Monday, May 12, 2014

Tips for Freshman Women Engineers

Over the years, I have mentored about 20 girls in engineering. While it's not a staggering number, I am really proud that I helped them through this long arduous journey. We deal with a lot being women engineers - our school has only about 17% women and that is one the higher percentages in the country. That being said, I try to make sure they know what they are getting into and what stereotypes we break. My girls have said things like this to me and this is always how I answer. 

Honestly, the hardest part of being an engineer is scheduling study time, eating time, gym time, social time... You get the point. Once you get time managment down, your life is basically a dream. There are hard courses like IE 405 or bad teachers and times where your life sucks - hell weeks! - but overall, it's not that bad. It's not anything you can't overcome even if it freaks you out in the present. 

One of the women engineers who I know graduated this year said at our Senior Sendoff "You don't even know how many 46% I've gotten on exams but I'm going to be a civil engineer." If you remember that whatever you are going through will end and you are awesome enough to come out on top, engineering is really not that bad. I also make a disclaimer : I went to an engineering high school and I learned these skills earlier than most people in my major. I suggest finding someone who seems to have it together and asking them how they do it. That's how I came to the method I use now. 

This is not true. This is true about a small smattering of the women in my college. Overall, I think the engineering girls I know are gorgeous, intelligent and social people. We make engineering look awesome! As we all know, stereotypes come around for a reason but there is no reason to live your life by something society has prescribed. 

I think the key to not being a stereotypical engineer is to be yourself and don't change even if people make you feel weird. I've always been a friendly person. It never has left me and it helps me get through a lot of situations in life. At first, I think it was a little much for the guys in my classes to have to deal with. A tall friendly girl who wears dresses all the time and laughs too much and wants to be an engineer? Is she for real? I felt a little like Elle Woods in law school. Eventually, people in my college realized that's just me. I'm an overdressed scheduled out crazy girly engineer. We have been fine ever since. 

To be honest, people always tell me they can't believe I'm an engineer until I nerd out about a car or something I read in the New York Times. And that's okay too! You don't need to be "engineer" all the time. Sometimes I like to be artistic and blog or really girly and paint my nails and that's always okay. These things are all part of your personality - we are not static all the time. Being dynamic will help you get a job over all the rest of your peers. In the end, be yourself, be multifaceted, and love engineering.

So true. I have terrible spelling and grammar but most engineers are working on this. I swear. We even have our own public speech class because it can be hard to explain highly technical work or speak to different types of professionals. A hilarious thing to watch is an engineer typing in lab on Google Docs. The amount of backspacing, deleting and just rewriting sentences is hilarious. So one downer you may have as an engineer - bad spelling. Maybe you will be an engineer with great spelling skills?  I will say one perk of being an engineer is that you know all the greek letters and can understand many different accents :] 

Overall, if you like math and science but more importantly, you like to solve problems and prove to people you are right with facts - engineering is for you. The branch of engineering you pick is variable but engineering is the right area for you to be studying. 

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