By: Martine Costello
June 1, 2018
In 1989, Judy Nitsch knew it would be a tough time for anyone starting a new business, let alone a young woman engineer trying to make her way in a male-dominated industry. Interest rates were above 10 percent, banks were failing left and right, and the weak economy would slide into a deep recession within a year. Even her own CPA told her to forget about trying to get bank financing—she’d never get a loan.
But #NeverthelessShePersisted—long before many women were making advances in the corporate world, especially in a field like engineering. She launched Nitsch Engineering, scraping by for a few years until she was lucky enough to meet a loan officer at Eastern Bank. She received a $150,000 line of credit, which was just the support she needed to grow her business.
“It was that loan from Eastern that enabled us to grow,” said Nitsch, today a Trustee at Eastern Bank. “We could afford to buy new computers when we hired new employees. We could make investments in the business when we needed to.
Advancing Women, with Eastern Bank’s Help
Eastern’s willingness to help a young woman entrepreneur — when no other bank would — allowed Nitsch to flourish at a time when business conditions were extremely difficult. It also allowed her to forge a new path in engineering, a field with no women role models.
Recalling those early years in business, she noted how she had to stay afloat by draining her savings, breaking into an IRA, and primarily by using her credit cards for cash advances. She went years without giving herself a regular paycheck, vowing she would always make payroll for her employees. By 1993, her firm had grown from 13 to 33 employees, with a three-year backlog of projects. She was able to pay herself a regular wage in 1995.
Nitsch’s company has since worked on many major private development and public infrastructure projects in 20 states and five countries. Today, her company is listed on the Boston Business Journal’s Top 25 Engineering Firms in Massachusetts.
Along the way, she has been deeply committed to advancing women in engineering. The engineering staff at her firm is 37 percent women, versus 12 percent for civil engineering nationally. The women leaders include current Chairman and CEO Lisa Brothers, as well as 71 percent of the board of directors. Bringing more diverse voices into the building industry has always remained close to her heart.
Since 2002, Nitsch has hosted “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” each year to help encourage young women to enter into the engineering industry. With every event, the firm selects a different focus to explore, ranging from engineering roles in acoustics, marine structures, biomedicine, bridge-building, and green energy.
Doing Good in the Workplace
While Nitsch has been a lifelong supporter of women in engineering, she has also focused on the time where gender fades and Nitsch Engineering would simply be known as a top engineering firm. To that end, she has worked hard to ensure a healthy workplace. Nitsch Engineering has been named a top place to work for three years in a row by the Boston Globe. The firm has supported employee education, work-life balance, mentoring, health issues, networking skills, and much more.
“We have a culture that’s based on making sure employees are engaged,” she said. “If employees are happy, they’re going to treat their clients well.”
Nitsch Engineering has also committed to sustainable development in its roster of projects. For example, for almost two decades the firm has been a leader in sustainable stormwater management through building and landscaping systems that filter, retain, and reuse rainwater.
Even with all of her personal success, Judy recognizes the support she has received along the way. “Eastern Bank was so good to me when nobody else was,” she recalled. “And they’ve been good ever since.”
Learn about how Nitsch Engineering’s community involvement, and how Judy Nitsch has personified Eastern’s commitment to doing good.
When starting out, longtime customer and Eastern Bank Trustee Judy Nitsch was rejected for loans because she was a young, inexperienced woman in a male-dominated field. But now the people who looked down on her are looking up at her buildings.