After twenty-five years of working as an environmental engineer, I am proud of my contributions toward building a better future for our planet and future generations. Practicing in a wide variety of fields, I have been involved in virtually every environmental channel, including water, air, soil, and waste.
I graduated from college with a BS in Geological Engineering from Michigan Technological University. When I was in college, there were few women enrolled in engineering programs; the ratio was about four men for one woman. For whatever reason, nature or nurture, engineering was then, and still remains, a male-dominated field.
Since graduation from college, I’ve faced similar odds in the workplace. Throughout my career, and the seven different organizations in which I’ve worked, I’ve grown accustomed to being one of the few, if not only, females on a team or in a meeting. However, the gender distribution in a room or on a team has rarely mattered when it comes to solving engineering problems.
In the early years of my career, I was fortunate to have some wonderful supervisors who were willing to challenge me and expected great things in return. As an engineer with strong communication skills, I quickly moved into marketing and client service roles within the organizations that I worked. As many of my engineering peers were uncomfortable or awkward talking to clients or delivering formal presentations, I was able to meet those needs.
The challenge was maintaining and growing my technical skills while also delivering in my client service and marketing role. I have seen many technical women with a knack for communication and marketing abandon their technical career in exchange for an accelerated track to leadership, only to find themselves becoming expendable in their later years due to lack of technical experience. I made a conscious decision to sustain and continue to develop my technical skills.
Solving engineering problems, while difficult, has always been much simpler than solving people problems. Whether it was learning to accept criticism from a boss, managing envious peers, or taking disciplinary action against a subordinate, these are skills I had to learn on the job. People skills are the key to job success and contentment. There is no doubt that my biggest work success thus far is building the team of unbelievable professionals with whom I currently work.
What advice would you give young women building/preparing for a career?
Know yourself, be yourself, and be strong. Women have unique gifts to bring to the workplace and any organization. Don’t feel like you need to act, think, or dress like a man. Particularly in a male-dominated workplace, a woman can offer a unique and valuable perspective. When you can demonstrate both your confidence in being a woman and competence in knowing your trade, people will value you.