Rebecca Cassler Fearing Finds CEE Experiences Reflect Work at Google Today
Since graduating from Carnegie Mellon in 1999, Rebecca Cassler Fearing has found that the project-based courses she took while studying civil engineering at the university have prepared her for many of the challenges she faces as a manager at Google today. “Carnegie Mellon forced us to solve real-world problems that weren’t necessarily well-defined … and that’s how the real world and industry works,” Fearing says.
Fearing now works in Austin, Texas, as the associate city manager for Google’s fiber-optics project, Google Fiber, for which she was recently recognized by the Austin Business Journal. The newspaper named Fearing a technology Titan of the Future at its annual TechFlash Titan awards ceremony, which celebrates “the best and brightest in Austin’s technology and innovation scene,” according to the paper’s website.
Through her work with Google Fiber, Fearing is building an extensive fiber-optics network in Austin to produce Internet speeds of 1,000 megabytes per second — or about 90 times faster than average nationwide Internet speeds today.
Fearing, who majored in civil engineering, as well as engineering and public policy, at CMU, now solves open-ended problems similar to the ones she first explored in project-based classes at the university. In her current position, she is “involved in all of the operational functions from business development to engineering, construction, and strategy,” she says. “Every day, there are problems to solve that can have more than one answer.”
She also has found that university research, which confronted her with open-ended scenarios, has laid the foundation for her success. She began research during her sophomore year with Chris Hendrickson, Hamerschlag University Professor Emeritus and director of the Traffic 21 Institute.
During that time, she performed life-cycle analyses for manufacturing facilities in affiliation with what is now the university’s Green Design Institute. The institute works with companies, government agencies, and foundations to improve the environmental quality of their processes and products.
That spring, Hendrickson connected her with companies that collaborated on Green Design initiatives as she looked for internships. She landed one at IBM for the summer.
“Working with Chris Hendrickson got me a connection with IBM. Then in my senior year, my IBM internships helped me get an interview with Dell,” says Fearing.
After graduation, she held a number of roles at Dell, from managing large teams in factory operations to performing analytic evaluations of the company’s markets. During her nine years with Dell, she earned a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering and a master’s of business administration at MIT.
After Dell, she worked at MIT’s School of Engineering, where she was responsible for the school’s strategy and ran the university’s Transportation@MIT initiative, among other roles.
Today, Fearing is also an advocate of STEM education on the board of the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. She says she has always loved introducing children to engineering, even if it is as simple as introducing herself by saying, “Hi, I’m Becky, and I’m an engineer.”