By Lindsey Brackett, KEDF/KEDC Intern
When most young kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, they give answers such as a doctor, a teacher or a police officer. Lucky for Jeannie Bertolaccini, she was only in 7th grade when she found her passion for drafting and architecture. Today, Jeannie is an architect and LEED Green Associate at Ordiz Melby Architects, Inc., a member of the American Institute of Architects. Ordiz Melby primarily designs schools and educational buildings and Jeannie’s expertise is in –the commercial and healthcare facilities arena.
Working in a mainly male dominated field of work, Jeannie finds great importance in encouraging young girls interested in areas of STEM to keep their heads high and to pursue their dream careers
Born and raised in Bakersfield, Jeannie attended Jefferson Elementary, Washington Middle and East High. After graduating high school, Jeannie attended a technical design school in Phoenix, Arizona by the name of National Education Center – Drafting Division. The youngest of 4 children raised by a single mom, Jeannie saw this as an amazing opportunity to extend her knowledge in a field of study she was most passionate about. At the age of 17, she moved to Phoenix to attend school and then later, at the age of 21, she headed back to her home of Kern County where she met her future husband at a friend’s wedding.
“Funny enough, it was actually the Brady Bunch that sparked my interest in drafting,” Jeannie said. “You had all the kids and their dad, Mike, who was an architect. I thought ‘Hey, that seems pretty cool.’” This led Jeannie to enroll in a drafting class at Washington Middle School.She was the only girl in the class. In fact, all through 8th grade and high school, she continued to be the only girl in her drafting classes but it never really had bothered her. In fact, being the only girl in drafting classes would merely foreshadow the circumstances she would face in the workforce.
In addition to her work at Ordiz Melby, Jeannie is a mentor to young students at Independence High School in their Energy and Utilities Academy, where she is able to work hands on with 12 sophomore girls interested in careers in the energy or utilities industries. She will continue to mentor them all the way through their senior year. Along with this, Jeannie also recently visited four drafting classes at East High and was able to tell them about her journey to her current position. Out of all four drafting classes, there were only three girls enrolled. “It felt really good to talk to young people and tell them my story so I can connect with a few of them,” Jeannie said. “She also noted that the girls enjoyed hearing that she excelled at the program.
Working in a male-dominated area of work doesn’t seem to bother Jeannie at all, and there are times when it may be an advantage.. “Most of the women and wives whose houses I worked on appreciated a female point of view,” she said. “Men usually don’t think of storage space or how a nicely a kitchen could be designed.” She believes that women working in male-dominated areas offers a good balance to the “battle of power” men sometimes face with each other.
Jeannie believes that encouraging young women to pursue STEM related careers is extremely important in order to diversify the playing field. “Employers understand that there is a shortage of women in STEM-driven areas. Take it to your advantage, make yourself stand out and show them that you can see things from a different perspective,” she suggests.
Jeannie Bertolaccini is a prime example of someone who has continuously, since a young teenager, been engulfed in a male-dominated area; however, she sees the benefits of it. She encourages young women in STEM, whether it be science, technology, engineering or math, to stick with it and show everyone what they’re capable of doing.