From Passion to Profession: Celebrating Women Engineers at OC Waste & Recycling

Orange County women engineers smiling

In celebration of International Women in Engineering Day, we are thrilled to recognize the contributions of the five exceptional women engineers at OC Waste & Recycling (OCWR). These women not only bring expertise and innovation to their positions but also serve as inspiring role models for future generations of engineers. Today, we spotlight the journeys of Emily Jackson, Sahar Parsi, and Yuki Zhou, showcasing their achievements and insights.

Meet Emily Jackson, our Senior Civil Engineer at headquarters in Santa Ana. Emily has devoted over 33 years to the County. Her career began in chemistry within OCWR's regulatory division, but shifted to engineering when she recognized her passion for it. In her 30s, she pursued a civil engineering license with the support of her managers and colleagues, proving that it’s never too late to pursue a career change and excel.

Sahar Parsi, Civil Engineer at Olinda Alpha Landfill site in Brea and a County employee for 10 years, knew from high school that she wanted to be an engineer, influenced by her family's engineering background. After moving to the United States, she seized the opportunity to pursue formal education in engineering, driven by her early experiences in the field. 

Yuki Zhou discovered her love for STEM early on, particularly enjoying math and science classes in school. Her internship at OCWR that she earned in 2022 solidified her passion for making a positive impact on the environment and public safety through engineering. She is now a Civil Engineer Associate at Prima Deshecha Landfill.

Here are insights from our engineers:

Emily Jackson on overcoming challenges: Earlier in my career, I faced pushback and gender biases. To overcome these challenges, I remained composed, persisted in pursuing opportunities, and stood up for myself when necessary. Over the years, I have encountered fewer misconceptions as more women working in all industries have become the norm. 

Key skills contributing to their success:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Persistence
  • Critical thinking

Yuki Zhou on the most fulfilling aspect of engineering: The most fulfilling part of being an engineer is contributing to environmental and public safety improvements, seeing my designs come to life, and continuously exercising mental flexibility in problem-solving.

Advice to women considering engineering careers:

  • Emily Jackson: Explore different types of engineering, gain practical experience through internships, seek guidance from engineers, and persevere despite challenges.
  • Sahar Parsi: Follow your passion, hone your communication skills, and embrace teamwork, which is crucial in STEM careers.
  • Yuki Zhou: Persist in pursuing your goals, accept failures as part of growth and keep moving forward despite uncertainties.

For careers at the County of Orange visit