In our ongoing series of profiles on industry movers and shakers, we spoke with electrical engineer Patreace Thornton to learn about her pathway into the profession.

Some people know from the time they are small children and others stumble into it. How did you discover you wanted to be an engineer?

I was always interested in figuring out how things worked and how they are put together when I was young. I was the one in the house that everyone yelled for when something broke because they just knew I would be able to fix it. While in school, I really enjoyed math and one of my teachers in middle school suggested I apply for the Engineering Specialty Center at Highland Springs High School. And the rest is history as they say.

There are many ways to practice in the profession. What is your favorite part of your job?

I enjoy working with people, co-workers, and external clients. I like figuring out project problems and working together to find solutions. I especially enjoy my job at Mason & Hanger due to the experiences I’ve been able to have traveling. I get to see places that are not necessarily on a vacation list. Traveling is the ultimate learning experience for me.

Mission Tomorrow photograph
Mission Tomorrow is the Richmond region’s interactive career exploration event. Patreace Thornton works with a potential future engineer.

What surprised you most about becoming an engineer?

I was surprised to find out that not all engineers are made the same — but communication is key for all.  Being able to communicate effectively is important in consulting and not just the technical language. It can be a real art form talking to clients.

If you had to give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

You don’t have to do it all, do what you can to the best of your ability. It will all work out the way it’s supposed to.