Have You Met?
Name: Kristy Schloss
Hometown: Denver, Colorado (5th Generation Coloradoan)
Resident: Denver, Colorado
Education: Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Colorado
Profession: Engineer & Business Leader; Owner of the only woman- owned manufacturing firm in its industry in the U.S.
Story by: Nancy Koontz
Kristy Schloss, President and CEO of Schloss Engineered Equipment, an environmental equipment design and manufacturing firm, always knew she would follow in her father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by becoming an engineer. Kristy joined the firm in 1989, and says, “It’s the best thing I ever did.” This multi-faceted woman has brains, beauty, panache and a passionate sense of purpose.
Aside from the family connection to the field of engineering, Kristy also knew she could step up to the plate by being available to mentor and encourage students so they are successful in the engineering field, and by embracing the type of projects that can bring clean water and a better quality of life and infrastructure to people around the world.
When Kristy was given the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado “General Palmer Award” - an award given to an engineer in the industry who meets these qualifications: Making contributions to the State of Colorado, Recognition in the community, Advancement to the engineering community, and Impact of contributions on future generations – Kristy handily met all of these requirements: through her constant involvement with the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Engineering Department, her recognitions from various organizations for her contribution to the profession, and as an advocate for small business, for expanding into international markets - and for her service to the community.
Kristy has blazed a trail in her tireless promotion of women’s opportunities in the engineering and technology fields, and she maintains very high professional standards of her own. Kristy is also very involved with international trade issues and loves learning about the different cultures she works with. Most of all Kristy Schloss stays constantly excited and challenged by knowing what she might be able to do with her “smarts,” expertise, and drive to improve our world.
As Kristy says, “In the field of engineering, you can affect society; you can change the quality of life for people all over the world!”
Being a successful engineer himself, how important was your father’s encouragement as you pursued your career in engineering? Many women engineers have a father, mother or a relative in engineering to encourage them, to mentor them, and be a role model for them. Many times you need to be encouraged and supported when you are going into a non-traditional field for women. It’s nice to have someone who is telling you that you can do it too; “you can make it!”
It seems to have a lot of impact. Specifically in college, you get to a critical point where often it becomes very difficult, very trying, - and because it’s engineering, and it’s so challenging; you have all of these kids who were the best and the brightest in high school, and then they get to engineering school, and it can get a whole lot more difficult. When your have people around you who say yes you can, just stick with it, hang in there, it can make all the difference in the world.
Sounds like you like being a woman working in a non-traditional field? Yes, definitely, I like the challenge. I’ve always been independent and made my own decisions, and it’s nice to know that as a woman, I’m the one carrying on the tradition for a company that’s been family-owned for 107 years old. You can say that I’ve been genetically engineered to be an engineer.
What advice would you offer a young woman considering going into engineering? It’s a wonderful opportunity; you can still be yourself and be unique. It’s exciting and different, and you can still be a pioneer or just go with the program; you have a lot of choices and a lot of options.
What do you tell aspiring young students to do when the “going gets tough”? I speak to individuals, schools, and organizations, and I tell them it won’t be easy, but it’s an exciting, vibrant field. It’s not boring; it changes day to day. I was one of two women graduating from college that year in Civil Engineering at CU, and I tell young women, that if this is what you have chosen, and it is your area of interest, you can do anything you choose, and you have the capacity and every opportunity to pursue your dreams, and to go for it, and not to give up – stick with it; you’ll get through it! Go into engineering or technology because you want to make a difference. This is an industry where you can absolutely see the differences that you make.
With the hope of helping future generations, how can we solve some of the problems we are dealing with today? There are many challenges today, but lots of opportunities to work with them. We need more people in the areas of technology and engineering.
I believe too that you have to start teaching our kids when they are young. You have to teach them philanthropy and strategic problem solving of issues, and how to think things through and come up with creative solutions. Civic responsibility is something I learned from my parents. They were active community and civic leaders. It’s our job to inspire young people and to motivate them, and find ways to tie it into their passions.
You need to explain to them that we don’t live in a bubble, and what we do does affect other people. It’s like what other countries do can affect us. Environmentally and economically we are all interconnected. When people start understanding this, they get more and more involved. Some of the other issues that need our attention are the budget deficit – and the trade deficit - and the impact these problems, if not dealt with, could have on our future economy.
