From Then to Now: Deb Johnson

March 8, 2023


From Then to Now: Deb Johnson

A very proud MTE Inspector

Despite having an outspoken nature, being the only woman on a team of road workers in the 1990s came with some challenges for Deb Johnson. However 30 years later, Deb is a powerhouse Inspector on MTE’s Municipal Engineering team and a trailblazer for those struggling with the same challenges Deb faced at the start of her career.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we’re looking back at Deb’s career in hopes that her story can continue to inspire young women in male-dominated fields.

The First Female Road Worker

Growing up working in her father’s garage, Deb understood that people we’re not fully accustomed to seeing a girl doing what has largely been considered a man’s job. This did not change when she joined a municipal road work team in the 1990s.

With the hesitancy to hire women in these types of roles, getting on the team was a challenge in and of itself. When she was finally hired as the only women among some 28 men, it would take some time for her male counterparts to accept her. While her outspoken nature would earn her coworkers’ respect, every time a new man started, Deb would have to start proving herself all over again… and she always did.

“When I started out in construction, I felt it was the only place I would ever fit in”.

Becoming a Leader

Deb would spend the next 25 years proving she belonged in the field. She had provided inspection and safety oversight for countless construction, transportation and aviation sites, when in the summer of 2020, she joined MTE’s municipal engineering team.

“I was grateful Vince Pugliese accepted my resume. I had always felt I would be the lone wolf in the construction industry, caring deeply to make this industry better for everyone, male and female.”

Finding her comfort zone in her field work, Deb has become a leader on site. She draws on her experiences and the struggles she overcame to provide guidance and support to those who may be facing similar situations.

“I see daily changes and I would never want to be anywhere else because I’m so proud to have been part of the great growth in the construction industry.”

Finishing Strong

“I knew I would only have a few years at MTE, but I wanted to use those years to better myself in any way I could”

“My first instinct upon meeting Dot Roga [MTE’s Municipal Division Manager] was to run as hard and fast as I could. I felt like I would never catch up and my insecurities hit me hard, but I just kept telling myself ‘don’t you run’. No one will ever know how easy it would have been for me to run, but I didn’t.”

Knowing that retirement is near, Deb recognizes how far she has come in her time at MTE and hopes to thank all the people who have helped her along the way, especially Dot and Vince.

“Now when I walk through the halls of MTE, I say hi to everyone”

“One never knows what people are going through. However, there is good in everyone, and we all try and give back the best way we can and with the energy we have to give. Our lives all have twists and turns. MTE has been a big twist for me and I’m very grateful to work with such a great team. I hope they know that.”

Deb Johnson on a construction site

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