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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




Melissa Hilsabeck

Design Engineer
KPFF Consulting Engineers
Mentorship Program Co-Chair and Coasts, Oceans, Ports and Rivers Institute (COPRI) Liaison
ASCE Orange County Younger Member Forum


Where did you grow up?
Is it a Garden or a Grove.. idk let’s just call it both! Garden Grove, CA

What made you want to become an engineer?
My dad is a general contractor so I’ve always been around plans and when I went into high school I took three years of AutoCAD and drafting. Since I really enjoyed it I kind of just stuck with it and eventually learned what civil engineering actually entails and loved it.

I’ve always wanted to own a flower shop but I think if I went into a different career it would be to work for a non-profit organization called the Platelet Disorder Support Association to raise awareness about a rare blood disorder called Immune Thrombocytopenia, better known as ITP.

Favorite hobbies, sports, and interests outside of engineering?
I’m very outdoorsy so I enjoy hiking, camping, off-roading, the beach, mountains and desert; you name it and I’m there. I love traveling and taking road trips. Even though I try I’m not a very good runner, so I get my cardio through dancing whether it’s latin or country music. Every September I look forward to my annual 5k event that raises awareness about ITP with tons of food, games and prizes. For information on the event, check out: 6th Annual Pump It Up For Platelets 5k.

Finish this sentence: On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...

What college(s) did you attend? Can you list your degrees, any honors, and involvement in engineering organizations during school?
I attended Cal Poly Pomona and got a BS in Civil Engineering. While at Pomona I was heavily involved in Concrete Canoe, ASCE and joined Phi Sigma Rho Sorority. Through ASCE I was able to attend two international conferences, Montreal and Panama, which lead me to get an internship with a civil engineering/landscape architect company in Madison, WI for a summer.


Describe your responsibilities and some significant projects.
As a design engineer I work on everything from hydrology, underground utility design and QSP inspections to grading hiking trails and dredging projects. Some of the most significant projects I have worked on include the Aquarium of the Pacific expansion, Port of Long Beach Middle Harbor West Basin Dredging and Century Villages at Cabrillo to develop low income and veteran housing in Long Beach, CA.

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?
Besides seeing the final product of a project, I really enjoy the entire process from start to finish. There are hopes and expectations when you begin a project, but as soon as you start digging in the curveballs start coming your way. Navigating through the challenges and coordinating with clients and contractors is definitely exciting and seeing how the project evolves over time to a new final product is quite rewarding.

What skills do you find most valuable to focus on in your career?

What drew you to your specific career path? If you could start your career differently, what would you do differently?
Coming out of college I was really interested in waterfront projects, but my internship at the time was working with most projects in Downtown LA. I think if an opportunity to work in Long Beach didn’t become available I highly considered moving to Wisconsin to continue full time at my previous internship. Everything panned out and I am definitely happy where I’m at now. So never settle and always go after what you want; your determination and perseverance will get you there.


How/Why did you get involved? Why did you choose to stay involved?
During college our faculty did a really great job of stressing the importance of being involved in ASCE for professional development reasons and networking. I’m very outgoing and always got in trouble for talking too much as a kid so the networking aspect was right up my alley.

As I graduated and transitioned into a full time career, a lot of my friends started moving away or just far enough away that meeting up after work wasn’t feasible. Joining YMF I have met some really neat people who continue to motivate me to become a better person and to keep striving to be the best version of myself. And of course for the wine trips and pub crawls!

How has ASCE impacted your work and/or what is your favorite benefit of your involvement?
ASCE has definitely impacted my personality and interactions with people. That’s such an important aspect of life that you can’t teach someone. Meeting different engineers I have also had the ability to learn different disciplines and eventually team with them to go after potential project opportunities.

Who is someone you Admire and Why?

If you have one piece of advice to give to young professionals what would it be?

Lastly, what would be your personal motto?


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