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As part of our Member Appreciation Program, we are showcasing a member in our bi-monthly Board Member Spotlight. Our member spotlight recognizes members for their outstanding contributions to the profession and our local communities. For any questions regarding the program please email




Denise Abril

Civil Engineer
Pathways Academy Co-Chair
ASCE Orange County Younger Member Forum


Where did you grow up?
I lived in the Philippines for 8 years and I moved to San Jose until I left for college.

What made you want to become an engineer?
In middle school I participated in a program called “MESA Engineering” Program in San Jose State University and one of the projects one I did was to create the strongest bridge out of manila folder. My team’s bridge held the most weight out of the other teams in my class so we got to compete in the MESA Engineering event for the manila folder bridge competition. However, it wasn’t having the strongest bridge that made me curious about engineering. It was when my teacher was explaining why the bridge we created was the strongest and when she showed us different types of bridges, I was mind-blown.

Favorite hobbies, sports, and interests outside of engineering?
I’ve always loved dancing for fun ever since I was a kid and so when I found a studio that incorporates dance to their workout, I joined that studio and I’ve been dancing/working out on my free time to stay active.

Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...
making breakfast and talking with family.

What college(s) did you attend? Can you list your degrees, any honors, and involvement in engineering organizations during school?
I received my bachelor's degree in civil engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. I was a member in ASCE, WTS, and ITE during my time there, though I didn’t get as active in ASCE or WTS until post-graduation.


Describe your responsibilities and some significant projects.
I’m a civil engineer at HNTB for the roadway/highway group. I assist in delivering plans and estimates for Caltrans and grade separation projects. Most recently, I started working on preliminary design and estimates for TCA and review traffic data information including traffic closures schedules for the toll roads.

What project are you currently working on and what have you accomplished/what are your tasks? 

What is your favorite part about being a Civil Engineer?
My favorite part about being a civil engineer is that I am able to think critically and reasonably with the type of work I do, but also I am able to apply this to my personal life which I think helps me become a better person.

What skills do you find most valuable to focus on in your career?
As a transportation design engineer, it’s great to know different drafting software to allow you to work on different projects. However, as a civil engineer, I think one of the most important skills to have is to know how to work with others.

What drew you to your specific career path? If you could start your career differently, what would you do differently?
It was the first day of my highway lab class that I knew I wanted to go into the transportation design discipline. I didn’t actually start my career in transportation, I started off interning at a water district and learning dams and pipelines design, which I thought was quite awesome as the internship program itself was great. But at the end of the internship, I still was on the lookout for a transportation design internship. I don’t think I would want to start my career differently because going through all the different internships that I had, I learned what I was most passionate about in the civil engineering industry, which was perfect because I was able to expose myself to different types of industry before I actually started my professional career.


How/Why did you get involved? Why did you choose to stay involved?
I want to thank Jazzy for getting me involved in ASCE OC YMF because I always wanted to, I was just too shy to come to meetings. I stayed because OC YMF is such a great community, full of intelligent, talented and supportive people. One common thing I noticed we all joined ASCE is that we all want to give back and it’s such a humbling feeling being surrounded by the same people who have the same mission as you.

How has ASCE impacted your work and/or what is your favorite benefit of your involvement?
I love and appreciate the wide range of network I was able to create in ASCE professionally and also I was able to make friends that I know I can count on and be friends with for a long time.

Who is someone you Admire and Why?
I admire my parents because they supported and guided me in many ways that made me who I am today. As I get older and mature, I’m starting to learn and appreciate why they let me become independent of them. When learn to do things on our own, we eventually get in a habit where we make ourselves accountable for our own actions without always relying on someone to fall back on, so we learn to get back on our own feet.

If you have one piece of advice to give to young professionals what would it be?
KNOW what you want and work hard for towards it. If along the way you find yourself on a wrong path, it’s merely a detour, you’ll still get there if you KNOW where you’re going.

Lastly, what would be your personal motto?
Share your blessings, don’t count them.


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