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Amy Milanes

Civil engineer, built treehouses

Current job: Building and Safety Engineer for the County of Los Angeles

What experiences as a kid led you to your career today?

We were on vacation, and my older brother and his friends built a fort in a tree. They thought it would be a really good idea to use a wrought iron fence spanned between two trees. I think I was about 6 or 7. My brother was about 4 and a half years older and I wanted to go up in the treehouse.

They didn’t tell me they’d only connected three parts of the fence to the trees and that I shouldn’t go across. I crawled across and it flipped and the wrought iron fence almost landed on top of me. I landed in a lot of poison ivy.

My dad built a tree fort in our backyard. I’ve always loved building. I loved hammering, making something, doing something outside. I helped him build the tree fort and that was a lot of fun. That one is still up there in our tree. That one lasted forever.

Who was your biggest influence?

My dad is actually been my biggest influence. He didn’t go to a day of college in his life, but he’s by far the best in his field in what he does. He’s a mechanic. He did dyno testing of the Formula One engines. He can listen to an engine and know exactly what’s wrong. He didn’t allow not having an education to hinder him. He always, always encouraged me to do what I wanted and strive to be the best I could be and do what I wanted to do.

What advice or information would you give to children who might want to enter into a STEM profession?

Do what you love. Focus on what you really excel at and find something that suits you. I would just encourage kids to keep on trying. Figure out what you really like. See how you can fit it into your life and just try to enjoy every moment of it because it really is just a job, but you should enjoy what you do so you don’t have to dread going to work every day. Figure out how your interests can further your enjoyment of life–not just what can make the most money, but what makes me happy and saves time and gets done what needs to be done.