Tell me about “Engineers Without Borders?” There is a recently formed organization that started in Boulder called “Engineers Without Borders.” It does civil engineering projects for people all over the world. They go into villages helping with water systems and advanced pumping systems so the girls don’t have to haul water, and they are able to go to school, and they are able to get an education. They have also done a lot for the Tsunami relief.
I had a mentee from the School of Mines studying Mechanical and Environmental Engineering who went on one of the “Engineers Without Borders” programs and worked with a village, and she was able to develop some systems for them that gave the people access to clean water, and it changed the quality of life for everyone in the village. It made a huge difference on infant mortality, and on a larger scale, the economic viability of the entire country and region.
When kids and young adults see that they can personally make a difference working with a program like this - or when even just one voice can be heard - they get hooked on wanting to make a difference.
I bet you have met some amazing people with all of your affiliations and all the traveling you have done? I have. I’ve met some wonderful, creative people through my affiliations. Some really dedicated, philanthropic community leaders, civic leaders, politicians, and business leaders. I like learning from all of them. Many people have become tremendous role models for me.
Do you think high tech in Colorado is moving in the right direction? I hope so. We were strong in technology before it cooled down, and now it’s heating up again.
Information and computer technology systems are important areas for us everywhere, whether it’s in industries such as health care or business. Technology is here to stay; it’s a foundation now. I hope more people continue to go into these fields and get involved. I don’t want to lose that edge we have always enjoyed in the U.S. A concern in the computer and engineering fields is that other countries could get ahead of us. We need to continue to make progress and hold on to our edge.
What are your future goals? I’ve never been good at that kind of planning. Too many things change, life is too dynamic and exciting. I know I’m an engineer, but I’m not that structured; I’m more flexible than that.
I understand you have co-authored a book that is being used as a first semester textbook for engineering students? Yes, it’s exciting! It’s titled, Keys to Engineering Success, and it is published by Prentiss Hall, and it is also being used in such countries as the U.K., Germany, Italy, Brazil, New Zealand and others.
What is your favorite charitable event? I attend many and enjoy them all, but one of my longest running passions has got to be the Girl Scouts “Woman of Distinction” Event because it “takes it to the kids,” and I was a Girl Scout and am a life member. I also enjoy Western Fantasy for VOA.
Why do you think you are so effective at all you do in the community? I truly believe there are always positive solutions and a win-win outcome; it’s just a matter of figuring it out. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m effective at what I do, as well as on the Boards I’m involved with. I’m very results-oriented, and I can look at all the various possibilities and consider numerous ones, and strategically evaluate them.
What do you do to decompress? There are times that can definitely be challenging, but that’s when I love going out and speaking to classes and encouraging young people to go into engineering. It’s a wonderful way for me to decompress and get back on track and be positive – that’s invigorating to me. I really love and enjoy mentoring. I know the difference we can make for all the people in the world, and I always keep that bigger picture in view.
Kristy’s Community & Civic Involvement: Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Denver Branch; On two Boards by appointment of the Secretary of Commerce, one of which is the environmental Technology Advisory Committee - a industry specific advisory committee out of Washington D.C. which advises the Secretary of Commerce and 19 other governmental agencies; District Chair of the Rocky Mountain District Export Council in Colorado & Wyoming for the Dept. of Commerce; Board of the Denver Downtown World Trade Center; Trustee of the Midwest Research Institute (MRI), which does R&D and runs the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) for the Department of Energy; Engineering Advisory Council for the University of Colorado in Boulder and Denver, and in Boulder Kristy is on their Executive Committee; CU Women in Engineering Program Board; DU Social Science Foundation for the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS); and Past Chair for the Center for Teaching International Relations at DU; Senior Life Member of the Society of Women Engineers; Received a gubernatorial appointment to serve on the Colorado State Board for Community Colleges and the Occupational Education System; Elected Region VIII White House Conference Implementation co-chair.
Former National Board Member for the Small Business Administration (SBA) for two terms, and Former Board Member of the Girl Scouts, and Denver Mile High United Way.
Awards: The Society of Women Engineers “Distinguished New Engineer Award,” Colorado Engineering Council’s Honor Award, the University of Colorado at Boulder’s “Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award,” Girl Scouts “Woman of Distinction.” Kristy Schloss is listed in Who’s Who Worldwide, Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, and Who’s Who in Denver Business.
Kristy, I have such admiration for you as a person and for all of your accomplishments and on going work in the engineering field as well as our world wide community. You are most certainly "one in a million." I am so very pleased to call you my friend.