Lexie Plocher is a structural engineer in CMT’s Springfield, IL, office. She holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Purdue University and a master’s in structural engineering from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Lexie interned with CMT in the summers of 2018-2021, gaining valuable industry experience with cost estimates, AutoCAD, concrete design, and steel structure design.
How did you first become interested in civil engineering?
Having grown up across the street from my dad’s construction company, I was exposed to engineering early on. I was able to see the work that went on, particularly on the construction side of the industry, whenever I would stop by after school.
Then, in high school, I enjoyed math and later took Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes. PLTW courses focus on STEM and project-based learning. Throughout that experience, I became fairly certain that engineering was going to be a good fit for me.
When I got to Purdue University, I was in the First-Year Engineering (FYE) program, and I was introduced to several disciplines before I found my favorite. After enjoying my statics class, I narrowed my interests down to structural engineering.
What drew you to water resources work?
My first internship was at my dad’s construction company, and I worked in the field that summer on a Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) job. I got to see this huge tank, and I was blown away by how massive the structure was in person. The experience was nothing I had ever been exposed to on paper. I became very excited about the kinds of projects going on in water resources, and the next summer, I was offered an internship with CMT’s Water Resources team.
Since then, I have really liked my role at the firm, especially because my job allows me to help the community. I often think about the importance of what we do in water resources – without us, communities may not have access to water. It’s a nice, rewarding feeling knowing that we’re helping make that possible.
What was your CMT internship experience like?
I interned with CMT for three summers while enrolled at Purdue. I really liked being able to apply what I was learning in my design classes to real life. It helped me grow as an engineer, getting to work on projects from start to finish with my knowledge from school in coordination with this new hands-on experience. Putting it all into practice was valuable for me to grow into my full-time role.
During my internship, I also got to work with all different types of materials, including concrete, steel, wood, and masonry – I wasn’t pigeonholed into one certain thing. I was also able to work with structural design and analysis programs that I didn’t have access to in school, like RISA and Tekla Tedds. I also improved my skills in Revit and AutoCAD.
What motivated you to pursue your master’s in structural engineering?
While I was interning at CMT, I was encouraged by my supervisor, Jeff Large, PE, SE, to obtain my master’s degree in structural engineering. Jeff advised me to pursue this degree to enhance my preparation for the structural engineering exam required to obtain my Structural Engineer (SE) license. I plan to take the exam in the future, so I was glad to have received that mentorship to help my career long-term.
What aspects of CMT’s workplace culture do you appreciate most?
Since I was an intern, Christy Crites, PE, ENV SP, has been a great mentor and role model to me. She encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and try different things. I appreciate that she advocates for me to speak up if I have an interest in a certain type of project. Christy has been a big supporter of my growth at the firm.
My other mentor, Jeff Large, has taught me pretty much everything I know about CMT and structural engineering. I’m also happy he gave me the push I needed to get my master’s degree.
Overall, every person I come across is so genuine and friendly that I never feel uncomfortable asking a question. The people at CMT want you to learn and do your best, and it is evident in how they treat each other. I like walking into a room and getting a smile and greeting back in return – it makes CMT a very nice place to work.