By Leslie Bueno
Quitting your full-time job to move to another country where the language is unknown to you might seem reckless, but Sarah Schweitzer (BSCE 2017) thought differently. With the support of friends and family, Schweitzer decided to continue her career in Hamburg, Germany.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 2017, Schweitzer began her career as a civil engineer at a commercial-based construction company called HGC Construction. It was not long after working there that she was given the opportunity to move to Germany for a year through the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange Program. There, she was able to attend the University of Hamburg as a guest student and also intern with an offshore wind farm called Merkur.
During the final month of her internship, she found what is now her current job as an operations and maintenance engineer with PEAK Wind in Boston, Massachusetts.
Some of Schweitzer’s responsibilities include ensuring the wind farm, once constructed, is successfully maintained over its design life, which is about 25-30 years. Though this preparation covers a lot of different aspects of the wind farm, her main focus includes ensuring the onshore infrastructure will be in place to transport technicians and spare parts from land to offshore.
“Much of what I do pertains to preparedness once the wind farm is constructed. There is a lot of planning scheduled and unscheduled maintenance activities to ensure minimal downtimes and therefore minimal production loss.”
Before Schweitzer’s engineering career, she entered the College of Engineering unsure of which path she wanted to pursue. She later found that civil engineering was perfect for her after talking to a UK professor who told her that if she enjoyed the social aspect of working on a team, civil engineering was more likely the best route for her.
“Civil engineering is tangible. I love that you build something you are able to admire and see others benefit from it. I loved the idea that civil engineers work in teams and you are in constant communication. I love that we have a beginning and an end to the projects we work on.”
Schweitzer's favorite part of working in the offshore industry is how diverse the people are and the complexity of an offshore wind project.
“It takes a truly complex and high-functioning team with a variety of expertise to complete such a large-scale infrastructure investment project such as an offshore wind farm. It’s incredible to watch the passion and intelligence of the people I am fortunate to work with on a daily basis. You can’t help but be inspired to continue to work harder even when there are challenges.”
Schweitzer encourages students to push themselves out of their comfort zone to try new things. She also encourages students to study abroad and to take internship opportunities when they can.
“Be your own biggest advocate. Be your own biggest fan. Continue to work to open doors for yourself. There are so many opportunities to begin to find what path you want to take in your engineering career and there is no better way to get a realistic view than interning.”