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Griselda Gonzales PE on “It’s Not How You Start but How You Finish”

Griselda Gonzales PE on “It’s Not How You Start but How You Finish”

Griselda Gonzales PE is the Principal Engineer at the Goodman Corporation (TGC) in Houston, TX. She has been extremely active in ASCE, wearing many hats along the way. She is currently the Texas Section’s Vice President for Professional Affairs Elect and Committee Chair for the Houston Chapter of ASCE’s Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI). She founded the Houston’s T&DI Chapter and has served on the CECON Planning Committee since 2017. She continues to stay active on various ASCE committees. For her service to others she was recently honored with the Texas Section’s 2019 Service to People Award at the 2019 CECON Banquet!

Griselda’s service predates and extends beyond ASCE. Her volunteerism has included supporting the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), Habitat for Humanity, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers of San Antonio (SHPE), Rebuild Houston, local food bank service, serving on the City of Sugar Land’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, Committee Chair for the Boy Scouts of America, and serving her church. All this while being the mother of four children!

This is a very impressive list of professional and philanthropic accomplishments, but it’s not surprising to those of us that know how driven, outgoing, and compassionate Griselda is. However, Griselda’s life story becomes even more inspiring when you consider how her journey and where she is today was shaped by a number of life experiences, including becoming a mother before the age of sixteen.

Griselda grew up in the westside of San Antonio in a single-parent household with her mother and two brothers. She was a gifted and talented student throughout elementary and middle school, excelling in mathematics and science.

In high school, she met a young man named Ruben in her freshman English class whom she had a crush on and attempted only talking to once. Ruben was oblivious of her crush on him and appeared to be uninterested in her at the time. When Ruben moved to a different high school across town, Griselda thought she would never see him again…until she spotted him at a dance club. To Griselda’s surprise, Ruben did remember her from that English class, and he asked her to dance. After that night, their romance grew as Ruben pursued Griselda even though they went to different high schools. From there, life accelerated quickly for the two of them: they were married by the end of their freshman year and Griselda gave birth to their son before the end of their sophomore year.

This would be a daunting situation for anyone, but Griselda was able to continue high school with help from the Harlandale ISD Teenage Parent Program (TAPP). She learned to balance schoolwork and caring for her child through the rest of high school and was involved in campaigns that brought awareness to teenage pregnancy. Through all of this, she was constantly driven to complete her education, even beyond high school, to set a different path for herself and her family.

After graduating from high school, Griselda enrolled in the architecture program at UTSA, but had to withdraw due to financial concerns and the arrival of her second child a year later. To help in supporting her growing family, she decided a two-year Associates of Applied Science in Computer Aided Drafting and Design from San Antonio College would be a more efficient and economical opportunity to work and gain experience in architecture. She didn’t realize it at first, but it was in this degree program when she discovered her passion for engineering. She excelled in her classes became a Phi Theta Kappa member, actively participating in the Mexican American Engineers and Scientist Society (MAES) during her college years. Upon receiving her associate’s degree, she was hired as a drafter for a structural engineering firm, Accutech Consultants, in San Antonio. It was there she was mentored by a Hispanic male engineer, the first she ever met, who encouraged her to continue her education and return to school for her bachelor’s degree. “You’re too smart,” he told Griselda. “You’re never going to be happy until you get a bachelor’s degree.” The lack of a degree had limitations and ceilings, and he believed she could do more.  

Griselda took this advice to heart and decided she would return to UTSA to pursue a degree in civil engineering. However, she had to wait a little while to start on this because her third child was not in grade school yet and her husband was about to complete his bachelor’s in nursing from UTHSC. Fast forward four years to 2002, Griselda was now ready to re-enroll at UTSA full time with her husband now able to support the family financially with his nursing career. As the main caregiver for her children, she would attend her civil engineering classes and study while her three children were in school during the day. She took 12 hours each spring and fall semester and 6 hours during the summer semester. She recalls late nights and challenging days, but she was steadfast to graduate with her civil engineering degree – relying on her faith to get her through the tough years.

She graduated in May 2005 from UTSA with a bachelor’s in civil engineering and gave birth to her fourth child the following October – a very special graduation gift! She was quickly hired by Kimley-Horn Associates following graduation due to her CAD expereince. She was the first EIT in the new San Antonio office and worked on residential and commercial land development projects. When the economy took a nosedive in 2008, she found work with Klotz Associates and began her public works experience.  She worked on several public projects from roadways and drainage to water and wastewater planning studies. She moved to Houston in 2013 and remained with Klotz until 2014 when she then decided to accept a position at EHRA doing public works and land development projects. She felt she would retire at EHRA, but opportunity and circumstances led her to TGC in 2018. She was hired to lead and grow the civil engineering department, which did not exist prior to her arrival. She has since registered the firm with the TBPE as the licensed professional engineer of the firm.

Griselda tells us that her journey is one of determination, perseverance, and commitment – a lifetime of character building and a testament of her faith in God. Remember that son she gave birth to at 15 years of age? Well he went on to be the valedictorian of his high school class in 2009, graduated from Harvard with an Bachelor’s degree in 2013, and in 2018 earned his PhD from UC Berkeley in Mechanical Engineering. “It’s not how you start, but how you finish,” says Griselda!

When asked about the big picture message she wanted to communicate with her story, Griselda said the following:

“I would say my story is about learning from the choices we make, perseverance, hope and the goodness of God. The choices we make, good or bad, right or wrong, don’t define you – they are opportunities for growth if we can learn from them. Believe in yourself to accomplish the things you can imagine and have faith for the impossible and for what you can’t see. We all need hope and encouragement. Take the time to encourage and lift others up. You never know what someone is going through, and your words can give hope and life to someone. Finally, don’t judge or mistreat people. You never know who they will become in the future.”

Want to get to know Griselda more? Check out her “Get to Know TexASCE” feature from last month here, or find her at any of the upcoming ASCE Texas Section events!