Lisa Barrager has experience managing a wide variety of projects — from the Super Duty truck program at Ford, to water park attraction development. This prepared her for her unique position as the External Relations Manager for the Brigham Young University Mechanical Engineering department.
Much of the behind the scenes work that happens in the department falls to the External Relations Manager. Barrager is the driving force behind the curation of Capstone projects, assists in identifying internship opportunities, and assisting international student work visas. The department's continued relationships with companies and alumni are also a result of her efforts.
Barrager took over the position in January 2019, returning to the department where she received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. But her interest in engineering was sparked long before coming to BYU. As a little girl, Barrager reviewed projects and attended meetings with her father, a civil engineer.
“Mechanical engineering is broad enough to capture a lot of my interests, and it was challenging. I felt like if I didn't do something challenging it would be a little bit of a cop out,” Barrager said. “I tried to change my major two times when I was an undergrad, but both times I couldn't do it. I was meant to be an engineer.”
Despite her love for the technical side of engineering, a mission to Germany during her undergraduate degree ignited Barragers passion for working with people. Since then, project management and relations has been her focus. When the time came for a new engineering building at BYU, Barrager had the opportunity to help lead the efforts for the college; working with not only the college faculty and staff, but the BYU design team and outside architects, engineers and contractors.
“Explore enough to find where you fit in the world of engineering,” Barrager advised. “I think, especially as a young student, you come in thinking, ‘Well, this is what engineers do, and this is what I'll be doing my whole career if I choose to do engineering’...but there are so many different career trajectories, find what works best for you — whether that's research, whether it's product development, find where you fit, then put those talents and skills and interests to work for the betterment of wherever you're working.”
As a female member of a male-dominated field, encouraging and supporting women in engineering is a high priority for Barrager. Working as the Coordinator of Women Student Programs is one of the pinnacle experiences of her time at BYU.
“We needed to find a way to reach and bring the women students all together and form a sense of community in the college,” Barrager said. “It wasn't working very well, and so we figured out what the needs were, then tried to find a way to meet those needs.”
Creating the Women in Engineering & Technology program within the college was the solution. Not only did Barrager help build the program, she continues to witness these efforts flourish.
“We were able to create it from nothing, and that was so fun to see,” Barrager shared. “Even now, to look at the difference between what enrollments were then and what they are now, and what the graduation rate for women was then and what it is now, is so gratifying to me. Not just to see the numbers, but to look through my LinkedIn and see the awesome students I’ve gotten to know over the years. They're just marvelous.”
In addition to all she does at work, Lisa also successfully manages a family of five. She and her husband, along with their three teenagers, enjoy getting outside whenever they can. She loves both her career and her role as a mother, and emphasized that the balance between the two helps her to be successful. She emphasized the importance of students finding a similar balance with school.
“Don't give up participating in the extracurriculars, don't give up on internships or learning things, just to stress really hard to get the perfect grade that you want,” Barrager said. “Grades are just a piece. And it's so hard to see that because our whole lives were measured on what those grades are... but it's just one piece of the big experience, don't throw those other experiences away only for the sake of your grades.”
Lisa found her unexpected niche working with people in the world of engineering, and she feels strongly about following your passion and using it to benefit the lives of others, no matter how obscure or uncommon.
“I feel like God gives us talents and gifts and interest and abilities for a reason, and that He expects us then to develop those and to use them to make the world a better place” Barrager said. “I think engineering is a fantastic way to do that, so dive in and do it, have faith and go forward.”