People Skills, Engineering Expertise Help Meg Pirkle Build Long Career at GDOT
By Allison Floyd
Margaret “Meg” Pirkle’s interest in making people’s lives better started long before she became the first female Chief Engineer of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).
As a child in South Florida, she had an early interest in problem solving and pondered a career in medicine. In college, she explored potential careers in engineering at Vanderbilt University and choose a path in civil engineering; she followed that road to Georgia, where she went to work at GDOT and completed a master’s degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
For three decades, she’s worked her way up the ranks at GDOT, perfecting those early problem-solving skills and applying her knowledge to make everyday life run smoother for the 10 million people who call Georgia home. She stepped into the Chief Engineer job four years ago, taking over for Russell McMurry, who became GDOT Commissioner.
“I know I won’t be the last female Chief Engineer, for sure. It didn’t really resonate with me that this is a big milestone because I am a woman, but it is a big milestone because it’s a lot of responsibility,” Pirkle said as she took the job. “It is a great position and a real honor to be given this responsibility.”
FINDING THE RIGHT PATH
Pirkle always enjoyed math and science, and knew she wanted to go into a STEM field. She thought herself too squeamish for medicine, and as an undergrad at Vanderbilt, first chose to major in electrical engineering.
“I was two years in and having these labs where you looked at these really tiny digital circuit boards. I just realized that it was not the career for me. It seemed like a tiny world,” she says.
“So, I went to see the dean of engineering at Vanderbilt and talked about some of the different careers. He sparked my interest in what civil engineering offers,” Pirkle says. “No matter what specific job you do, if you work in civil engineering, you are making people’s lives better. You are solving problems that we all have to deal with every day.”