2019 Nancy Pridal

Nancy Pridal, president and CEO of Lamp Rynearson engineering firm, was recognized with the ICAN Leadership Award at the annual women’s leadership conference for the Institute for Career Advancement Needs.

Nancy Pridal said she can thank an assorted lot for nudging her on a path leading to a top engineering role held by few Nebraska women.

Among those influences: a clan of Cabbage Patch kids she encountered while contemplating her career choice.

Cabbage Patch dolls were a popular collector’s toy of the 1980s. They also happened to occupy a shelf in the office of another pioneering female who Pridal had visited while deciding between a career in teaching or the male-dominated engineering field.

Pridal said that decades later, she still vividly recalls the dolls and visit with Paula Wells, a working mom who launched her own engineering firm. The message received: “I am a woman, I am a leader, I’m also very compassionate.”

“Seeing a woman in that role, just her being herself, was really impactful,” said Pridal, now 57.

Pridal went on to become a civil engineer. Two years ago she was propelled to president and chief executive officer of Lamp Rynearson, an Omaha engineering company that ranks among the nation’s top 500 design firms and employs about 180 people in three states. Peers say there are few women engineers in Nebraska to have held that top-level position.

On Wednesday, Pridal was recognized with the ICAN Leadership Award at the annual women’s leadership conference for the Institute for Career Advancement Needs.

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Held at the CHI Health Center, the 26th annual event with national speakers focusing on adapting leadership in a digital age drew more than 3,000 people, organizers said.

A group of Kansas City Nebraska Furniture Mart workers were among conferees representing 35 states and 384 companies. Co-workers Rosanna Velazquez, Alexis Ankrom and Angela Roe said they will leave with a greater sense of urgency to not only adapt but also to anticipate technological changes.

The Kansas City women said they were inspired by how Pridal overcame obstacles on her climb to be chief executive.

Pridal, an Omaha native, mother of two and grandmother of six, describes herself as a nontraditional college student who started her family and worked various jobs before enrolling in her late 20s at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Mike McMeekin, her predecessor, recalled Pridal volunteering to commute to Kansas City to lead an acquisition, and her desire for continued learning.

Ankrom honed in on Pridal’s advice to ask for mentoring, and to “make space” for those who could use a role model.

At Lamp Rynearson, Pridal integrates mentoring and apprenticeship programs for college and high school age students, and is about to kick off a new diversity program.

“It’s about taking the time to pause and look around and see that person who maybe isn’t right up in front,” she said. “Notice potential, expect people to be their best, and provide the training.”