee at the Bike Barn was a rare experience — the unique chance to be a manager and help run a business is an incredible opportunity that I encourage all students to take advantage of. On top of pocketing some incredible work experience that can set you apart from the crowd, you could also meet and work with some of your best friends.

Take advantage of living in a bike-friendly city, too! You never know where Davis will take you, but a place where you can still ride home from work every day with your friends and coworkers is hard to come by.

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