October 29, 2018
Focus on outstanding women in business

Outstanding Women in Business 2018: Brock leaves her mark on Central Mass. cornerstones

Sandra Brock, PE, vice president & chief engineer at Nitsch Engineering in Worcester

Growing up in Southborough and then attending college at Lowell University, Sandra Brock, chief engineer and vice president at Nitsch Engineering, knew her strong math ability could open career doors.

But, she said, she didn't completely know what she'd find behind those doors.

"I thought about becoming an architect, didn't know what that was – any of the details," Brock said. "Then I decided to be a structural engineer – didn't have a clue what that was. I kind of discovered that it was the engineering part I loved."

Ultimately, she realized the path for her would be civil engineering. And, in the three decades that followed, she's played a role in some big and important projects, including the Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital and Worcester Technical High School.

"I can look at so many places that I've had a part in creating them," she said. "It's rewarding when you're working on something that will have kind of a direct contribution to society."

Being part of something larger than herself has always been important for Brock. As a young professional, she spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, Africa. There, she ran water projects in rural areas in the country's northern region. She got the chance to learn about a different culture and see her own native land from a new perspective.

"You learn what it is to be American, the good parts and the bad parts," she said. "In some ways, it helped me to mature probably faster than some folks."

After returning to the U.S. in 1995, she joined Nitsch, a Boston-based, woman-owned firm Judith Nitsch had started just six years earlier. Quickly, Brock took on increased responsibilities and eventually became a principal shareholder. In 2015, she led the creation of Nitsch's second office, in Worcester. She's also gone from spending most of her energy on technical aspects to playing a key role in managing the business and working with clients and the public.

"The longer you're involved, you begin to master the technology part of it — the technical part, designing and utilities, grading," she said. "The thing you can never quite master is the human aspect."

As a shareholder and a member of the board of directors' executive committee, she's learned to support the firm's financial health and run a tight ship on governance. And, working on projects mattering to a range of stakeholders, she's developed new abilities in communicating with the public. Given the highly technical engineering work she does, that requires communicating in a whole different language with people who engage with a new project coming to their neighborhood in a visceral way.

"When someone gets up at a public meeting, that's something that's really important to them," she said.

Brock now sees permitting issues from a different side as chair of the Conservation Commission in Grafton, where she lives. Maria Mast, the town's conversation agent, said Brock brings both an understanding of the development industry and state-of-the-art technical knowledge to the small-town board.

"She has a great ability to take very specific technical knowledge and break it down in a manner that can be easily understood by the public," Mast said.

Brock serves on the town's Community Preservation Committee and on the board of directors for the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions. She sees contributing to a well-informed, unbiased development process as a way to give back.

"Everyone should be involved civically," she said. "Everyone should do something."

Beyond sharing the knowledge she's accumulate over the years, Brock said she's eager to keep learning new things.

"The best part of my career is finding out that when you get into your 50s and so forth you kind of discover a different side of things," she said.

Brock said the technical aspect of her jobs is still an important part of what she does, but she's happy that she can spend time learning to be a good steward of the firm, staffing up the Worcester office, and addressing new challenges.

"I know from now to when I retire that I will continue to learn, and that's what makes it so much fun," she said.

Read more about the 2018 Outstanding Women in Business:

Kate Sharry, president of Group Benefits Strategies

Carla McCall, CPA, CGMA, co-managing partner of AAFCPAs

Laurie Masiello, president of Masy Bioservices

Jennifer Luisa, vice president of marketing and communications at The Hanover Insurance Group

Marianne Lancaster, president of Lancaster Packaging Inc.

Sandra Brock, PE, vice president and chief engineer at Nitsch Engineering

Read about this year's judges

Read about the nine previous years of Outstanding Women in Business award winners:

2017 alumnae

2016 alumnae

2015 alumnae

2014 alumnae

2013 alumnae

2012 alumnae

2011 alumnae

2010 alumnae

2009 alumnae

Check out a column from this year's Innovative Business Leader of the Year on the importance of women business leaders in the Central Mass. community

Successful women shape our community

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